The NFC, like the AFC, has two elite teams and a handful of very good teams. The two elite teams are the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks and the 49ers have taken turns beating each other the past two NFC championships. After last season’s 43 - 8 rout over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl XLVIII (48), aren’t the Seahawks the favorites to repeat?
Prediction #1: Seahawks win the NFC West and the NFC
The Seahawks have been playing dominant football for several seasons. I can’t see, self-proclaimed best cornerback in the NFL, Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor regressing. Defensive end will only get better with standouts Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett coming into the prime of their careers. Switch to the offensive side of the ball and the Seahawks have the best young decision-making-quarterback in Russell Wilson, up-and-coming tight end Zach Miller and a pair or versatile wide receivers in Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks have all of the tools to dominate the NFC in the regular season.
Prediction #2: 49ers have the second best regular season record in the NFC but still have to play in the wildcard round.
Being one victory behind the Seahawks is nothing to be embarrassed about. The 49ers are a dominant team in their own ways. The 49ers play a physical brand of offense and defense, with consistency permeating from their offensive and defensive lines. The great thing about the 49ers defensive line is they don’t give up run stopping power in order to get pass pressure. While I am inclined to say the 49ers are a more balanced team than the Seahawks, in the regular season being dominant in one area is usually enough to overwhelm a lesser team. Because of that I’m projecting the 49ers as a fifth seeded wild card team.
Prediction #3: The Philadelphia Eagles are significantly better than the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins. Eagles win the NFC East and claim the second seed in the NFC.
Just because they earn the second seed doesn’t mean I think they’re the second best team in the NFC. It means: come on who can’t beat those division rivals? The NFC North is composed of four playoff caliber teams, the NFC South has two very good playoff teams and we’ve already been over the NFC West. I see a lot of competition and that means a lot of head butting, in wins and losses.
Prediction #4: The New Orleans Saints win the NFC South, barely.
With an offense like the Saints a playoff berth is guaranteed. The thing is, the Saints’ defense has never been better. Nothing like the Seahawks or 49ers defense but more than enough defense to stop most opposing teams from scoring as much as all-time great Drew Brees will facilitate.
When I look at the NFC South I see two teams head and shoulders above a bottom pair of teams: the Saints and Carolina Panthers. The difference between the outcomes of those two teams is consistency. When I saw the Panthers last regular season I saw over achievement. When I saw the Saints last regular season I saw under achievement. I expect those trends to switch and the Saints to win the division.
Prediction #5: The Panthers earn the final wildcard spot with a record which would have won either the NFC East or NFC North.
Cam Newton is a force of football. Sometimes his actions leave a bad taste in your mouth, other times he’ll be too nonchalant. One thing is certain his results are hard to argue with. Another certainty is Newton make some of the most exciting offensive plays. Oh, and one more certainty, Cam Newton is a “winner.”
Don’t ask me to quantify Cam Newton’s winner-ness but you can’t argue with his rookie season statistics or a 12-4 junior year record. I can’t help but think Newton continues to get better. Unfortunately for Cam, I don’t think the rest of the team is set to take that next step forward.
Prediction #6: The Green Bay Packers win the NFC North.
The NFC North will probably be one of the most compelling divisions in the NFL this season. You have arguably the best running back in the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL playing for the Detroit Lions and arguably the best quarterback, physically, in the NFL playing for the Packers. I’ll be rooting for Detroit, because I love a good Cinderella team and who doesn’t want to see Detroit have something nice for a change.
Detroit’s defense is going to have to have its best season (not asking too much) to dethrone the Packers. The Vikings have a dominate run game, but no dominate quarterback to direct the team. The Bears are the biggest threat to the Packers with an above average quarterback and wide receiver along with the notorious Bears defense; even if the defense isn’t as good as they’re expected to be, it’ll still be better than the Vikings or Lions.