NFC Projections… Not Predictions
It’s a new day! This is a totally new year and most significantly, this is a new NFL season. Everything that happened last season is is history… old news. Sure, we can take some things from last season and factor them into our projections, but Adrian Peterson winning the MVP last season doesn’t mean he wins it this season. Your team may have won its division or in my case (Eagles) dead last, but don’t count on that happening again. A new season brings new results. In 2 of the past 3 seasons I have been successful in selecting the Superbowl champs with the Giants shocking everyone outside the Hudson as the 1 I didn’t pick. Here are my 2013-14 NFC projections for the upcoming season.
Let’s start at the top in the NFC (B)EAST.
The NFC EAST is arguably the toughest division in the league. Each team in the league hoist prime time quarterbacks in RG3 who is returning from knee surgery, Michael Vick and Tony Romo who both must prove they belong among the elite, and Eli Manning who is twice proven and has never finished below .500. With that stated, I can only project the Giants to win this division by default.
This is a quarterback driven league with the second major component being team defense. When you take a look at the Giants you see a team that has quality in both areas, perhaps the only team in the division who can make that claim. Both the Eagles and Washington have qualified quarterbacks, but the defenses of those teams need significant improvement if the are to compete with elite teams on a consistent basis. The Eagles were just pathetic, ranking 30th in the league in team defense last season while Washington were a bit better being ranked 22nd in team defense. The difference in the 2 teams were what transpired at the quarterback and offensive line positions last season. Last season the Eagles offensive line was atrocious at best, which led to the injuries of the quarterbacks (both Vick and Foles) and LeSean McCoy who season prior rushed for 17 touchdowns as opposed to only 2 last season in 12 games. This season the Eagles seem to have one of the better O-lines in the league with the return of Jason Peters and drafting Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma with the 4th pick in this years draft. That should bode well for Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy as they adapt to former Oregon Ducks coach, Chip Kelly, “blur” offense. With RG3 coming into the season with little to no reps with the offense, a slow start could result in a 3rd place finish in the division for Washington. As far as the Cowboys go, there is only one question to answer. How much, if at all, do you trust Tony Romo? The Cowboys defense finished 24th in the NFL under, now Saints defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. They look to improve the defense by bringing in defensive guru Monte Kiffin in the off season. Kiffin’s defensive units have finished ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and yardage 10 times in his 13 years as defensive coordinator in the NFL, an NFL record.
Now to the NFC WEST
Remember when this division was just horrible a few years ago? Now the NFC west host 2 of the favorites to play in a freezing New York come February. The other 2 teams… well, lets just say its a wait and see sort of thing.
Lets start off with what is projected to be the bottom of the NFC west, the Cardinals and Rams. These are definitely sleeper teams that could surprise a ton of NFL fans this season. The Cardinals bring in offensive minded Bruce Arians who really should be given much credit for the success of the Colts last season after head coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with cancer. He led the Colts, who the previous season won 2 games, to an 11-5 record and a trip to the playoffs… with a rookie starting QB albeit Andrew Luck. Can he help Carson Palmer become a more accurate passer in key moments? Will Palmer make better decisions when feeling pressure? The same questions can be asked of the Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams have a middle of the pack defense, ranking 14th in the league last season but the offense has been sputtering, ranking 25th in the league giving the ball away 38 times.
The clear 2 favorites in the NFC west are the Seahawks and 49ers. These teams boast the top 2 defenses from a season ago (Seahawks 1, 49ers 2) and both teams have young, talented quarterbacks looking to take the next step in their status from potential to having arrived. Expect both these teams to play extended football this season but only one team can win the division. If the Seahawks can duplicate their home performances from a year ago, which they are capable of, and go 8-0, they should win the division. Though it did not work out that way last season, it’s hard to go undefeated at home and not win the division. There is a good chance that will not be the case in consecutive seasons.
Time for the NFC NORTH
The NFC north seems to be an easy division to project. Not so fast! Adrian Peterson is a beast and he literally ran the Vikings into the playoffs last season. If Christian Ponder can just… never mind. The bears bring in offensive mastermind, Marc Trestman to change the culture of the Bears by adding a lethal offense to a strong defense. In seasons past the Bears offensive line unit has been embarrassing. They have not been able to keep Cutler nor Forte healthy. If the Bears line can just… never mind. In Detroit, Reggie Bush is a great weapon out the backfield to go along with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Ryan Broyles and Matthew Stafford. The Lions offense finished 3rd in total offensive yards last season with 6,540 yards and look to expand on those numbers. The defense ranked 27th in the league which explains a 4 win season. The Lions added Glover Quin at safety to play with that abysmal secondary. Can Chris Houston and Darius Slay cover if Suh and Fairley can not get great push up front, putting pressure on the quarterback? Probably not.
Maybe this division is an easy pick. Aaron Rodgers is great, consistent and reliable. The Packers drafted Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin to go along with James Starks to shore up the ground game. The offense ranked 5th last season with no ground game, so imagine Rodgers with a ground game at his disposal. The Packers are sure to have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL to go along with a defense, run by Dom Capers, that finished 11th in the league a season ago. It would be shocking if the Packers do not win the NFC north.
Last but not least, the NFC SOUTH
Here’s a division never having back to back division winners since the division was created in 2002. So the Falcons won the division last season which mean they probably will not win the division this season based off history. Raise your hand if you believe in the Panthers or Bucs. Raise your hand if you believe in Ron Rivera and the Panthers 4 game winning streak to end the previous season, finishing 7-9. Raise your hand if you believe Josh Freeman can… never mind.
With the return of Sean Payton to the Saints sideline and Drew Bree’s almost guaranteeing 5,000 passing yards to go with 40+ touchdowns, expect the Saints to win those close games the were losing last season when they lost 7 games by 10 or less points. Rob Ryan will improve the defense because they were dead last and the worst in NFL history last season. If the can muster up a middle of the pack defense, the Saints should win the NFC south handily with the offense the carry.
Final NFC Projection
Giants, Seahawks, Packers and Saints all win their respective divisions. Eagles and 49ers get wild cards. Last season I projected the Seahawks to make the Superbowl. Perhaps I was a season early. There is nothing not to like about the Seahawks from offense to defense to special teams. Nice, young quarterback who does not lose games and a running back who plays in “beast mode”. Seattle is my preseason pick to reach the Superbowl out the NFC.
Come back tomorrow and check out my AFC projections. Til then, thank you and stay blessed.