September 6, 2017

Deep crop of contenders rule the NFC

by Dan Bilicki In: Football

There may not be a top contender like the Patriots or Steelers in the AFC, but the NFC has several legit threats to take the conference and maybe even the Super Bowl.

NFC EAST

New York Giants

We have been harping on Eli Manning for years, but the fact is he remains a perfectly capable QB. With the weapons he has surrounding him and a solid defence that got better late last season, the Giants could carry that all the way to a division title this year.

Prediction: 11-5

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles did what team should do in the off-season: Look at their weaknesses and improve them. Philly brought in some more than capable receivers and traded for a solid corner in Ronald Darby. This is a team we don’t think people are talking enough about.

Prediction: 10-6* – wild card

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have a talented team, but after losing some key personnel on defence and figuring in Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension, it will be very tough for Dallas to repeat the amazing season it had last year. Dak Prescott will be under a lot more pressure, too.

Prediction: 9-7

Washington

The big winner in Washington thanks to Donald Trump might be its football team with a racist nickname.  Nobody is protesting the team now that there’s some real issues to march against thanks to the man in charge. As for this season, yet again, we see the offence being good, but the defence struggling to keep up.

Prediction: 8-8

NFC NORTH

Green Bay Packers

As long as Aaron Rodgers is in Green Bay, they’ll be a favourite to win the division.

Prediction: 12-4

Minnesota Vikings

With little to no help from the rushing game last year, the Vikes went 8-8. After drafting Dalvin Cook and adding Latavius Murray as insurance in the off-season, we should see some improvement on that front from Minnesota and it might even free up some receivers so Sam Bradford can look further than five yards down the field for once.

Prediction: 10-6*- wild card

Detroit Lions

The Lions got crazy lucky last year, posting numerous comeback, one-score wins late in games. That’s the sort of thing that does not carry over season to season and we should see a regression in that area. Matt Stafford also received the biggest payday in NFL history, which I’m not sure anybody believes he truly earned. Fun fact: The Lions’ season-high for rushing yards was 69 and Theo Riddick led the team with just 357 yards. Another fun fact: The running game isn’t expected to be much better this year.

Prediction: 7-9

Chicago Bears

The Bears will likely be competing for the top pick in next year’s draft which, ironically, is loaded with QBs. Chicago took its shot by trading up for Mitchell Trubisky, but he’s still stuck behind Mike Glennon for the time being. I wouldn’t expect coach John Fox to last the season.

Prediction: 3-13

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

The biggest question for the Falcons is if they can rebound from the epic loss they suffered in the Super Bowl. How will that blown lead impact their psyche? Their biggest loss was offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, which could see the attack take a dip, but Atlanta improved its defence and should get a boost from their new stadium.

Prediction: 11-5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Are the Bucs really there yet? Tampa is a trendy pick after watching them on Hard Knocks, but can Jameis Winston lead this team through a tough division to the 10-win mark likely needed for a wild card? It’s going to be harder than many think.

Prediction: 9-7

Carolina Panthers

Another team slated for a comeback is the Panthers, but I just don’t see it. Cam Newton is coming off-season shoulder surgery and has barely practiced. They lost the offensive coordinator that had this team buzzing to 15-1 just two years ago and we’re not sure how well this defence can play if/when Luke Kuechly gets hurt again.

Prediction: 9-7

New Orleans Saints

The offence is always there as long as Drew Brees is under centre. But can the defence play up to just the league average? Until we see a marked improvement from that bottom-feeding unit, there’s no real shot for this team to do damage in the South.

Prediction: 6-10

NFC WEST

Seattle Seahawks

The offensive line remains a big issue and we’re not sure if going with a tandem of Thomas Rawls and Fat Eddie Lacy in the backfield is a path to success, but this defence can be the league’s best unit after adding Sheldon Richardson and seeing Earl Thomas return from injury.

Prediction: 10-6

Arizona Cardinals

The Cards are one David Johnson injury away from disaster. Carson Palmer seemingly has one foot out the door towards retirement and if the backup option is Blaine Gabbert, it’s not a viable one. The defence remains dangerous, but there’s a lot to worry about on the other side.

Prediction: 9-7

Los Angeles Rams

The longer that Aaron Donald holds out, the longer that the Rams will be a disaster. Jared Goff hasn’t shown anything of substance yet and with a new coach, there will be a learning curve. This should be another lost season in L.A.

Prediction: 5-11

San Francisco 49ers

When a mid-round pick like C.J. Beathard is your most impressive QB in camp, it’s a big issue. The Niners aren’t going anywhere this season, though it might not be surprising if we get a few entertaining games with Shanahan at the helm.

Prediction: 4-12

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