In an era where 9-7 teams go deep into the playoffs or even the win the Superbowl, it’s easy to dismiss teams that didn’t make the playoffs the previous year. Fittingly it would be foolish to dismiss the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles for that very reason. The Cowboys just beat the defending champions and the Eagles look like an unstoppable offensive weapon if most players, especially Michael Vick, stay healthy. The Redskins are an afterthought with a rookie Quarterback but they may be the wild card (not advancing to the playoffs) playing the role of spoiler of their division rivals’ chances; divisional teams know each other very well. I believe the Giants and Dallas will be competing for a wild card spot late in the season.
I’m picking the Eagles to win this division. This year they should keep the pieces together. LeSean McCoy , DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek are some big weapons for the dynamic Michael Vick. Now, the NFL is full of teams that can rack up points; But this Eagles this years team has huge expectations on defense which I expect them to fulfill giving them the deadly combination of a dynamic offense mixed in with a great defense.
This is a very difficult division to pick. In the World Cup they call difficult the “Group of death”, which usually means at least 3 of the 4 teams in that group are worthy of advancing to the elimination rounds. That’s exactly what this division represents. The Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers are some offensive machines. The Viking’s to me are just an afterthought here, a below .500 team which will either get its coach fired or show some promise for the next season and maybe save his job. A team no one should sleep on however is the Chicago Bears, a team coming in with some very high expectations. I am high on the Chicago Bears and I want to pick them to win the division.
I have to go with the Greenbay Packers to win the NFC north however. In my opinion, Aaron Rodgers is a top 3 Quarterback in the league today and has been beating teams despite getting virtually zero help from the defense. As bad as the defense was last season I just don’t believe it can get any worst. I just can’t picture a scenario where the Packers do absolutely nothing to fix their problems at defense. It’s not like they need a Steel-curtain-like defense either; just a solid defense that doesn’t make the other team’s offense look like the 1999 Rams.
I don’t believe this is as difficult on paper as the previous two divisions, but there are some x-factors to take note. Cam Newton had one of the best rookie seasons I’ve ever seen last year with the Carolina Panthers and I believe he will only get better this season. The Panthers are a dark horse that may shock everyone, but let’s wait for that. The Bucs lost some veteran players to free agency and unless they show some of their 2010 promise they’ll likely not even be in a playoff discussion. For me it comes down to the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
Ultimately I will have to go with the New Orleans Saint’s despite not having their head coach. The bounty gate scandal has only build an “us against the world” mentality for the Saint’s. They will use that controversy as a fuel and channel that on the field just like the Patriots did after Spy gate. They’re playing with something to prove this season. They don’t have the best defense in the world but they do create turnovers. Drew Brees is a leader and he’ll guide the offense to their winning ways even without Sean Payton on the sidelines.
Say what you want about this division, it sure has its division champions win playoff games year after year. The Cardinals made it all the way to the Superbowl and almost won it against the Steelers, the 49ers almost spoiled the Giants Cinderella Superbowl championship last year, and even a below .500 Divisional Champion Seattle Seahawks managed to beat the then defending champions New Orleans Saints the year before.
The 49ers should win this division going away as long as they stay .500 on the road and beat their division rivals as they did last year they shouldn’t have much trouble steamrolling through. Call the Seahawks a dark horse if you want, I won’t. With a weak division do expect the 49ers to battle for a bye week in the playoffs as well.
My Playoff Seeds Predictions for the NFC
1. Philadelphia Eagles, 13-3
2. San Francisco 49ers, 12-4
3. Greenbay Packers, 12-4
4. New Orleans Saints, 10-6
5. Chicago Bears, 11-5
6. Dallas Cowboys, 10-6
While it may be absurd to some that the defending champions, New York Giants aren’t on my list we have to keep in mind that last season they barely made the playoffs to begin with. Giant’s history has shown me that they have their runs when they’re hot and when they’re cold.