We’re a fantasy-minded website but who doesn’t like predictions. We brought on guest writer Zac Gangewere to give us some NFL predictions and here is what he sees happening in the NFC this season.
NEW YORK 9-7
The NFC EAST has not had a repeat division champion since the Philadelphia Eagles won it for four consecutive seasons from 2001-2004. That won’t change this season.
The Eagles were a sleeper team to win this division, but trading away Sam Bradford gives the team a rebuilding tone and they will finish 5-11 this season. A lot of Eagles fans weren’t pleased with the thought of Chase Daniel entering the season as their starting quarterback, but the beginning of the Carson Wentz era makes things more exciting. The Eagles defense should be solid under new Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz and with the additions of cornerback Leodis McKelvin and safety Rodney McLeod. Jordan Hicks, a frontrunner to win Defensive Rookie of the Year last season prior to his season ending injury in week eight, will also be a bright spot for the defense. We all know what newly paid defensive end Fletcher Cox can do.
The Dallas Cowboys can be summed up in the words of Stephen A. Smith, “They are an accident waiting to happen.” Quarterback Tony Romo suffered a fractured vertebrae in his back in week three of the preseason and is expected to miss at least the first half of the season. Rookie Quarterback Dak Prescott, who was very impressive in the preseason, takes over as the starter for the foreseeable future and that could mean bumps in the road for the offense.
There is a lot of hype for Kirk Cousins but he’ll be hard-pressed to repeat last season. He does have the weapons to do it at his disposal as Washington boasts a deep and talented wide receiver core and also has one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league in Jordan Reed. There is little doubt that their defense will be improved with the addition of cornerback Josh Norman.
The Giants are led by a new head coach, Ben McAdoo, and he too will have an offense full of firepower. Top draft pick Sterling Shepard and the potential return of Victor Cruz give the Giants nice weapons to pair with Odell Beckham Jr. The defense is still questionable but having the top wide receiver core and quarterback play in the division will lead them to the division title.
GREEN BAY 13-3
Last season, the Minnesota Vikings ended the Green Bay Packers four-year run as the NFC NORTH Champion. This year Green Bay will reclaim the NFC NORTH title and will be able to call themselves division champs for the fifth time in six seasons.
This division will be a two horse race between Green Bay and Minnesota the entire season as Chicago and Detroit simply will not be able to keep up to par with them.
The Bears will finish 5-11 after parting ways with long time running back Matt Forte who departed to the Jets. They didn’t go outside the organization to replace him, which makes Jeremy Langford the lead back for now. Chicago will finally get to see what 2015 1st round pick Kevin White can do opposite of Alshon Jeffery after he missed his entire rookie season due to a shin injury.
It’s going to be WAY different in Detroit without Calvin Johnson lining up on the outside and catching passes from Matthew Stafford, but the Lions did add ex-Bengals receiver Marvin Jones and ex- 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin to replace Megatron. They may still be able to score plenty of points, but they will give up a lot too.
Now to the class of the division.
The Packers will win this division and finish 13-3. The return of Jordy Nelson as well as a favorable schedule will be keys to an excellent season. By now, we know Aaron Rodgers is elite and we expect running back Eddie Lacy to have a bounce back season after getting in better shape in the off-season. That will take pressure off the defense, although it held its own as a unit last season and returns largely intact.
The Minnesota Vikings have the pieces in place to finish 12-4 and claim the first Wild Card spot even after the disastrous loss of Teddy Bridgewater. Newly acquired quarterback Sam Bradford, running back Adrian Peterson, as well as wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie first round pick Laquon Treadwell will do enough to keep the offense afloat and their up and coming defense will carry them to plenty of wins this season.
TAMPA BAY 7-9
NEW ORLEANS 6-10
The Carolina Panthers will win the NFC SOUTH by a landslide. The defending NFC Champions are returning pretty much the same team as last year other than the loss of Pro Bowl Cornerback Josh Norman who signed with Washington. Cam Newton could dominate even more than last season, with help from returning wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
The Tampa Bay Bucs are going to finish 7-9. The Bucs have a new head coach in Dirk Koetter, but the team probably won’t look much difference considering Koetter was their offensive coordinator last year. The offensive side of the ball won’t be a problem for the Bucs, as they are led by quarterback Jameis Winston, running back Doug Martin and receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. However, the Bucs defense could a problem spot. A new defensive scheme, strong pass rush, and the addition of first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III are enough reason to keep an eye on them, though.
The Atlanta Falcons will finish 7-9. Their above average offense is led by star receiver Julio Jones, but quarterback Matt Ryan is very inconsistent and that doesn’t seem likely to change. In the words of Stephen A. Smith, Ryan is either “really on his game, or he just wets the bed.” Their middle of the road defense from last season doesn’t figure to improve much, so this team is headed for mediocrity.
The New Orleans Saints will finish at 6-10. Drew Brees is getting up there in age and his arm strength is diminishing by the year. He’s not the same quarterback he was two seasons ago. The defense is once again filled with a lot of question marks, so it could be a long season for the Saints.
LOS ANGELES 5-11
SAN FRANCISCO 1-15
A few years ago, the NFC WEST was the laughingstock of football in a season where the Seattle Seahawks won the division with a 7-9 record. Six years later and this could be the best division in football.
San Francisco is going to be a mess. Chip Kelly has finally named Blaine Gabbert as the opening day starter against the Los Angeles Rams. Gabbert was decent as the starter last year throwing for 2,031 yards with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions but this team isn’t going anywhere this season.
The Rams have serious potential in the next few seasons, but it might too soon to ask for much this season. They now have their franchise quarterback with top overall pick Jared Goff. He will pair nicely with Todd Gurley, who has already shown he will be their running back for many years to come. Their defense will be stout but the offense just doesn’t have enough firepower yet.
This division will clearly be a two-horse race between Arizona and Seattle. Russell Wilson is more trustworthy than Carson Palmer, and for that reason, Seattle is the pick to win the division. Palmer had an amazing season last year, but his chances to repeat that seem slim given his age and injury history. Arizona is still an exciting team that is of playoff caliber, and we have them reaching the postseason as a wildcard team.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison