Friday, September 11, 2009

My NFC Predictions

Like every good American, I am a huge football fan. I was also raised, like all good Americans, to be a Green Bay Packers fan. Therefore, you are all likely to be subject to me talking about the Packers this year. But hey, somebody in the political blogosphere needs to offer commentary on the NFL other than Ed Morrissey. Even if he is more libertarian than he wants to let on, there's only so much I can identify with a man who likes the Vikings. Ugh. That said, here are my somewhat biased NFC predictions. There will be no AFC predictions. I don't watch amateur football.

I suppose I could be biased to the Packers given my status as a fan. However, I've watched their entire preseason and if one thing has ever been clear to me, it's that their offense cannot be stopped. I've watched Rodgers make throws, splitting the corner & safety zones on a sideline route to Driver's back shoulder on a line, for instance, that you'd expect out of Manning or Brady. He's making it look easy and is starting to get some preseason hype as a potential MVP. If he doesn't put up 4,000+ and 30+ TD's, it will be because of injury. Grant also looks to be healthy again and hitting his cutbacks with authority. Could be a big year for him too.

The question on the Packers is the defense. Nick Barnett didn't play much of the preseason, still recovering from last year's ACL, and first rounder Clay Matthews also had injuries. Both were projected to start at LB in the new 3-4 scheme. Even with those guys not getting time until the fourth preseason game, the defense generated 12 sacks, 8 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries. They still showed a tendency to give up first downs on third down and middle-to-long, something that they were horrible with last year, and that needs to be fixed, but this is a different defense. It has a chance to be dominant. I think it will be in the top half of the league with a chance for top ten, but it still needs work.

All that said, the Packers strength of schedule is something like 30th in the league. It's a recipe for success all around.

Even still, the Vikings are going to be the other team to be reckoned with in my opinion. One of the best defenses in the league, plus the best running back in the league, and now a good quarteback, and throw Percy Harvin in the mix. They've got something to work with up there this year. I think when push comes to shove, though, that Favre is just too mistake prone in big moments for the Vikings to win when it matters. He's shown that too many times to believe he can overcome himself, in my eyes.

There's a lot of talk about the Bears as well, now that Cutler's around. I've never been as high on Cutler as many people seem to be. He seems to me to be Favre-lite, but without a Holmgren-like disciplinarian to throw him a backhand now and then and reign him in. Hence, 4,500 yard talent, and no winning record. Now he's got nobody but a tight end and a running back to throw to. Plus the defense looks terrible this year. If injuries hit, I wouldn't be surprised to see Detroit finish 3rd ahead of the Bears this year.

The NFC West is the NFC West. Arizona looks hideous this year. Their game against the Packers saw the Packers up 38-10 at halftime, ones-against-ones. They were only 9-7 last year and got on a run in the playoffs. Forget about it.

The NFC East is going to beat the hell out of each other all year like they always do. There's a ton of talk about the Giants this year, as usual. I just don't see it. Eli isn't as good as the hype, and unless Hakeem Nicks somehow becomes Andre Johnson, he's not working with much at receiver. The Redskins are still struggling to pull things together. At the end of it all, I think the Eagles probably eek out a division win there at 10-6. Too much offense there to ignore them.

The NFC South will be all about the Saints. The Bucs are ashambles, the Panthers have Jake Delhomme at QB, who will cost them at least two games, even while DeAngelo Williams compiles 2,000 total yards, and the Falcons just won't be as good as they were last year. I don't believe in them at all.

Overall I think the Packers, Vikings and Saints compete for best record in the NFC. Probably looking at something like this:

1. Packers 12-4
2. Saints 11-5
3. Eagles 10-6
4. Cardinals 9-7 (but who knows or cares who comes out of the west)

WC1. Vikings 11-5
WC2. Panthers 10-6

As a friend of mine has said, and as the Cardinals proved last year, the playoffs are a crapshoot, especially this early. So I will refrain from making predictions on the playoffs until such time as my above predictions come to fruition.

Enjoy the first weekend of the season!

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