NFC Preview 2014
Yesterday, I previewed the AFC in part 1 of my NFL season preview and today the NFC gets the stage in part 2. Time to see who will meet the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and who will be the eventual winner. The NFC is truly the more stacked of the two leagues and many feel the NFC Championship game is truly the Super Bowl. The teams that are good are really good and the teams that are bad but as they say, “On any given Sunday” and that’s why we watch.
With that said here are my NFC predictions for the upcoming season division by division:
New Orleans Saints (12 – 4)
Carolina Panthers (11 – 5)
Atlanta Falcons (9 – 7)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6 – 10)
New Orleans will win this division for two reasons: First, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and second they play in the dome, the second hardest place for a raod team to get a win (Seattle being the first). There are so many offense weapons for Brees to play with, with tight end Jimmy Graham being the best.
Even though I picked the Saints to win the division, I believe the Panthers are the best team in this division. I say that because I believe the Saints are built for the regular season but the Panthers are built for the playoffs. The Panthers will run the ball and quarterback Cam Newton is almost impossible to defend. His leadership ability has improved and he does not force passes since he learned how to take what the defense gives him and make that work for solid offensive drives. Yes he lost wide receiver Steve Smith, but should still have enough to be effective. Defensively the Panthers will hit you in the mouth.
The Atlanta Falcons will always be competitive, but I do not have enough faith in Matt Ryan to believe he can get them to the next level.
Tampa Bay will improve but it will take new coach Lovey Smith to get this team defensively where he wants them before they start winning.
Chicago Bears (10 – 6)
Green Bay Packers (10 – 6)
Detroit Lions (10 – 6)
Minnesota Vikings (5 – 11)
The Chicago Bears based solely on offense will win this division. This will be the most competitive division with the most mediocore teams. The Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has too many weapons to not be the league’s MVP. Running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Brandon Marshall would usually be enough but Cutler has more than that. Now, Cutler has to protect himself form Jay Cutler. The offensive line should be good enough to keep him upright. Now, does Cutler have enough discipline to make the smart pass or throw the ball away and stay away from the back breaking interceptions? This will be needed because calling the Bears defense average is a complement. Their Linebackers are God awful and their safeties are probably worse than that, so it will be up to Cutler to keep them off the field as much as possible.
Everything I said about the Bears you can pretty much say about the Packers. The only difference is, the Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the game in Aaron Rodgers. He alone is good for two additional wins, but much like the Bears their defense will struggle. The Packers will be soft in the middle and have a hard time stopping the run.
Detroit has the opportunity to be the best team in this division. Much like the Jets in the AFC, no one should be surprised if they not only win this division but go deep in the playoffs. They have the best wide receiver in football in Calvin Johnson (Megatron) and solid ground game with Reggie Bush and unlike the Bears and the Packers, the Lions should be able to play defense. The Lions will need to do two things to make the playoffs: First consistent quartback play from Matthew Stafford and second discipline on defense. By that I mean cutting down on their bonehead penalties. Coach Jim Caldwell will be good at addressing that.
Minnesota will be terrible. They have all everything running back Adrian Peterson and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who will only play if the season goes in the toilet. Ok expect him to play.
Philadelphia Eagles (12 – 4)
Washington Redskins (8 – 8)
Dallas Cowboys (6 – 10)
New York Giants (5 – 11)
The Eagles are loaded. Nick Foles is the truth and no, I’m not premature in saying this. Will he have a tougher time this year? Sure, but he will not have a sophomore jinx. He simply has too many weapons and too much talent to fail. LeSean McCoy for my money is the best running back in the NFL.He’s not just a runner but when he’s catching passes out of the backfield is a nightmare for opposing defenses. The Eagles defense is not world beaters but they are better than average and will do just enough to allow the Eagles to easily win this division.
This is the year for Robert Griffin III to show what we can do. No longer will the coach or the coaches’ son to blame for lack of growth. Last year RGIII should have never set foot on the field. This year is he has to show that he can be more than just a running quarterback. He has weapons in running back Alfred Morris and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who came over from the Eagles. The Redskins will be better than last year but will still miss the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys have the worst defense in the NFL, Tony Romo is their quarterback and Jerry Jones is their owner/general manager. If that doesn’t say 7 – 9, nothing does.
The Giants just flat out stink. It took three preseason games to see quarterback Eli Manning will need more than a season to grasp their new offense. Add to that, the Giants will not be able to run the ball at all, and you have a tough campaign for the G-Men.
Seattle Seahawks (14 – 2)
San Francisco (11 – 5)
Arizona Cardinals (7 – 9)
St. Louis Rams (3 – 13)
The toughest part of picking the Seattle Seahawks was finding two loses on their schedule. This team is complete and only getting better. They will control the clock by running the ball with “Beast Mode” better known as Marshawn Lynch. If they need to pass, no problem, quarterback Russell Wilson can pick you apart with his decision making and can run if forced. If wide receiver Percy Harvin stays healthy, this offense then becomes great and unstoppable. Defensively, they have three of the best playing in the secondary, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor will not only hit you but have you scared to come across the middle (just ask the Denver Brocos wide receivers) and Richard Sherman shuts off half the field because most quarterbacks refuse to challenge him. Add all that to the fact they play in the hardest stadium for any road team to come to and it is lights out.
San Francisco will be a lot better than most think and I believe it will be because of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. For a young man that led his team to the Super Bowl two years ago and followed that with a trip to the NFC championship game, Kaepernick takes a lot of heat but he’s getting better every year and appears to have a firm hold on the offense. It’s the defensive side of the ball that may be tough for the 49ers. They have been decimated by injuries and they still do not know if defensive end Ray McDonald will play the entire season or be suspended for alleged domestic violence. With all that said, the 49ers are still the only threat the Seahawks NFC throne.
Arizona is tough team to gauge. Defensively they have to get over the loss of: linebacker Karlos Dansby who went to the Cleveland Browns, Daryl Washington who is suspended for a year, the unknown status of John Abraham and playmaking safety Tyrann Mathieu who is returning from a knee injury. They will have to count on quarterback Carson Palmer to sustain offensive drives to keep the defense fresh. Palmer should be better and have a stronger grasp of the offense. The Cardinals have to put put points up and find a way to run the ball. If they can do all this, they should be better than 7 – 9, but if not 6 or 7 wins is not out of the realm of possibility.
The Saint Louis Rams are going to suffer at the quarterback position and their team will have a very hard time finding wins. Seems to simple but why explain why this team will struggle in detail?
The playoffs should shake out like this:
Seattle Seahawks (1)
Philadelphia Eagles (2)
New Orleans Saints (3)
Chicago Bears (4)
San Francisco 49ers (5)
Carolina Panthers (6)
Wild Card game:
The Saints (3) over The Panthers (6)
The 49ers (5) over The Bears (4)
The Seahawks (1) over The 49ers (5) The Eagles (2) over The Saints (3)
NFC Championship Game:
The Seahawks (1) over The Eagles (2)
I believe the Seahawks have just too much and will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl again.
And my Super Bowl winner: The Seattle Seahawks will repeat as Super Bowl Champions. They are complete and they are the first real team that, if healthy, can be a dynasty. Their defense will be too much for the New England Patriots and they will deny quarterback Tom Brady that elusive fourth Super Bowl ring.