September 08, 2005

Let’s Play Some Football 2005! NFC Edition

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles

How bad is your off-season when a guy getting shot (Jerome McDougal) is not the big story? Between Westbrook’s holdout, Burkhalter getting injured again, and the T.O. soap opera, it’s not been a fun summer for Andy Reid. The Eagles still don’t have an every-down tailback, and their linebackers are mediocre at best. Terrell Owens must be dealt with as well, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure on at least 3-6 blow-ups.

Philly plays in a lousy division though, so you can still figure on 10 wins.

2. Dallas Cowboys

Let me go on record as a huge Drew Bledsoe fan. He’s the best player ever to wear the Scarlet and Gray, and he’s been a class act his entire career, despite difficult situations in both New England and Buffalo. I think the fortunes of the Seahawks would be markedly different had he fallen to the #2 draft selection instead of Rick Mirer. That said: there ain’t a whole lot left in the tank, and pairing him up with Bill Parcells and Terry Glenn smacks of desperation. The talent is there around him though, and tailback Julius Jones should explode this year.

3. New York Giants

Is Eli the real deal or what? Will we even figure that out this season? Probably not, I think 2006 is the do-or-die year for the younger Manning. The Giants have improved the talent around him a bit this year, especially at running back, where Tiki Barber returns after a career year. He and rookie Brandon Jacobs could form a dynamite Thunder and Lightning tandem. Provided Michael Strahan is healthy, the defense should be okay.

4. Washington Redskins

You have to think Joe Gibbs is rethinking this whole “un-retiring” thing by now, don’t you? Since coming back Gibbs has traded for a veteran QB (Mark Brunell) that just about everybody knew was toast, despite having a young QB in Patrick Ramsay, traded for star tailback Clinton Portis, a shifty, open-field runner that Gibbs proceeded to treat as if he was John Riggins, traded one overrated loudmouth receiver (Lav-whateverhisnameis Coles) for another, smaller and speedier loudmouth in Santana Moss. Plus his star safety Sean Taylor got himself arrested and could face trial this season. Gibbs also drafted another quarterback in Auburn’s Jason Campbell, giving up a third-round choice in 2005 and a first- and fourth-round pick in 2006.

This is just a bad team. They went 6-10 last season, and may not be that good this season.

NFC East Champion: Philadelphia Eagles
Wild Card: None

NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons

For all the hype surrounding Ron Mex- er, Mike Vick, the strength of this team is the defense. The Falcons added Ed Hartwell, the best available free agent to be middle linebacker, solidifying a fast and aggressive unit. The line is good too, led by longtime Falcons Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith. The offense will again be a West Coast scheme, which seems an odd combination with Vick’s talents. This team is a Super Bowl contender, but only if Vick improves his passing.

2. Carolina Panthers

For a team that went 9-7 last year, this team is sure generating buzz. They may well deserve it. Julius Peppers leads an excellent defensive line, and the pickup of ex-Seahawk Ken Lucas to join Rickey Manning and Chris Gamble, gives the Panthers a three cornerback rotation among the best in the NFL. Jake Delhomme returns to lead John Fox’s grind-it-out offense. Look for rookie RB Eric Shelton to be the main focus before the end of the season.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If Cadillac Williams can be a gamebreaker for a team that desperately needs one, the Bucs will improve. Brian Griese has a firm hold on the QB position, and Michael Clayton is as superstar in the making. The line was dreadful in 2004 though, giving up 44 sacks. That will have to get better if the Bucs want to. The defense is as good as it’s been since the Super Bowl. If Chris Hovan returns to his former self, he’ll give Tampa a dominant tackle they’ve lacked since the salad days of Warren Sapp.

4. New Orleans Saints

I’ll root for the Saints this season. You will too. New Orleans, no matter where they play, will be on the road all season. It would be nearly impossible, even for a more cohesive and focused unit than the notoriously flakey Saints, to deal with what they’re going through now and what will happen throughout the year and not suffer for it on the field. This is a talented team that was going in the right direction before Katrina. Hopefully they give New Orleanians something to cheer about, no matter where they are.

