The NFL preseason is wrapping up this week. Coaches, general managers, and those in charge of player personnel must decide who the best 53 players for their teams are by September 3rd. They have had training camps and four preseason games to narrow down that pool of talent. Which team will succeed? The National Football Conference (NFC) is made up of four divisions with four teams in each division.
The NFC East is made up of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Washington Redskins. Last year the Redskins won the division with a 9-7 record. They finally gave the starting quarterback job to Kirk Cousins (“you like that!”). Look for Cousins to improve, having a full year under his belt and being better familiar with the offense. The team that will challenge them will be the Giants. The Giants are due for a good year. About every four years, they get in the playoffs and make a Super Bowl run. Injuries on both sides of the ball cost them dearly last year. With new head coach Ben McAdoo, who was promoted up from offensive coordinator, this is the year they win the division. Since the Cowboys are “America’s team”, I would be remiss if didn’t mention them. They have lost their starting quarterback Tony Romo for six to ten weeks with a broken bone in his back. He suffered this injury in their third preseason game. It wasn’t like he was going to play the whole year anyway, since he always gets hurt. However, no one expected him to miss that many games. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott will be the starter. He has looked great in the preseason. Not so fast, he is a rookie and that was only preseason. He should keep the Cowboys relevant but it is Dallas, they are an accident waiting to happen. The Giants barely win the division with a 9-7 record.
The NFC North is made up Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings won last year with an 11-5 record. They would have posted the same record and another division title if it wasn’t for losing their quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He tore his ACL and is out for the entire season. This means that running back Adrian Peterson will have to carry a heavier load. He is getting long in the tooth and not able to shoulder that type of responsibility anymore. This is a crushing blow to a young team on the rise. This is great news for the Packers, who finished one game behind the Vikings last year. The Packers were without their leading receiver in Jody Nelson, due to injuries. Now that he is back, they will be hunted instead of the hunters. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have his complete set of weapons on offense. The Lions are without newly retired all-pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson (Megatron). The Bears, unfortunately, still have Jay Cutler as the quarterback. Thus, the Lions and Bears will battle for who is the second worst team in the division. As a Bears fan, this is going to be another long year. Let’s just hope the Cubs win the World Series. The Packers win the division with a 12-4 record.
The NFC South is made up of the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers won the division last year with a 15-1 record. Their only blemish was to the Falcons late in the year. The Panthers would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but get out manned by the Denver Broncos. It’s hard for a Super Bowl team to get back the following year, not to mention just making the playoffs. That being said, the Panthers are built for the long haul. They have “Superman” Cam Newton at quarterback. They have wider receiver Kelvin Benjamin back from injuries. They have the second best defense from last year returning. All of those reasons are why they will repeat as division champions. The Buccaneers could cause some problems in the division this season. Quarterback Jameis Winston will be in his second year of learning a NFL offense. He will have a complement of talent on offense to help him. The second leading rusher in the NFL last year Doug Martin is back, along with wide receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. The defense will be under the watch of new coordinator Mike Smith. Smith was the Falcons head coach two seasons ago. Speaking of the Falcons, they return a defense on the rise. Head Coach Dan Quinn’s defensive background is helping them improve from dead last in the NFL to top 15. The only problem, the offensive coordinator won’t run a system conducive to quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons tough schedule will not allow them to win the division either. Panthers win the division with an 11-5 record.
The NFC West is made up of the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals won the division last year with a 13-3 record. It’s tough to repeat but I’m going to give them the slight advantage over the Seahawks. I think the Seahawks window is closing and the Cardinals are poised and ready to take advantage. The Cardinals will win the division every so closely with a 12-4 record.
The NFC division winners will be the Giants, Packers, Panthers, and Cardinals. The two Wild Card teams will be the Seahawks and the Falcons. The Cardinals and Packers will play in the NFC championship game. Last season the Cardinals were destroyed 49-15 in the NFC championship game by the Panthers. That hurt feeling will motivate them to right the wrong this season and become NFC champs. Are you ready for some football?!