2011 NFC Recap/Playoff Predictions

It’s playoff time, meaning 6 teams are in, and 10 teams are out. Here is a little season recap along with my playoff predictions.

NFC East: A dismal year
1 – NY Giants 9-7
2 – Phi Eagles 8-8
3 – Dal Cowboys 8-8
4 – Was Redskins 5-11

The New York Giants won this division because somebody had to. Eli Manning ‘s season was flat-out awesome, but when Eli wasn’t on (insert Manning face here)  the Giants had no chance. The defense did step up at the end of the season when it absolutely had to. Remember, never bet against a football-cop! Surprise – Victor Cruz’s monster year

To steal a phase from Joey Porter, the Philadelphia Eagles had “popcorn muscles”. After signing all kinds of free agents, many expected Philly to be Super Bowl bound. When oil and water mix, aka Andy Reid’s pass happy offense, and Michael Vick’s ability (or non-ability) to pass, then I might take these guys seriously. Surprise – I wanted to try to keep the surprises positive, but how did Andy Reid not get fired?

The Dallas Cowboys under achieve again. Who cares if Tony Romo is clutch in November when the postseason is in January? This team is talented, but overrated every year much like the San Diego Chargers have been the last couple seasons. Oh yeah, head coach Jason Garrett is way overrated! Surprise – DeMarco Murray’s breakout season.
*Side Note*
When The Cowboys lose – I win!

My Washington Redskins were basically doomed from the start when Mike Shanahan decided not to do ANYTHING about the QB’s on the roster. Rex Grossman didn’t play for a chunk of the season and still led the league in interceptions. Surprises – Rookie running back Roy Helu, and a defense that ranked 13th in total yards allowed.

NFC North: WOW!
1 – GB Packers 15-1
2 – Det Lions 10-6
3 – Chi Bears 8-8
4 – Min Vikings 3-13

The Green Bay Packers are a well oiled machine on offense. Aaron Rodgers is a force to be reckoned with. He just throws a different type of ball than most. His zip, decision-making, and accuracy are unparalleled. The Packers still have play-makers on defense even though they haven’t had the best season. Surprises – Jordy Nelson is making everything look easy. While Aaron Rodgers is making people forget about number 4 REALLY quick.

The Detroit Lions are back in the playoffs! That’s right I’m talking about playoffs. The only way for the Lions to get things turned around in Detroit was for their high end draft selections to pan out. With Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh playing the way they are, I’d say they are panning out just fine. Surprise – Matthew Stafford stayed healthy for the most part and threw for 5,000 yards!

The Chicago Bears will only go as far as Jay Cutler takes them. The Bears were 7-3 with Cutler, 1-5 without him this year. The injury to Matt Forte didn’t help either. Injuries at key positions was the 2011 story in Chicago. Keep an eye out for this team heading into next season. Surprise The Sam Hurd saga: disturbing.

The Minnesota Vikings ended the Donovan McNabb era as quickly as it started. This roster had so may holes, Bob Vila wouldn’t be able to patch them up: QB’s were bad, no WR depth, and 0 players who can actually cover in the secondary. Adrian Peterson can only do so much. With his ACL tear, now his 2012 season is in question. Jared Allen was his normal self, almost breaking the single season sack record. Surprise – Other than Jared Allen, apparently the rest of the defense retired last year with Pat Williams…

NFC South: The good, the bad, and the ugly…
1 – NO Saints 13-3
2 – Atl Falcons 10-6
3 – Car Panthers 6-10
4 – TB Buccaneers 4-12

The New Orleans Saints are a cut way above of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Drew Brees’ record setting season was most impressive, and the Saints offense looks better than ever. The losses to the Rams, and Bucs are a mystery – this team should be 15-1 like the Packers. Surprises – Rookie TE Jimmy Graham was a beast, and Darren Sproles made the offense more dangerous than Reggie Bush.

The Atlanta Falcons are good, but are they good enough to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Matt Ryan led the 8th overall passing offense this year, but the running attack was only 17th. For the Falcons to make an impact, they will need to step up the run game and defense to complement the passing game. Surprise – The draft day gamble to trade up for Julio Jones paid off. When healthy he was a play-maker for the Atlanta offense.

The Carolina Panthers were bad, but Cam Newton’s season was sensational! The first overall pick took no prisoners. Setting rookie records for passing yards, and rushing touchdowns by a QB. He was exactly what the Panthers needed. Now they have a building block and that’s a start. Surprise – 1 word: Cam

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were straight up ugly, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Josh Freeman needs to prioritize – shooting guns or playing football? I can’t think of anything that went well for the Bucs. Surprise – They did beat the Saints.

NFC West: The west was actually won!
1 – SF 49ers 13-3
2 – Ari Cardinals 8-8
3 – Sea Seahawks 7-9
4 – STL Rams 2-14

The San Francisco 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh as the new head coach and he decided SF was going to take over a division each team for years was giving away. Alex Smith had his best year as a pro, Frank Gore was his usual work horse self, and the defense was the best in the league: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Justin Smith were excellent. I’m excited to see this defense go up against the likes of the Saints and Packers. Surprise – Alex Smith getting his career back on track.

The Arizona Cardinals still have Larry Fitzgerald and that’s a good thing. The Kevin Kolb trade didn’t have the immediate impact the Cardinals were hoping for. Fitzgerald still had another 1,400 yard season. Apparently it doesn’t matter if it’s Warner, Kolb, or Skelton throwing him the ball. With the 49ers emerging, the Cardinals are still a few impact players short of competing for the division crown moving forward. Surprise – Beanie Wells recorded his 1st 1,000 yard season, adding 10 TD’s.

The post-Matt Hasselbeck Seattle Seahawks would have been in contention for the division at 7-9 if it were any other year. Luckily for us the 49ers actually gave the fans something to watch out of this division. When your team has Tarvaris Jackson as a starter, you don’t have a chance – unless he is torching the Eagles! I had to drop that bomb in here. Surprise – Marshawn Lynch had a huge year: 1,200 yards and 12 TD’s

The St. Louis Rams. There… I at least mentioned them. Surprise – They missed out on the number one pick by a tie breaker. Practice makes perfect, maybe next year.

Playoff Predictions – Wild Card Weekend

  • Atlanta @ New York – Even though I think the Falcons are the better team, I believe the Giants will pull this game out. Main reason: There isn’t a dome in NY, and the Giants might be getting hot at the right time.
  • Detroit @ New Orleans – Last year in the wild card round, the Saints were humiliated by the Seahawks. Do not think they will take the Lions lightly like the Seahawks. Both teams have great passing attacks, but Brees has been there before. I like the Saints to win, but will enjoy this game thoroughly whoever wins.

Divisional Weekend

  • New York @ Green Bay – I think Aaron Rodgers will have his way against whoever he plays. GB wins big.
  • New Orleans @ San Francisco – Classic strength against strength. Defense wins championships and SF has the best in the league. QB edge – No question goes to the Saints. I think the other match-up though will decide the game. SF O vs the NO D. That is why I like the 49ers.

NFC Championship

  • San Francisco @ Green Bay – My heart tells me Green Bay, my mind says San Fran. The 49ers are better suited to win on a “frozen tundra” type of game, the only problem there is the frozen tundra would be at Lambeau Field. That is why I’m going with the defending champs. Green Bay will make it back to the Super Bowl to defend their title.
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