Now it is time to move to the NFC. Obviously the NFC is important to us Niner fans because we play in the conference. Last season the Niners were very close to representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see how the competition fairs this season. Here are my predictions for the NFC east and south.
4th Place: Although the future looks bright, I have the Washington Redskins finishing last in the division. QB Robert Griffin III looks to be the savior for the Redskins franchise, but can he do it right away? In the past years rookie quarterbacks have had lots of success and a few have led their teams to playoff berths. I do not see the same for RG3, mainly because he plays in a very difficult division. I like the players around RG3; WR Pierre Garcon, WR Josh Morgan, TE Fred Davis, and RB Roy Helu are all viable weapons. The defense is not bad; they finished ranked 13th in 2011. The Redskins might be the best last place team in the NFL.
3rd Place: I was going back and forth on this one, but I am going with the Dallas Cowboys. As a Niner fan I am breed to hate the Cowboys, but I really wanted to believe that they will actually make the playoffs this season. The Cowboys have always had the talent, just never do anything with it. The offense has many questions due to injuries; TE Jason Witten, WR Miles Austin, and WR Dez Bryant are all battling injuries. RB DeMarco Murray is a player with great potential, but has injury issues dating back to college. The defense will be solid; they will improve from their 14th rank in 2011. They can get to the quarterback and now have improved in their back field by acquiring CB Brandon Carr and drafting CB Morris Claiborne. If “Big D” can get it together, my 3rd place prediction can be way off.
2nd Place: I have the Super Bowl defending champions New York Giants. This is a spot where they want to be. In their last two Super Bowl victories, the Giants had to squeak into the playoffs before going on their championship run. From what I know the Giants did not make many off season moves. They kept most of their key players around and added a few promising rookies. RB David Wilson and WR Rueben Randall were the Giants first two draft picks and will play big roles on the Giants defending their Super Bowl title. Once again they are flying under the radar; don’t be surprised if they are still playing in late January.
1st place: Last year so called “Dream Team” will indeed be a contender in 2012, they are the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are stacked with talent, especially on the offense side of the ball. I’m not going to name all their offense stars, but there is one to note. QB Michael Vick has to stay healthy, if the Eagles want to make a Super Bowl run. He needs to know when to throw the ball away and when to slide. The struggles came on defense lasts season, but have fixed the issue by acquiring LB DeMeco Ryans and by drafting some young talented defenders to add depth to the defense. If all goes well the Eagles could be playing for a first round bye in the playoffs.
4th Place: This was between the Tampa Bay and Carolina. Came down to who I trust more, Cam Newton or Josh Freeman, I went with Cam. The Bucs are my last place team even though they undoubtedly won the off season. They made key acquisitions such as; WR Vincent Jackson, OG Carl Nicks, and first round rookies SS Mark Barron and RB Doug Martin. The two big issues for me is QB Josh Freeman, he regressed so much in 2012 and got me thinking if he has what it takes to be a good quarterback in the NFL. The other one is head coach Greg Schiano; he did not really do much at Rutgers, which makes me assume that he cannot run a NFL team to greatness. Maybe I’m wrong.
3rd Place: I have the previously mentioned Carolina Panthers. The question surrounding the Panthers organization is will QB Cam Newton reach the next level? Last season the offense was superb led by Newton, but the defense had their share of problems. They finished ranked 28th in 2011, if the Panthers expect to compete for a division crown they will have to drastically improve on that defensive ranking. Other than that it is difficult to examine the Panthers. Again success will mainly depend on Newton, but I do see him struggling at times. Expect a mediocre record from the Panthers.
2nd Place: With all the offseason issues and distractions, I have the New Orleans Saints. Finishing running up will be a victory for the Saints after having the dismal offseason that they have had. When it comes down to it the Saints still have QB Drew Brees, RB Darren Sproles, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, and a great offense line. The offense will win many games for New Orleans. They will miss head coach Sean Payton, he is a great coach and play caller. The defense has a few players suspended for a number of games, a unit that was ranked 24th last season. I see the Saints being as effective as they were last season; the defense will not be very good this season as they were last year. However the offense will still be explosive and the Saints will be in contention for a playoff berth.
1st Place: I believe the Atlanta Falcons will be a force in 2012. QB Matt Ryan will take the step needed to be in the top tier in his position. He has been solid throughout his career, but with WR Julio Jones, WR Roddy White, TE Tony Gonzales, running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers as weapons……expect fireworks from the Falcons. The only concern is the defense; they have aging stars and will have to keep up with a division that has many young talented offensive players. I did like the acquisition of CB Asante Samuel, although he is a vet now, he still provides playmaking abilities. I predict that Matt Ryan will win his first playoff game in 2012.
There you have it. Next blog I will wrap up my breakdowns with the NFC north and west. Like always please leave comments and let me know if you agree or disagree with my picks.