NFC South Champion: Atlanta Falcons
Wild Card: Carolina Panthers

NFC North

1. Minnesota Vikings

This is my Super Bowl team. Or at least it was until I noticed that Mike Tice is still the coach. Now, I like Mike Tice. He was a longtime Seahawk and one of the legitimate good guys of the game. It’s just he’s far more effective at running a deli than he is running a team. The offense, even without Randy Moss, is explosive and wideout Nate Burleson is about to blowup huge. The defense, after years of being mediocre, looks good. The Vikes have the best DT in the game in Kevin Williams, and two shut-down corners in Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield. Still, count on the Vikes to lose at least 1-2 games they should win.

2. Detroit Lions

I can’t believe I’m gonna go out on a limb with Joey Harrington. As much as I dislike the Oregon Ducks, I was certain that Harrington would be a star by now. If it doesn’t happen now, it won’t ever happen. The Lions have surrounded Harrington with talent like RB Kevin Jones and a wideout trio that –if it plays up to potential- could boggle the mind. The offensive line is okay, the defense is getting better, except for a suspect secondary. Detroit should be fun to watch. They even have Eddie Drummond back, the best return man in football.

3. Green Bay Packers

I dunno about this team. The feeling that the Pack could implode has reached the same level as last year’s Dolphins. The Packers have a couple things that Miami didn’t last season: Brett Farve and a contract-year Ahman Green. The defense is mediocre at best, and utterly awful in the secondary other than Al Harris. Last year’s top picks Ahman Carroll and Joey Thomas were routinely torched. They’ll have to improve. This team has its third defensive coordinator in as many years. There is no reason why Jim Bates would succeed when Ed Donatell and Bob Slowik failed.

4. Chicago Bears

Huh… a team with a young and injury-prone quarterback doesn’t plan ahead and get an experienced backup. Well, that ain’t very bright. You do have to give Chicago credit; they saw that Chad Hutchison wasn’t getting it done, and that Kyle Orton would be the best bet. The thing is, in the long run this could really work out. Orton was a top-10 pick before a lousy senior year, and has been really impressive in camp. There is a lot to like about this Chicago team. Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson at tailback, a couple good young receivers in Justin Gage and Bernard Berrian behind veteran Mushin Muhammed. The defense could be good too. If Orton can play okay, this team could surprise.
NFC North Champion: Minnesota Vikings
Wild Card: None

NFC West

1. St. Louis Rams

If Mike Martz was a smart as he thinks he is, he would tone down the “Greatest Show on Turf” crap and give the ball to Stephen Jackson 35 times a game. Then watch Jackson run for 1,700 yards and beat the hell out of a lot of defensive backs and linebackers. Of course, Martz isn’t that smart, so we’ll see Jackson get the ball 20 times a game, and Marc Bulger will have streaks of 25 passes in a row. It is difficult to fault Martz too much when you consider he still has Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and an emerging star in TE Brandon Manumaleuna. The defense has been infused with more linebacker talent with the pickups of Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne.

2. Seattle Seahawks

There is more forthcoming about the Hometown Eleven, but the plain truth of the matter is this: they STILL aren’t good enough.

And until proven otherwise, they are totally and completely St. Louis’ bitch.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Everybody’s favorite sleeper team is suddenly Arizona. They have some good stuff going here: quality coach in Dennis Green, nice young receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, young, fast and nasty defense... It’s tempting. But the big problem with the Cardinals is still quarterback. If Kurt Warner can get his old form back –say 85% even- then Arizona may jet past both the ‘Hawks and Rams. Until that happens though, they aren’t as good as either.

4. San Francisco 49ers

The best news out of Candlestick (or whatever they call it these days) is that the Niners might have hired the right guy. Mike Nolan is young, smart and seems to get it. He’s also classy enough to petition the league to wear a suit on the field instead of the NFL’s typical hideous coach-wear. The No Fun League denied it of course, but he gets points for trying. Everything else is in shambles. Alex Smith is not close to starting, Kevan Barlow –after years of bitching about not being The Man- proved himself incapable of carrying a team, and the offensive line is suspect at best. Nolan is installing a 3-4 look on defense, which plays to the Niners strength at linebacker. The secondary isn’t bad either, though it will be interesting to see how Mike Rumph, a terrible corner, converts to safety.

NFC West Champion: St. Louis Rams
Wild Card: Seattle Seahawks

NFC Champion: Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl XL Champion: New England Patriots

Posted by Frinklin at September 8, 2005 07:27 PM | TrackBack

The second wild card comes out of the NFC West?
Frinklin — you gotta put down the pipe man.

Posted by: Zygote at September 11, 2005 10:12 AM
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