Monday, September 04, 2006

NFC Season Preview

Predicted finishes ( playoff teams highlighted)

New York


Green Bay

Tampa Bay
New Orleans

St Louis
San Fran

North: The NFC North teams have the luxury of drawing the AFC East and the NFC West. Everybody loves Chicago’s D, but I thought Thomas Jones played like a top 10 draft pick. I liked Jones and their running game, but I am not impressed at all with their Quarterback play. I think their QB play is bad enough for them to lose a division that is theirs to lose.

I would like to "call" Minnesota or Detroit taking the Division but I don't see it happening. Minnesota has very good players on defense and had a nice little win streak to close last year but I can't see it happening with a new head coach. For some reason their D, doesn’t play up to it’s potential.

Detroit looked like a sleeper candidate with a fiery young head coach to whip them into shape but I can't see it happening. I think Jon Kitna is underrated; he came off the bench last year against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and almost led the team to victory. I think Kitna could flourish under Martz, but the team has other problems. The team has been a joke ever since Matt Millen took over as team president as Detroit has the worst record in the NFL in the past 3 years. I used to listen to Matt Millen do games and he was a horrible announcer. The guy was about as Joe Public as somebody can be, and I don't know how anybody that actually knows football would give him the executive power.

Most people have the Packers finishing last, but if the defense can be average, I think the offense can be real good again. I think their O-Line will improve and give Ahman Green good rushing lanes which should open up the West Coast offense. Their quarterback was known for his turnovers last year, but that was with a poor supporting cast on offense, and while trying to make things happen to comeback in games. Green Bay has the luxury of a last place schedule, but I don't believe in their coaching staff. I expect them to win a few more of the closer games, defend Lambeu field, and pick up some cheap wins, but I am not sending them to the playoffs with42 year old Mike McCarthy coaching the team.

Carolina is a favorite of mine to make some noise in the playoffs. Their defense should has a solid nucleus led by their amazing front four. There are not many people considered “playmakers” at the Defensive end position, but Julius Peppers is just that. The Panthers have a huge natural advantage by not having to send blitzers on passing downs, which allows them to have extra men in coverage. Their offense is led by a proven veteran Quarterback in Jake Delhomme, and a fiery receiver in Steve Smith. One of the things that limited Carolina last year was the reliance on giving the ball to Smith. Now the Panthers have the reliable Vet Keyshaun Johnson to play with Smith. The NFC South has maybe the hardest schedule because they have to play the NFC East and the AFC South.

Tampa had a pretty successful season last year breaking in new Quarterback Chris Simms. I think Tampa had success despite one of the worst Offensive Lines in pro football. If they could improve that O-Line, it will make their whole team better. They brought in some new guys, and a good coach like Gruden should improve the line. We already know they have a solid defense, and if the line improves it makes the whole team better. I was never a big Chris Simms fan, but he did show me something last year. Don't get carried away though, Carolina is still the class of the division.

I can see the Falcons as being a solid team, but I am not a fan of Michael Vick. The guy is essentially the same player he was 5 years ago when he got drafted. Vick needs to learn how to stand in the pocket and make quality reads and throws. He is still plays like that 21 year old Quarterback that will make one read and then run. I know the fans have come to love mobile quarterbacks, but it is much harder to defend 5 skilled position players, than a quarterback who locks in on one receiver and then takes off. The defense looks to have a solid addition in John Abraham, but they will have to learn how to play the run better. I think Atlanta was the most undisciplined team in the league last year. Their defense, led by their secondary in particular play like a bunch of thugs, which hurts the team. I am not a big fan of Mora Jr. coaching the team and can't see him getting it done.

I am also not a fan of Sean Payton landing a head coaching job in New Orleans. I am not sure he has what it takes to be a winner at the head coaching level as there were plenty of other young offensive "geniuses" who failed before him. The Saints have diverted a lot of attention to their offense, but their defense is one of the reasons they could be one of the worst teams this year. Not only do they have a poor run defense, led by poor linebackers, but they have a very difficult schedule.

I would like to pick Seattle to not make the playoffs but I can't. They have 4 easy wins against St. Louis and San Fran, and the rest of their schedule matched up against the NFC Central and AFC West isn't bad either. If they are going to fall off the map, like many super bowl losers do, it will be because of injuries and the offensive line. They lost standout Left Guard Steve Hutchinson, and 2 of their other lineman are injury prone at 36 years old. If that line breaks down, their run game could suffer as well. We all know that Shaun Alexander has the "madden curse", and he also has a big brand new contract. I think some injuries in those areas could knock them down in the division, but Seattle has the best record in the NFL in the past 3 years. They can play down a little on the road, but they defend their home field very well. Seattle very well can lose this division, I was high on them two years ago and sometimes things just don’t go your way.

If Seattle were to have those injuries, I think Arizona is the team that overtakes them. The Cards have all the makings for a potent offense. They have a former MVP at QB, and the playmakers at receiver. Their offensive line was terrible at run blocking, and rookie JJ. Arrington was also a terrible rusher. I think the O-Line improves, and a better running back in Edge James will make this whole football team better. The offense should be a machine, and the defense is underrated. They have playmakers at every level on defense, ( B. Berry, C. Dansby, and stud Adrian Wilson). Throw in the fact that the Cards have a new stadium and I like them to win the division if Seattle has some injuries. I really think Edge is the free agent signing of the year, but I still gave 2 playoff spots to the NFC Beast.

St. Louis is going through a transition. Their new head coach wants to run the ball more than mad scientist Mike Martz did. Fantasy football players should take a long look at the stud Stephen Jackson. I think St. Louis takes a step back this year and I can't see them finishing first or second in this division.

San Fran is another team to fade. They have a young QB, and a terrible secondary. I am not a big Mike Nolan fan either. Kevin Barlow had some harsh words for the coach after he was traded to New York. I think the 49ers will be terrible on the road again, and will have to suffer through more of Alex Smith's growing pains.

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