September 8, 2011

NFC preview and the first pick of the season

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

First of all, let’s get to tonight’s big game in Green Bay and my pick, then to our NFC season preview.

GREEN BAY -4 over New Orleans.

Look, I really like the Saints chances this season and even have them making the Super Bowl, but since the defending champions started hosting the opening Thursday night game, they have won every single time. That’s too much history to go against. The hosts will be too fired from celebrating their title in front of the home crowd and – let’s face it – it’s not like Lambeau Field was an easy place to play to begin with.

Onto the NFC preview, same deal as yesterday with the AFC. All team records are derived from going through the league schedule and picking every game. Really, check it out, all the numbers add up… Trust me.

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
Some think that this “Dream Team” will fail to live up to its lofty billing, I think they will. The real question here is if Mike Vick can stay healthy for an entire season, something he has only done once in his career. Well, let’s not forget his backup, Vince Young, actually has an incredible W-L record as a starter.
Dallas Cowboys 9-7 (Wild card)
Having a healthy Romo will make a big difference for Dallas. Getting Rob Ryan to run the defence and having a full year under Jason Garrett will only bring improvement. There are a lot of questions on the offensive line, but the team seems to have faith in their youth.
New York Giants 6-10
Their defence is already hurting and when the going got tough last year, opponents could score against them in bunches. Lose two key targets in the passing game, but Manningham and Nicks should step it up in a big way.
Washington Redskins 5-11
John Beck and Rex Grossman are the two best QBs in Washington, which says all you really need to know about Redskins’ hopes this season. Their defence may at least be decent.

NFC North
Green Bay Packers 10-6
The defending champs proved how deep they were last year by winning it all despite playing with a ton of injured players. But remember, they were barely a wild card team. Expecting a huge jump might be unrealistic, considering that teams will be gunning for them harder than ever.
Minnesota Vikings 9-7
Donovan McNabb might have been a failure in Washington, but here he’s roughly ten times better than Tarvaris Jackson was. Plus, he has never had a running back like Adrian Peterson before. That will take a lot of pressure of him to make a lot throws.
Chicago Bears 8-8
Many expect a huge regression, but I don’t see when considering their schedule and their strong defence. The new kickoff rule will really hurt them, but they can still get the ball in Hester’s hands other ways.
Detroit Lions 7-9
Can Matt Stafford stay healthy? Can their defence keep teams from passing them to death? Can Suh keep playing the way he has and not get suspended? Seems like there’s a lot more questions than answers in Detroit.

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons 12-4
Atlanta’s off-season additions, particularly Julio Jones, give them what it takes to become the first ever repeat winner of the NFC South. Playing on their fast-track at home, they might be unbeatable this year.
New Orleans Saints 11-5 (Wild card)
We’ve known their offence has been good for a while, but now it could be great with Mark Ingram at RB. They’ve also improved their defence by grabbing Franklin from the 49ers. Don’t be surprised to see the Saints in the Super Bowl – even if they’re just a wild card.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8
Were struck hard by injuries late last year and that cost them a playoff spot. This year’s harder schedule should do them in, but that doesn’t mean their young core will won’t take another step forward.
Carolina Panthers 3-13
The worst record in the league, again. It’s hard to envision it when you consider their coaching change, starting a rookie who is seen as a project and their star wide receiver hasn’t been happy for a while now.

NFC West
St. Louis Rams 9-7
Winning a division at 9-7 isn’t pretty, but at least it’s not 7-9. Improved their receiving core with additions of receiver Sims-Walker and co-ordinator McDaniels. There’s not much light in this division except for the Rams.
San Francisco 49ers 7-9
This should, thankfully, be the last year of the Alex Smith experiment. I can envision draft pick Kaepernick getting some starts later in the season. I would also consider the possibility of tanking, but their schedule is too easy.
Arizona Cardinals 6-10
Adding Kolb was good enough to cheer up Fitzgerald long enough for him to sign a huge extension. Draft pick Peterson might be great enough to get everyone to forget about Rodgers-Cromartie very quickly. But rest of defence, as well as the running game, should be bad.
Seattle Seahawks 6-10
Is bringing in Jackson and Sidney Rice really the solution that coach Carroll thought up? Sounds like they wasted a second-round pick trading for untested Whitehurst a year ago. Also let linebacking mainstay Lofa Tatupu walk, which wasn’t smart.

Also, later this week, expect my official Week 1 picks and a comment or two (probably more) after the big season kickoff.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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