September 4, 2013

Our NFC conference preview

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

On Tuesday we covered off the AFC, so now we get to breakdown the NFC, which has quietly opened the gap in becoming the dominant conference. The entire 16 teams have a chance to finish around .500 if things break right, which is a lot more than you can say for their AFC counterparts.

Washington Redskins 10-6

Honestly, I’m 50/50 on RG3’s knee. It could either be an issue all season, or it could be better than 100% like Adrian Peterson last season. In the NFL these days, injured stars tend to trend towards the latter in that sentiment. Whether the offence can be as effective as last year is the real question.

Dallas Cowboys 9-7

This is a make-or-break year for the Cowboys. It honestly feels like we write that every year though. If this team doesn’t make the playoffs, expect a coaching change. If the running game and offensive line hold up, this could be a real contender.

Philadelphia Eagles 8-8

The Eagles have a big advantage for them early in the season: Nobody is going to know what kind of offence they’ll be running. It won’t be enough to propel them into the playoffs, but it will make them very fun to watch.

New York Giants 7-9

Of course, whenever you write off the Giants before the season starts – and even mid-season – they’ll come back and win the Super Bowl. Anything is possible with this team.

Green Bay Packers 12-4

The offensive line looks a bit dicey, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for the Packers. They upgraded the defence through the draft and Aaron Rodgers remains one of the league top quarterbacks. The Pack also invested in a running game, which could make this offence even more dominant.

Chicago Bears 10-6

I’m actually really not sure of this record and if I had time, I’d probably go back and lower it. There’s a new coach here, but he’s not exactly replacing a bad one. Lovie Smith had a solid record in Chicago. I’m also concerned about the defence, which could suffer without Smith at the helm.

Detroit Lions 8-8

The Lions were incredibly unlucky last season, repeatedly getting stopped at the goalline. That kind of luck usually evens out and Detroit should bounce back. Reggie Bush also adds a dimension to the offence that the Lions haven’t had in years: A running game.

Minnesota Vikings 7-9

You can’t overlook the fact that Christian Ponder is the quarterback of this team. His passing average was nearly on par with Adrian Peterson’s per carry yardage – which is not a good thing. Until this team can throw the ball successfully, it won’t be a real contender.

Atlanta Falcons 10-6

I really thought the Falcons should be better than this. But with a tough schedule and then remembering how lucky they got last season in close games, 10 wins and a third seed is very likely. And that also means they have to stay ahead of a revitalized Saints squad.

New Orleans Saints 9-7

There is a real possibility that Drew Brees and returning coach Sean Payton go into F U mode this season. The Saints at least tried to upgrade their absolutely woeful defence, so expect that side of the ball to be closer to league average than record-breakingly bad.

Carolina Panthers 7-9

There are two things we’ve learned about Cam Newton in the NFL: He’s amazingly fun to watch and he has trouble winning games. With an upgraded defence, that second part could be less of a problem, but I think the Cats real breakthrough will be next year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-12

I’m out on Josh Freeman. The defence will be improved, but the Bucs have a tough schedule and being in this division doesn’t help. At least they have the amazing Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin.

San Francisco 49ers 14-2

There are some concerns about the receiving core, but with a running game as talented as this one, it doesn’t really matter. The defence is the league’s best and that alone can get you to 10 wins sometimes.

Seattle Seahawks 12-4

It’s quite amazing that the NFC West has gone from a laughingstock to quite possibly the NFL’s best division. It has the top two teams in the NFC at least and Seahawks shouldn’t be ashamed to play Robin to the 49ers’ Batman.

St. Louis Rams 10-6

The Rams were great inside their division last year and this year they’ll expand that. They have a true playmaker and the defence is already in shape. St. Louis could be this season’s surprise team.

Arizona Cardinals 5-11

Let’s not get too fired up over Carson Palmer. He racked up most of his Oakland stats in garbage time of blowouts and never looked very good doing it. The defence is the key here, with some young studs in the secondary that can rack up some quick pick-sixes.

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