Season Preview Part 1 – NFC

With the opening game of the NFL season less than a week away, now would seem a good time to write a thoroughly original piece predicting the outcome for all eight divisions come January 2021.

Nobody else has thought of this right? Let’s start with the NFC.

NFC North- Predicted Final Standings

  1. Green Bay
  2. Detroit Lions
  3. Minnesota Vikings
  4. Chicago Bears

Nothing particularly controversial or exciting about picking last year’s NFC Championship runners up to win this division. That being said I don’t think they will win thirteen games this year. They won some close games and it is very difficult to reproduce those top red-zone figures from year to year. Defensively I think they look good and they have enough weapons offensively to win this division.

I originally had the Vikings second in this division, however having listened to the recent SI podcast on the NFC North, Gary Gramling and Andy Benoit have convinced me the Lions are legit. Unlucky last year in tight games and losing Stafford. Matt Patricia knows how to run a defence and this team arguably has the best quarterback in the division.  

I think the Vikings defense looks great, especially after recent trade acquisitions, and will definitely keep games close. The offense I’m less high on, Kirk Cousins is fine, particularly in the right scheme. Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen are both excellent but can they stay healthy and play 16 games?  

This leaves the Bears as the default 4th place. I’ve got nothing against the Bears, they look okay although we don’t know which quarterback will start. Do they have enough to win these close divisional games? I’m not sure they do.

NFC East- Predicted Final Standings

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Football Team

A few weeks ago I would have had the Eagles to win this division, but as always seems to be the case for this franchise the God of Football has struck them down with some serious injuries. The Cowboys offence looks very exciting, a very good quarterback, exciting wide receiver talent, a top-five running back and one of the best O-Lines in football. It’s the other side of the ball where the questions will be asked. Can Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith reform their dynamic line-backer partnership? Will DeMarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffin form a quarterback wrecking partnership? If the answer to these questions is yes, then this very well could be a team in the final stages of the playoffs – IF the answer is yes.  

I think the Eagles have a division-winning roster. They have great players on both sides of the ball and Wentz is a fantastic quarterback – best in this division – and a talented Head Coach. They just cannot seem to keep all these players on the field! Last season getting to the playoffs was a superb achievement, especially as at times Wentz was throwing to the practice squad. I just don’t think they can do it again.

The Giants are steadily building a good football team. Daniel Jones has looked good in moments last year, Saquon is a top-five running back talent and they’ve added some nice pieces on defense, most recently Logan Ryan. I believe they will be better this year – just not by enough to catch the top two, not yet anyway.

Washington have had a turbulent offseason and that is putting it mildly! Focusing on football though, Ron Rivera is an excellent Head Coach who will bring some much needed discipline and order to this franchise. They have some interesting players, Terry McLaurin looks like he will have a decent season, Chase Young has looked a beast in training camp and I would like to see Dwayne Haskins progress this year. Although if I’m honest the thing I most want to see is Alex Smith play, score touchdowns and even win a game. That would be quite a story and would surely guarantee comeback player of the year.

NFC South- Predicted Final Standings

  1. New Orleans Saints
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  3. Atlanta Falcons
  4. Carolina Panthers

Wow! This was a tough division to call. I think the Saints look loaded at most positions on both sides of the ball. They have a first class Head Coach, a future Hall Of Fame quarterback, and elite players at Defensive End, Cornerback, Running Back and Wide Receiver! This team should be Super Bowl bound, but I’m not picking them this year. This is only really because I’ve picked them for the last two years and they’ve let me down in the play-offs two years straight. Obviously, I’m the curse and by not picking them this year they will probably win it. However, before they can even think about that they need to win this division, which will be a challenge in of itself.

Like all other NFL fans I’m intrigued to see what happens down in Tampa Bay this season. All those big names acquired, alongside an excellent wide receiver core and one of my favourite coaches in the league. If Arians and co. can put all these pieces together in a scheme that works then this could be one exciting team. It is a big IF though, with no proper off-season to learn the scheme, how will Tampa get on? Can old Gronk play like young Gronk? Fournette a top-four running back? One area I think they’ll be good again is on the defence. This unit played really well in 2019 and I think they will again and with Tampa throwing the ball they might not need to play as well to win games.

I was as disappointed as anyone else when the Patriots came back to beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. They have some excellent players, probably the best wide receivers in the league, an excellent quarterback and I like Dan Quinn (I know, Seahawks bias!) They showed last year they are capable of beating anyone and I think the players showed they really wanted to play for Dan Quinn. I think the main problem for them will be that they are in a division with the Saints and the Buccaneers, who, on paper, look stronger and deeper. I wouldn’t be too disappointed to be very wrong on this one though.

The Panthers are in a rebuilding phase and they’ve appointed an intriguing Head Coach in Matt Rhule. They have the best running back in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey. Losing Luke Kuechly is huge though, and this will impact the team massively. The Panthers will be back, just not this year. 

NFC West – Predicted Final Standings

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. LA Rams
  4. Arizona Cardinals

Okay clearly a Seahawks bias here but there is some logic to their placement. Since Wilson started as quarterback they have never had a losing season and have made the playoffs every season bar one. They have a relatively steady roster and an experienced Head Coach and General Manager. Also, I think the 49ers will be suffering a Super Bowl hangover which will allow the Seahawks to sneak into that top spot. Yes, I’m ignoring the lack of a pass rush, and yes I’m ignoring the fact they won lots of close games last year, which will certainly be hard to repeat. Don’t forget we do have Jamal Adams now as well.

The 49ers were very good on both sides of the ball last year. Kyle Shanahan seems like the real deal as does Robert Saleh. But losing a Super bowl often seems to hurt teams and I think this will be true of the 49ers. DeForest Buckner will be a big loss for them. NFL defences will become more adept at reading Shanahan’s running concepts and a tight end is their best receiver.  It will be close and could come down to a Seahawks victory on the last day of the season.  

I’m not really sure what to make of the 2020 Rams. Sean McVay seems to know what he is doing, they have some good players on offense – Goff and Kupp stand out. They have THE best defensive lineman in football in Aaron Donald and a great cornerback in Ramsey. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to expect. They could be average with some great players occasionally making great plays, or great players could inspire young and unknown players to play great. Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure.

I want the Cardinals to do well, they seem to have a positive outlook on the game and I want to see Larry Fitzgerald have another chance at postseason football. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve got all the pieces yet. They will be better and are capable of winning a fair few games and causing some upsets but I’m not sure they have the quality and depth required to win arguably the toughest division in the NFL.

Right that is it for the NFC, let me know what you think and why you agree or disagree with me -surely no one will disagree?

Watch out for an upcoming review of the AFC!

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