Arena: Saints must contend with deep NFC field
Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, August 12, 2014
We hit the AFC and broke down the Saints last week. Now to hit the REST of the NFC (and some overall NFL) predictions.
We’ve already established 1. SAINTS at the top of this heap so moving on to the two seed, we have ….
2. Philadelphia Eagles. Last season the Eagles overachieved, many don’t know what to make of QB Nick Foles, Desean Jackson is gone and many of the Chip Kelly naysayers are likely doubling down, waiting for his game to be figured out.
I’m not so sure a regression is likely here, though. Philadelphia adjusted extremely quickly to Kelly’s fact-paced system and overcame the preseason loss of WR Jeremy Maclin to a torn ACL. Jackson’s loss hurts for sure, but the additions of Maclin, Darren Sproles, rookie Jordan Matthews and an expected progression from second-year tight end Zack Ertz gives Foles a number of places to go with the football when he’s not handing off to LeSean McCoy. It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the NFC East is floundering.
3. Seattle Seahawks. A small step back for the Super Bowl champs, mostly because it’s hard to maintain focus in a “repeat” attempt and those off days, for Seattle, are likely to come against strong competition. The NFC West is war. The offense may need a healthy year from Percy Harvin to reach its potential and Marshawn Lynch has racked up a lot of carries over the past few years. Still, this team is loaded and should win more than 10.
4. Green Bay Packers. I give up on the rest of the NFC North. The Packers spotted everyone else eight games without Aaron Rodgers and ACTUALLY TRAILED Chicago in the standings the week after Rodgers went down. The Packers still won the division, clinching things on a 4th and 8, 47-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb in the season finale against the Bears. Anyway, Rodgers is back, the team restocked its pass catchers in the draft and the offensive line, in shambles a year ago, should be healthier. Rodgers always delivers.
5. Tampa Bay. I actually like Josh McCown and this situation couldn’t be more like the one he left in Chicago. He’ll have some big boys to throw to in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Doug Martin’s return also helps and the team has a pair of showcase defensive players in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David. Ugly uniforms, though.
6. Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III will have to be all the way back from his knee injury, and he’ll have to stay healthy. The first is likely, the second highly questionable. But Griffin played at a legitimate MVP level in his rookie season —unheard of for a first year passer. Jay Gruden is very likely to unleash the hounds in the passing game and Griffin will have more targets than ever before in DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts. If Griffin can recapture his form, he could do a major carry job here.
Just missing: San Francisco is the shocker and I think their offense will be world’s better. Still, they’ve lost an all-world middle linebacker in NaVorro Bowman and, again, the schedule is daunting … Carolina may survive its receiving corps losses if Kelvin Benjamin steps up, but four retired offensive lineman may stall a ground-and-pound team … the Giants will be a lot better this season, but I’ll mark them down for nine wins.
Super Bowl: New Orleans over New England (Seattle and Denver title game runner-ups)
NFL MVP: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Offensive Player of the Year: LeSean McCoy, RB Philadelphia
Defensive MVP: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE, Houston