If you read my article previewing the AFC, you know that I’m much more interested in the National Football Conference this year. In case you didn’t, it’s basically a matter of more teams being in the hunt for the playoffs. The Packers and Eagles are going to win their divisions, only one team is going to make it out of the struggling NFC West, and both the Saints and the Falcons are going to make the playoffs. That leaves one wildcard team left. Teams that have a realistic shot at it include: Giants, Cowboys, Bears, Vikings, Lions, and Buccaneers.
So here are my picks and then I’ll explain a few of them a bit more. *denotes wildcard
- Packers – Super Bowl champions should be a carbon copy of last year’s team. That’s a good thing.
- Bears – I’m really unsure about this pick. As of the writing of this article Lance Briggs is seeking a trade.
- Lions – They’ve been the dark horse favorite for several years now. If and only if Stafford stays healthy can they finally make a run.
- Vikings – The Vikings still have a fine team. They might finish 8-8 and finish last in this tough division.
- Falcons – They have a decent defense that has no pressure on it. Matty Ice should lead one of the league’s best offenses back to a division title.
- *Saints – I’m not buying another Super Bowl run for New Orleans. Drew Brees can keep the earmuffs off of his kid for another season.
- Buccaneers – Freeman + Blount = UPSIDE
- Panthers – Cam Newton might have a tough first year. Even if he doesn’t, this team isn’t going anywhere.
- Eagles – The best over-hyped team the NFL has ever seen.
- *Giants – Eli is not elite, but he’s good enough to take his team to the playoffs.
- Cowboys – Why should we think Rob Ryan is going to make a difference in anything besides the dinner bill?
- Redskins – Mike Shanahan has really lost my respect. John Beck might be the starting quarterback. Starting running back is a guy who could barely win a starting job from Edgerrin James at age 75. Not happening.
- Rams – Sam Bradford looked pretty good in his rookie season. The addition of Mike Sims-Walker and a healthy Steven Jackson give this team the edge.
- Cardinals – If Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald can keep the pressure off of their defense they might be okay.
- Seahawks – It’s been interesting to see how Pete Carroll can coach when all of his players are paid, not just a few of them (Frank Caliendo original). The only way they’re going back to the postseason is if Marshawn goes beast mode every game.
- 49ers – All this team needs is a high-energy, inspiring coach, right? I thought that’s what Samurai Mike was supposed to be…. I’m pretty sure their current coach might be a better quarterback than poor Alex Smith.
And in the NFC Championship game, the Packers defeat the Eagles. It’s a Super Bowl rematch with the Steelers.
So the toughest pick in this entire preview was the second wildcard. I came up with the Giants by whittling away the other teams this way:
Lions – You can bet on anything in America except dogfighting and the Detroit Lions. I think they could win 9 games this year, but I’ve heard this story before, and it doesn’t end well. Bears– Jay Cutler. Enough said. Vikings – They still have a solid defense and the best running back in the league, but I’m just not sure how effective McNabb can be without Sidney Rice. Buccaneers – This team is really young and I’m not sure that they’re ready for the playoffs. Josh Freeman had a great season last year but I’m afraid he might be flash-in-the-pan. Dontrelle Willis was once the next great starting pitcher; the shine doesn’t always last. However, if Freeman has another good year, and I think he could, and LeGarrette Blount avoids a sophomore slump, this team will be in the playoff hunt right to week 17. Cowboys – While they did finish the season well with Jason Garrett, and while Tony Romo is back, this team is not going to beat the Giants. Why should we think that Rob Ryan is going to make this defense so good? Just because Rex’s loudmouth stunts have made the Jets good? Rob Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the BROWNS! When was the last time they won anything?
Offensive Player of they Year: Michael Vick
Most Valuable Player: Michael Vick
Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Von Miller
Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin
And for my Super Bowl Pick.
I picked the Steelers to win the AFC. They will get another chance to play the Packers for a championship. This time, the Steelers get out to a great start, the Packers suffer some sort of injury to a starter, and the Steelers are Super Bowl Champions.