For our 2011/2012 NFL preview I will highlight and predict the outcomes for the NFC teams, and my colleague Royce will do the same for the AFC. We will briefly discuss each team, pick a division winner, and ultimately pick who will come out of each division. First I will start with the NFC West and finish up out east with the NFC East.
This is the subpar quarterback division. All four teams lack a superior quarterback. The team with the best quarterback play will most likely come out of this division. QB Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams is arguably the best quarterback the NFC West has to offer. Bradford will need some help at WR though. The Rams WR core is weak, so they will largely depend on RB Steven Jackson. The Rams will go as far as Jackson will take them.
The Arizona Cardinals answered their post Kurt Warner dilemma with the acquisition of QB Kevin Kolb. Kolb who came from the Eagles is eager to be a franchise QB. He’ll have a franchise WR to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals also added Todd Heap from the Baltimore Ravens. However like many teams the Cardinals defense is in question. They lost their top CB from last year Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. However, they seem to have a good replacement in their top draft pick CB Patrick Peterson. Many thought Peterson was the best player in the draft.
Then there’s the QB situation in Seattle. QB Matt Hasselbeck is now with the Tennessee Titans. The Seattle Seahawks replaced him with QB Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson has the skills to be a success QB but has never developed. Pete Carroll believes he can coach him into being a top level NFL player, which is something the Minnesota Vikings couldn’t do.
The San Francisco 49ers big offseason move was bringing in former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to take over. Harbaugh like Carroll believes it can resurrect his own QB situation. Alex Smith the former No. 1 overall pick is first on the depth chart. He’s not met expectation, and been a factor of many changes in San Francisco. This is likely to be Alex Smith’s last year to prove himself as a number one QB. It’s only obvious that Harbaugh has his eyes on his former QB who’s a Heisman trophy candidate at Stanford.
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. St. Louis Rams
This division doesn’t have any quarterback issues, starting with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are led by QB Drew Brees. During the lockout Brees organized workouts so the Saints could be ahead of their competition. The Saints did lose Reggie Bush, but they arguably upgraded with the acquisition of Darren Sproles. The two play a similar utility RB position, but Sproles has had a more productive career thus far. They also added former Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram to help in the backfield.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a very young, but talented team. QB Josh Freeman needs a little help at the skill positions on offense though. Defense is the key for the Buccaneers especially the defensive line, which they’ve spent high draft picks on.
The Atlanta Falcons can score points. They got even better during the offseason when they drafted WR Julio Jones out of Alabama. The question for the Falcons will be defense. It’s a known fact that teams can’t just depend on the offense in the NFL. If the Falcons shaky secondary can improve, they’ll be in the running to win the division.
The Carolina Panthers are rebuilding. Don’t tell Panthers WR Steve Smith and RB DeAngelo Williams that though. These two and the rest of the Panthers veterans want to win. If they do win it’ll largely have to do with the development of QB Cam Newton. The No. 1 overall pick goes into his rookie season as the face of the franchise. He’ll have the huge task of leading the Panthers as the starting rookie QB.
1. Atlanta Falcons
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Carolina Panthers
The defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers are the clear cut favorites in this division. They have a top level offense led by QB Aaron Rodgers, and top level WR group led by Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. They also have a stout defense led by All-Pro players DB Charles Woodson, and LB Clay Mathews.
The Chicago Bears rival the Packers in defense, but it’s the Bears offense that holds them back. WR Roy Williams was brought in from the Dallas Cowboys to help bolster the Bear offensive attack. WR/ Specialist Devin Hester will burden a big load in the Bears offensive plans too. However the key to the Bears offense will be the consistent play of QB Jay Cutler, and the continued success of RB Matt Forte.
The Brett Farve saga, drama, or whatever you want to call it is finally over…I think. In comes another veteran QB Donovan McNabb from the Minnesota Vikings. McNabb looks to regain his successful career back, after a lackluster season in Washington. The Vikings lost their top WR Sidney Rice to the Seahawks. Percy Harvin will have to fill that void. The good news is the Vikings still have the best RB in the game in Adrian Peterson.
If QB Matthew Stafford can stay healthy the Detriot Lions have a chance. Sadly for Lions fans that’s a big if. Whom every the healthy QB maybe they still have Calvin Johnson, who easily one of the top three WRs in the NFL. The defense is what’s interesting for the Lions. The defensive line will boast arguably the two most athletically gifted DTs Ndamukong Suh, and Nick Fairley. The Lions are a young team on the rise.
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Chicago Bears
3. Minnesota Vikings
4. Detroit Lions
The offseason buzz award goes to the Philadelphia Eagles. Some people called them the NFLs “Miami Heat”. The Eagles added several key players during the offseason including prized free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha. They also added DT Cullen Jenkins, DE Jason Babin, and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to shore up the defense. On offense they added QB Vince Young, RB Ronnie Brown, and WR Steve Smith. All the players mentioned above were just the marquee players the Eagles added. However the team does have major questions to answer. The linebacker group is very young and inexperienced. On offense the offensive line is very suspect. All the roster upgrades, and the newly resign $100 million man Michael Vick should be enough to fill the voids on both side of the ball though.
The New York Giants seem to be going downhill fast. They lost arguably their best WR in Steve Smith to a division rival, and lost their top CB Terrell Thomas in a preseason blowout. Usually the Giants could rely on arguably the best defensive line. Although that’s now in question DE Osi Umenyiora is unhappy with his contract, and in recent years the Giants D-Line has lost some depth. On Offense if Eli Mannung can keep his turnovers down, they should be good. The Giants have a good running game with the combination of Ahmad Bradshaw, and Brandon Jacobs.
The Dallas Cowboys are known as “America’s team”, but in they haven’t been playing like it. Jason Garrett comes into this season without the interim coach label. Jerry Jones has given him the keys to run the Cowboys as the head coach. The Cowboys made a lot of personal decisions this offseason, releasing a lot of players like Roy Williams, and Marion Barber. Still the Cowboys have a very talented roster. However the Cowboys are known to underachieve. This Cowboys fans hope talent meets expectations.
Rex Grossman made the bold prediction that the Washington Redskins would win the NFC East. We all wondered if he suffered a recent concussion or something prior to the prediction. It turned out he was fine, and was dead serious. Grossman is the starting QB for the Redskins so after all what’s he supposed to think? The Redskins did play very well during the preseason. However it’s just the preseason. Redskins fans are still optimistic though.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. New York Giants
4. Washington Redskins
Philadelphia Eagles- The Eagles have too much talent on offense and defense not to succeed. The only question is if they can jell in time to win the NFC. I think they can.