Following up our AFC preview, we’re back again with the NFL picks and now it’s the NFC’s turn. Often regarded as the inferior conference, the NFC is still packed with a couple of competitive divisions. Hell, like it or not, Brett Favre’s offseason soap opera made the NFC North worth checking for. Take a look at our NFC divisional projections and let the inevitable arguments roll in the comments.
NFC North: Jesse H.
1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
With the maddeningly laborious acquisition of Brett Favre (my feelings on the matter, as a lifetime Vikings backer, were displayed with perfect locution here), and Adrian “unfreakingbelievable man/beast” Peterson in the backfield, the Minnesota Vikings (on paper) have an offense that isn’t an embarrassment for the Vike’s first-rate defense. They have to be the favorite in the North. If all of this talent was being coached by someone who can pee standing up and not Brad Childress, the Super Bowl hype surrounding the purple might be legitimate.
2. Chicago Bears (8-8)
By adding Jay Cutler (and his whiney, tantrum-induced tears) the Bears have had the second most eventful offseason in the North. If Cutler puts up Pro Bowl caliber numbers again and proves himself a solid option at quarterback in the Chi (which hasn’t happened since… well, forever), the Bears will make some noise in the black-and-blue division.
3. Green Bay Packers (8-8)
No, I’m not just shitting on the Packers because of my unabashedly blatant bias. Aaron Rodgers has (through clenched teeth) been… pretty… impressive, but the Pack is still a little too youthful and inexperienced to hang with the Bears or the Vikes (but you can bet that the game Favre comes to Lambeau will be pretty much the most epically over-reported storyline ever).
4. Detroit Lions (2-14)
Typing this without smirking, laughing and thinking of FilmDrunk’s Schadenfreude Sloth, is a literal impossibility, so we’ll just link to this. Seriously though, apologies aside to LC, but Stafford isn’t the instant-turnaround the Lion’s are looking for just yet. The kid might put together a couple of wins though… which is at least the beginning of an improvement.
NFC South: J. Tinsley
1. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
As much as I want to put the Falcons right here, it’s something about preseason hype which rarely finds itself living up to its billing. Plus, the Saints are poised to have a breakout year. Take stat sheet stuffer Drew Brees and an already potent offense, along with a defense which will surely perform better under the tutelage of Gregg Williams and we’ve got ourselves a team which could find itself playing deep into January.
2. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
The Falcons could very well end up winning the division. Everyone knows about Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White, but the addition of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez will prove to provide major dividends. The only question mark around the Falcons is their secondary. Signing former first rounder Tye Hill off waver wires could help, but the forecast is still cloudy surrounding their pass defense. Look for this team to boast a top 10 offense, however.
3. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
Never mind the fact they were 0-4 in the preseason, their injury list is already a mile long with starters Jon Beason, Johnathan Stewart and Steve Smith all touting uncertain statuses for their week one opener. Carolina fans still haven’t forgiven Jake Delhomme for his five interception performance against the Cardinals last season. Truthfully, while they boast one of the better running games in the league, I just don’t see this team challenging either the Falcons or Saints. I could be wrong though.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Kudos to Cadillac Williams coming back from two devastating knee injuries, but unfortunately that will not be enough to salvage the season. Sure they picked up Kellen Winslow in the offseason, but he must first prove he can stay healthy before any elevated expectation is made. Firing their offensive coordinator days before the start of the season was bad, but their is still no true answer at quarterback. Byron Leftwich and Josh McCown are serviceable, but not long term remedies at signal caller.
NFC East: S. Cadet
1. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
TO’s absence won’t be missed in Dallas and Pacman won’t be there to get in to more trouble. Their departures will provide a relatively ego free locker room. That leave’s no excuses for Romo to throw fun balls (II) to Patrick Crayton and Jason Witten.
2. New York Giants (9-7)
Eli got that big money deal but guess what? With Amani and Plaxico gone he doesn’t have much to throw to. Their defense will have their work cut out for them if they want to get a wild card spot. Then again, they do have one of the most tenacious D-lines in the league, especially considering Osi’s return from a season ending injury.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Philly lost some key players this offseason: namely Brian Dawkins, Lito Shepard and LJ Smith. But they got a consolation prize in Alex Smith and showed faith in Vick by signing him when they already had a QB. Desean Jackson looks eager to step up but the offense will move through Westbrook and McNabb’s backfield antics as usual.
4. Washington Redskins (8-8)
The addition of Albert Haynesworth makes their decent run defense even better. Additionally they pretty much retained everyone from last year: this unfortunately includes Jason Campbell. If he doesn’t step up fingers will mainly be pointed at for their inconsistent play down the stretch.
NFC West: Patrick M.
1. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
Um, I guess since someone technically has to win this thing, I’ll go with the Niners. Great uniforms. Plus Mike Singletary appeared to actually get his team to play hard which may be all it takes in this disgrace of a division. Actually after years of futility the Niners seem to be putting together a good young team with legit stars like Frank Gore and Patrick Willis.
2. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
Pretty much everything went wrong for the Hawks last year but cheer up Seattle fans, at least they aren’t bailing for Oklahoma City. A healthy Matt Hasselbeck means a return to the Hawks 4-wide spread but all the pieces in place are a little older. And their defense was atrocious last year.
3. Arizona Cardinals (6-10)
It was a magical run that almost led to the ultimate prize, but the Cards time in the limelight is likely over before it began. Yes Larry Fitzgerald is amazing, one of the top 5 players in football, but in 2009, he might not have anyone to throw him the ball. Kurt Warner, one of the all time hot-cold athletes, is more fragile than Kanye’s ego.
4. St Louis Rams: (3-13)
If Stephen Jackson is healthy, that’s one piece. I guess Donnie Avery could be good. But something tells me it’s going to be a long trek back to glory for the Rammies.
Previously Posted — TSS 2009 NFL Preview: AFC