NFL NFC Preview for 2014
The Seattle Seahawks will embark on their title defense, but the road will get tougher with the NFL’s parity scheduling tactic (where bad teams get favorable schedules and good teams get tougher ones). Let’s take a look at the NFC!
1. Philadelphia “Barnstorming Chip Kelly Offense” Eagles: Nick Foles returning in the so-fast Chip Kelly offense, jettisoning the head case DeSean Jackson and keeping your team intact…it’ll be too much for the NFC East. Although teams have game tape on the Eagles, they’ll still be very potent.
2. Washington “We Don’t Care About the Media-Created Nickname Controversy” Redskins: The nickname “controversy” aside, RGIII is finally looking sharper and his receiving corps (and running backs) look rejuvenated this upcoming year. With the easygoing Jay Gruden as his new football coach, look for RGIII to have a bounceback year. The looming question is whether the defense can stop anyone because they didn’t do that last year, even with additions like safety Ryan Clark and bringing back pass-rusher Brian Orakpo. Jury is still out on Jason Hatcher, former Cowboys defensive lineman who has been hurt since the start of training camp.
3. New York “Where is our Super Bowl-winning Quarterback?” Giants: Eli Manning isn’t elite and the Giants don’t have a monster pass rush as they used to during their two Super Bowl runs. With their first-round running back David Wilson, a former Virginia Tech standout, leaving the NFL for health reasons (neck injuries ended his career), the running back position is thin with Rashard Jennings and Peyton Hillis. I think this could be Tom Coughlin’s last year in the Big Apple (or Jersey, wherever their stadium is).
4. Dallas “Jerry Jones Screws Us Over Every Year” Cowboys: They lost Sean Lee, their middle linebacker and heart of the defense, to another devastating injury. Although they have Tony Romo (who is criticized far too much and puts up great numbers nonetheless) and Dez Bryant, their defense will do them in this season. They could make a run for the money as the worst NFL defense since last year’s Washington Redskins. And seriously, Jerry Jones makes Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, look like a saint. As a Redskins fan, I pity my friends who are Cowboys fans.
1. Green Bay “It’s Freaking Cold and We’ll Beat You Anyway” Packers: Green Bay has Chicago’s number as of late, as well as Jay Cutler’s number. Aaron Rodgers will be great as usual, and with Jordy Nelson re-signed, this offensive attack will be hard to stop. Their bend-but-not-break defense could improve this year, after keeping ballhawk corner Sam Shields, but the jury is still out on Dom Capers’ defensive strategy.
2. Chicago “Bears Got A Quarterback Named…Jay Cutler…[CURSES]” Bears: The glory days aren’t coming back. Jay Cutler is still a good QB, but even with his offensive weapons, will the defense hold up? Matt Forte is still an elite running back, and Cutler has the tall Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall to throw to, but it depends on if the defense can hold a lead late in a game. See Exhibit A versus the Packers last year with the division title on the line:
What a gem of a radio call. “HE’S GOT COBB…YES!”
3. Detroit “Turnover is My Middle Name” Lions: Matthew Stafford throws too many picks, the defense isn’t good enough to beat the Packers or Bears, but they have Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and Reggie Bush. They’ll put up points, but they won’t make the top two in the division this year.
4. Minnesota “Our QB’s Wife is an ESPN Reporter” Vikings: Christian Ponder’s wife, Sam Ponder, is the only good thing going for the Vikings (other than All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson). Ponder’s career is on the ropes with Teddy Bridgewater coming in as the future QB and heir apparent.
1. New Orleans “WHO DAT DREW BREES” Saints: Drew Brees will continue his insane pace of throwing for over 5,000 yards and at least 30-odd TD passes. Him and coach Sean Payton have a great thing going on down in the Big Easy, and it looks like their defense can hold their own. Mark Ingram, their RB of the future and now, looks great running between the tackles in preseason. Plus, Jimmy Graham, their All-Pro tight end, will do WORK this year with a new contract in hand of 4 years, $40 million.
2. Atlanta “Matty Ice Means Only One Playoff Win” Falcons: An awful offensive line and injuries to key players like Julio Jones ended their title hopes last year. This year? They could keep pace with the Saints with change-of-pace player Jaquizz Rodgers. QB Matt Ryan will be a good regular season QB, but can he get past the first round of the playoffs for the second time in his career?
3. Carolina “Who We Got at WR?” Panthers: Although they drafted Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin, who is a great receiver, QB Cam Newton has almost no experience among his wide receivers. His defense is stalwart, but can it keep pace in the pass-happy NFL and especially within his division? I don’t think they can score enough points to be in contention, plus they have an albatross of a contract with DeAngelo Williams at RB. No “Superman” poses for Cam anytime soon, unless it’s during a losing effort (as he did versus the Giants and got many upset).
4. Tampa Bay “Pulling a perennial Tampa Bay Rebuilding Project” Buccaneers: The Greg Schiano drama era is over, which was improving by the end of the season, and it means that life will be stable for once. Darrell Revis went from underutilized in Tampa over to New England and the Bucs let Josh Freeman walk after being far-too inconsistent at QB. They do have the “Muscle Hamster” in Doug Martin at RB, but this roster is unimpressive at best.
1. St. Louis “D-Line Apocalypse” Rams: They have a monster defensive line, but their big question mark is at quarterback with Sam Bradford. As Grantland outlined HERE, Bradford struggles to throw deep. However, that can be blamed on his lackluster WR corps during his young career. Still, as we saw with the Giants two runs to the Super Bowl in recent years, a great defensive line can make up for an average quarterback.
2. Seattle “We Grab You and Will Get Flagged for It” Seahawks: I know picking them as the second team in this division sounds crazy, but it’s been rare that a team goes back-to-back in Super Bowls. Plus, the NFL is making an emphasis on holding and grabbing wide receivers this year as a result of Seattle’s championship run. Russell Wilson is best out of the pocket and Marshawn Lynch will inevitably slow down with the wear-and-tear on his body. They’ll still be a good-to-great team, but I think they’ll get flagged A LOT this season and that will lead to a lot of points being scored on their defense.
3. San Francisco “Will Harbaugh Stay or Go?” 49ers: They are always a step behind the Seahawks and will continue to be as long as Pete Carroll coaches the Seahawks. It also doesn’t help that they are running out of running backs before the season even begins.
4. Arizona “Why Do We Have Carson Palmer at QB? Oh, Cuz Kevin Kolb” Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Patrick Peterson are elite players on this team, but I don’t think they can repeat their season last year (which somehow saw them NOT make the playoffs). Carson Palmer is NOT the answer at QB.
Any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks!