Thursday, August 03, 2006

NFC Preview: The East's Beasts Rule Again [EdMcGon]

The NFC will be ruled by the NFC East this season. However, these four teams may beat each other up so much that the playoff results could feature a winner from a different division.

NFC East:
1. Cowboys**
2. Redskins*
3. Eagles*
4. Giants

Any of these teams could easily finish in any ranking in this division. Only two wins separated the first from the third team last year. It could have been even closer if the Eagles had not gone through T.O. withdrawal.

The Eagles should get their team chemistry cleaned up this year and be competitive. They will look a lot like the team they were pre-T.O., when they went to the NFC Championship and lost every year.

Speaking of Terrell Owens, everyone wants to know can he and Bill Parcells co-exist peacefully? If T.O. can play for any coach, it is Bill Parcells (see Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn). T.O. is that extra something which pushes the Cowboys to the top in this division. But T.O. is like playing with a live hand grenade: He can blow up your opponents, or he can blow off your arm.

The NFC East team in the classic championship mold (good running game, good defense) is the Redskins. The big question mark in Washington is QB Mark Brunell. He will be 36 this year, and his age is starting to show. That said, he quietly threw for more touchdowns last season (23) than he had in any previous season of his long career. The Redskins season relies on being able to pull one more good season out of Brunell.

The Giants won the NFC East last year, but the other teams are starting to overtake them. While QB Eli Manning should be another year better, history has shown that Tom Coughlin coached teams start to burnout on his heavy discipline after awhile. A couple of tough losses this year could push the Giants closer to burnout.

NFC North:
1. Bears**
2. Lions
3. Vikings
4. Packers

Defensive purists have to love the return of the Bears defense, which led the NFL with fewest points allowed last year (202). While their offense has more question marks than the Riddler, they should easily take this sorry division.

The Lions. Mike Martz, offensive coordinator. 'Nuff said.

What the heck are the Vikings doing? I see no management direction for this team.

Then there are the Packers, with their direction firmly moving in reverse. Time to retire Mr. Favre.

NFC South:
1. Buccaneers**
2. Panthers
3. Falcons
4. Saints

No major changes here, although the Panthers could possibly take the division from the Bucs. Neither of these teams have improved significantly from last year.

The Falcons are the mystery team in this division. As they stand now, they should take a step backwards from last year. The reason why is simple: The Falcons don't know what to do with Michael Vick. They keep trying different things, and nothing ever seems to work. Vick is Kordell Stewart with a better arm. But Vick is not Steve Young, which is what this offense needs.

You want a bold prediction? If Vick gets injured for a significant amount of time this year, Matt Schaub will step in and lead this team to a lot of wins, possibly even the playoffs or Super Bowl. Schaub is a solid QB who fits the Falcons offense better.

As for the Saints, there was a reason they had the second pick in last April's draft. Even with the addition of Reggie Bush, they are bad.

NFC West:
1. Seahawks**
2. Cardinals
3. 49ers
4. Rams

The Seahawks win this division by default. They are good, but not anything special.

The Cardinals could challenge the Seahawks, but only if they improve their wretched defense, second worst in the NFL with 429 points allowed last year. However, they should be in a lot of fun games to watch.

The 49ers should be a little better this year. The addition of TE Vernon Davis gives Alex Smith an outlet now. 6-7 wins maybe?

The Rams are rebuilding under new head coach Scott Linehan. They could surprise, but I am not betting on it.

The Redskins will fight their way thru the wild card and the playoff's first round to make it into the NFC Championship, which will be a classic matchup: Cowboys vs. Redskins. Parcells vs. Gibbs.

I give the Redskins the edge because of Clinton Portis. Julius Jones is good, but Portis is one of the best.

My Super Bowl prediction? Tomorrow...

**- projected division winner
*-projected wild card team