Originally, I only planned on previewing the NFC East. My grand idea was to recruit a friend to represent and write on behalf of their favorite team for all four squads. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to secure a Giants fan and the idea fell apart. (I posted my Redskins segment anyway) SO, even though the first game of the season took place last night, I’m ready to buckle down and rush these predictions with a tsunami blitz! (Don’t worry, even though the Cowboys won last night, it won’t affect my thoughts on how they will finish.)
Let’s start with the AFC.
AFC EAST: Not too sure how the Patriots continually get one of the easiest schedules in the league, but it keeps happening! The easy schedule coupled with Tom Brady starting at QB equals yet another division crown. Keep in mind, they did go to the super bowl last season with one of the worst defenses of all time. So even if the defense doesn’t improve I’m not all that worried about New England. The Jets need a miracle to make the playoffs. I heard there was a QB last season who worked some miracles. What was his name again? Bills, and Dolphins… are not the Bills and Dolphins of the early 90’s. How did the Dolphins get on HBO’s Hard Knocks again? This team is wretched.
AFC NORTH: The Cleveland Browns! That’s right, the Browns have some freshly drafted talent and it won’t mean a damn thing. They will finish the season with the worst record in football and secure the number 1 overall pick next season. Maybe they can draft the entire Alabama team? The north is a super tough division. Each of the top two teams will be minus a star pass rusher for the start of the season, Steelers without James Harrison, and Ravens without Terrell Suggs, but it won’t stop them from finishing 1 and 2 in the division and making the playoffs. The Bengals young stars will have a welcome back to reality type season –> Looking at you Andy Dalton and AJ Green.
AFC SOUTH: The south will rise again, but not this year. There is only one team that could make a Super Bowl run in this division and that’s the Houston Texans. Time and injuries will tell if they can actually hold up and make that push. Still, Texans win this division. Titans with Jake Locker at the helm could surprise, hopefully CJ2K bounces back, but I don’t see them exceeding 8-8 or entering the playoff picture. The post-Manning Colts with Andrew Luck under center will be fun to watch. He is already showing traits of a superstar QB. I think the Colts will be a better team sooner rather than later. Luckily the Jags will be victim to blackouts all year so no one will have to watch that hot mess. They will push the Browns for worst team in the league.
AFC WEST: This is the most intriguing division. The Broncos lose Tim Tebow but get Peyton Manning! The Chargers aren’t over hyped? How did that happen? The Chiefs finally get healthy, and the Raiders… they still have Darren McFadden. I see the Chiefs winning this division at 10-6. Jamaal Charles coming back healthy and splitting carries with the bruising Peyton Hillis is a recipe for success. Matt Cassel will have help around him with Dwayne Bowe on the outside, and TE Tony Moeaki back from injury. The Peyton led Broncos easily finish second in the division, solidifying a wild card spot in the playoffs. If the Broncos can get to the playoffs with Tebow, they surely can do it with #18. As long as the Chargers have Norv Turner calling the shots they will lose, I don’t care how good Phillip Rivers is. The battle for third will be between the Chargers and Raiders. If Carson Palmer is washed up, which I think he probably is, it shouldn’t be too hard for Norv and the Chargers to grab third.
Now, to the class of the two conferences: The NFC! (This time, west to east)
NFC WEST: The division that is widely regarded as the worst in the league hasn’t shed the label in my eyes. The Seattle Sea-dogs, St. Louis Spam, and the Arizona “Hallmark” Cards are just flat-out sorry. Yes there is some hoopla about Russell Wilson in Seattle, but that was the PRESEASON people, don’t be fooled. I have respect for Ken Whisenhunt’s coaching ability, but Arizona’s quarterback competition could have been won by JaMarcus Russell rolling off his couch onto the football field, and that is sad on so many levels. The Rams have draft picks on the way courtesy Washington (who landed RGIII), so another horrible season should stack their deck full of high-end picks. If the 49ers don’t win this division by 4 games, they should be ashamed of themselves. The niners defense was best in the league last year, I’m expecting more of the same.
NFC SOUTH: I like the Falcons this year. With all the scandals in New Orleans, it may have taken some of the pressure off Atlanta. Giving them a somewhat “under the radar” status heading into the season. I expect this team to win 12 games with Matt Ryan and company dominating the regular season, easily winning the division. It’s hard not to bet on Drew Brees, but it can’t be your year every year. The Saints will take a step back to around 8-8. I’m honestly not sure what to make of the Panthers and Buccs. That said, I’m thinking neither have a playoff run in their future.
NFC NORTH: The Lions, Packers, and Bears, oh my! This division will be filled with super fun games to watch. Many feel Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback currently in the NFL, and I’d be hard-pressed to say otherwise. They just need the defense to actually do something this season, not just spectating. The Bears caught the injury bug at the worst time last season. Cutler and Forte can be explosive, and with the addition of Brandon Marshall, they could be deadly. The Lions have the talent, but they will only go as far as Matt Stafford allows them to go. If he doesn’t play, than it could be a disappointing year. 5 on 1 vs Calvin Johnson, I’d still throw it to him! Bottom line: I think both of the wild cards come from this division. BTW… the Vikings still do have a team, but not much of one.
NFC EAST: I have the Giants winning the division, but not by a wide margin. Their defense gets all the love and respect, but their offense has just as much talent. Eli-te anyone? Philly and Dallas.. I don’t have anything good to say about either, but I must. The Eagles will soar in their wins and struggle in close games, that about sums up Andy Reid’s tenure. With the arrival of RG3 in Washington, they finally have a guy capable of making a big play. That, plus a defense that I expect to be a top 10 defense will get them out of the basement for the first time in 5 years. Dallas always had the talent capable of winning a lot of games, they just don’t win the games that count. This year, I think it’ll be the year that breaks Jerry Jones’ back. A last place finish, that ends with a trade of Tony Romo, and Jason Garrett losing his job.