This blog is Part 2 my 3-part series here at the Camel Clutch Blog where I preview the upcoming 2011-2012 NFL Season. In the first blog I looked at the AFC, in Part 2 we will look at the NFC and finally, in Part 3, we will look at the NFL Playoffs. Lets get too it and preview the NFC.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
The Eagles had a tremendous offseason, so tremendous that their backup quarterback Vince Young deemed them the “dream team.” While I certainly agree that they look much better then they did last season, they are no “dream team.” The moniker as given by their backup quarterback could put a huge target on their back in the NFC East.
The NFC East is possibly the most competitive division in all of football right now. If the Eagles were in the NFC West they could easily go 16-0. But since they have to play the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins six times this season I have to think they won’t be as good on paper, as some may think they are right now. The Eagles will be very good this year but to me, the biggest question mark for them this season will be whether or not Michael Vick will be able to repeat last season’s amazing performance or if he can even stay healthy. Vick has only played one NFL season healthy, his health & performance will determine how far this team will go this year.
2. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
The Cowboys are a playoff team and are motivated to prove to everyone that they are as good as advertised. This team has a ton of talent and one piece of talent that is going under the radar right now that I believe could have a huge season is running back Felix Jones. This is his team now and could very well run close to 1200 yards. I expect things from Felix Jones this year as the starter in Big D.
3. New York Giants (7-9)
The New York Football Giants broke down towards the end of last season, missing the playoffs, despite looking poised to being a playoff lock towards the stretch. They made no offseason moves; they lost some key players and have some of their most important players on defense on the sidelines with injuries, some season ending injuries. It does not appear to be a good season ahead for the New York Giants.
Eli Manning is having a horrible preseason which very well could shift over to the regular season. It appears Tom Coughlin could no longer be the head coach of the Giants by season’s end and maybe giving the 7 wins for this year is being too kind. I fully expect this not to be a good season for the New York Giants.
4. Washington Redskins (4-12)
They won’t be any good this season, they won’t make the playoffs (sorry Rex Grossman), but they are going to be a pesky football team. I like what I see in Washington heading into this season. They aren’t going to be a team that wins, but they will be competitive. They will be what the Lions were two years ago and the Browns from last season, a horrible team based off of their record, but a team that doesn’t roll over because they aren’t supposed to be any good.
McNabb and Haynesworth are gone, the running game isn’t solidified and the quarterbacks they have, wouldn’t be backups for most teams in the NFL. Like I said before, they will be competitive, yet still horrible. I do believe we are seeing the beginning stages of a rebuild in Washington as long as the Redskins ownership doesn’t screw it up.
1. Green Bay Packers (14-2)
The defending Super Bowl Champions enter the 2011-2012 season coming off of a six game winning streak that includes the entire playoffs and a roster that is 100% healthy for the first time since Week 1 of last season. The Green Bay Packers were left for dead many times last season and were not expected to make the playoffs nor reach or win the Super Bowl. They did despite the adversity and it made Aaron Rodgers one of the best players in the NFL.
The Packers were destroyed by injuries throughout last season as their starting running back, tight end and middle linebacker would miss the entire season. Aaron Rodgers would miss time towards the end of the year and they even lost Charles Woodson & Donald Driver during the Super Bowl. Talk about a team that does not have quit in their vocabulary. They are at full strength and have a Super Bowl ring on their fingers now, this team will be extremely dangerous come January into February.
2. Detroit Lions (9-7)
Last season it was the Houston Texans, this season it’s the Detroit Lions. It’s everyone’s favorite pick for teams to surprise us all and make the playoffs this season. I just don’t see it happening, no matter how much the football fan in me would love to see it take place. The Detroit Lions aren’t a playoff team this season, next season is a whole different story, but they won’t be a team to compete in the playoffs this year.
We are closer & closer to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers becoming a rivalry at the top of the NFC North & we may see shades of it this season. But before we dream and prosper for what could be, we have to look at what we have first. Matthew Stafford, if healthy (there is that key word) is a top ten quarterback in the NFL. He has the weapons in Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew but you also don’t know if Javid Best will even be healthy. If all the healthy concerns go out the window then this team is an above .500 caliber team that will make the playoffs next year, until that happens they won’t be playing for keeps in January. Oh and the Detroit is pretty awesome too.
3. Chicago Bears (7-9)
All last season I spoke about how lucky the Chicago Bears were last season. They were probably the luckiest team in the NFL last season. They got the breaks, had the right schedule and continued to win. That luck got them as far as the NFC Championship Game last season but that slipper they wore throughout the year finally needed to be returned back to its owner.
I don’t think the Bears will repeat as the NFC North Division Champions or as a playoff team this season and I think we could see something brewing between Lovie Smith & Jay Cutler this year. Jay Cutler is not a leader on or off the field as we saw in the NFC Championship Game and sadly I would have to say that the Bears franchise will side with their quarterback & let Lovie Smith go as head coach. This is a team, similar to the Vikings of last season that are continuing to slide down rather then going up.
4. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
Remember the last two seasons in the NFL when people would predict who would be the Super Bowl Champion? I guarantee that you read some blogs or predictions that had this Vikings franchise winning it all. While I could agree with them being a top NFC team in 2009, I did not see it happening again in 2010. Brad Childress was fired (as I predicted) and Brett Favre started to finally show his age (as I predicted) as the Vikings went 6-10 the season after making the NFC Championship game.
Don’t expect the Vikings to improve off of last despite their move to bring Donovan McNabb to Minnesota. McNabb is a shell of what he used to be in Philadelphia and is only keeping the quarterback seat warm for when Christian Ponder gets a chance towards season’s end. I also foresee this potentially being the last impactful year before Adrian Peterson’s decline and for Percy Harvin to become a top-ten WR in the NFL, if he is of course, healthy.
1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Up until the Philadelphia Eagles snatched up every veteran on the market to put together a pretty good team, it appeared that the Atlanta Falcons made the best offseason moves of any of the NFL teams. That offseason move, and it was only one, was picking Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft and making the already amazing Falcons defense that more dynamic then it already was. It made the Falcons look like they were the 2nd coming of “the greatest show on turf II.”
Matt Ryan is a future Super Bowl Champion Quarterback, let’s already get that out of the way. He is a great playmaker, a great leader on the field and is continuing to grow season after season in the NFL. He is one of my choices for NFL MVP this season and could very well be that household name that he is destined to be this season. I expect big things from Matty Ice in Atlanta that offense is going to be just incredible.
2. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Despite the Atlanta Falcons making moves and improving their offense, the same could be said for the New Orleans Saints improving their offense a season removed from losing to the below .500 Seattle Seahawks in disappointing fashion in the playoffs last year. The former Super Bowl Champions are a year removed now from defending their title last year and no longer have that Super Bowl Champion target on their back. They, like Atlanta made moves during the offseason and most notably at the draft as the picked up Mark Ingram, the best running back in the draft.
Drew Brees is a fantastic quarterback who makes everyone around him better. There offense spreads the ball out a lot more then Atlanta does and will continue to put up the big numbers we expect them to put up every season. They will be very good in the NFC South but not as good as Atlanta is but despite that all, this is still a playoff caliber team.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the most surprising team in the NFL last season as they went 10-6 and just barely missed the playoffs. I still like this team but I think they will be coming back to earth a bit this year. It’ll be a bump in road for the longevity of the Tampa Bay Bucs but one that should see them bounce back from next season.
Josh Freeman is starting to become a top quarterback in the NFL and making everyone believers in his ability to be such for the Tampa Bay Bucs. The biggest downfall for the Tampa Bay Bucs is their division. If the Bucs were in the NFC West, it would be a completely different story. But don’t fear Bucs fans, they need to be brought back down to earth to be competitive again, I really like where this team is heading.
4. Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Sorry Panthers fans & Cam Newtown defenders of the world, Cam Newton does not wear a cape, is not named superman and is not going to save your franchise this season. Despite my initial thoughts of him being the next JaMarcus Russell, it appears that he may be a decent NFL quarterback after all. He has the tools to be good but has the personality to be another #1 pick tragic story.
Be prepared for yet another bad season for the Panthers this year. It doesn’t help that they are in the NFC South and have to play the Falcons, Saints & Bucs six times this season, which out of all those six games I don’t see them winning once. Carolina could very well hold the #1 pick again going into next year’s draft or at least a top-3 pick at best. This is a franchise that is no where near being competitive again.
1. St. Louis Rams (9-7)
The St. Louis Rams, up until Week 17, were every NFL fan’s favorite story last year. They have been bottom feeders for quite sometime and with a rookie quarterback at the helm, they appeared to be heading to the playoffs in mediocre fashion. They lost to the Seahawks in Week 17, missed the playoffs, but proved to the NFL that they can be taken seriously.
One of the best things for this Rams team is their division, in the NFC West even the worst of teams can make the playoffs and what that does for a young team is make them believe in themselves & be motivated to be successful. That’s what the Rams will do this season in the NFC West. I predict that Sam Bradford will showcase his talent and prove to people that he is destined to be a future elite QB in the NFL this season, the kid is extremely good & being in this division will help him continue to mature as a great leader for the Rams.
2. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Out of all the teams in the NFL the Arizona Cardinals have the easiest schedule in the league. I actually flip flopped them and the St. Louis Rams as the winners of the NFC West multiple times but I figured the Rams will be motivated enough after last season’s disappointment to win the Division this season. It also doesn’t help that the Cards are a team with a new starting quarterback who couldn’t learn the playbook or practice thanks to the NFL Lockout.
Kevin Kolb is getting what some may call his 2nd and final chance to prove he can be a quarterback in the NFL. He was supposed to be the future in Philly & that failed and now he has a change of scenery in Arizona, if he lives up to the hype he once had he could be a great QB for this team for years to come. Oh and expect Larry Fitzgerald to be Larry Fitzgerald & then some this season.
3. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)
They are the defending NFC West Division Champions despite going 7-9 and even advanced as far as the NFC Divisional playoffs where they were stopped by the Chicago Bears. This is a team that made a lot of offseason moves, some good (the o-line improving, Zach Miller & Sidney Rice) and some bad (Tarvaris Jackson). But to me the bad moves will still out weigh all the good moves due to the impact Jackson will have on this team.
The Seahawks won’t repeat their playoff appearance from last season but the one shining bright spot may be the reemergence of Marshawn Lynch as an NFL running back. The offensive line looks great and Lynch should make a comeback as a pretty decent running back. Besides that, good luck Seattle. Until you get yourselves a QB this is what you will be dealing with.
I’ve mentioned in multiple drafts about people’s “sexy picks” from last season. Add the San Francisco 49ers to that list from last year. Most people, including me, had this team as the NFC West Division Champions and I even had Mike Singletary as a potential NFL Head Coach of the Year candidate. The 49ers didn’t win the Division despite being 6-10 & one game back in the standings and Mike Singletary was fired, it was not good on the predictions front for the Niners.
They have a new head coach in Jim Harbaugh who come April of 2012 will also be looking at Andrew Luck (there is that name again) as a player to draft to this team. Alex Smith is not the guy in San Francisco and is looking like he is more prone to being a #1 pick bust rather soon. Michael Crabtree needs a big year this season as he was always poised to be a great NFL WR but hasn’t lived up to the same level as other recent draftees like a Calvin Johnson.
First round bye: Green Bay Packers & Atlanta Falcons
Division winners: Philadelphia Eagles & St. Louis Rams
Wild card teams: New Orleans Saints & Dallas Cowboys
Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!
Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.
Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.
You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]