For the second part of our three part NFL prediction series, I present the NFC:
Jeff Ohlson- Philadelphia – This is easy. This division is just not as good as it used to be. The Redskins could be a disaster, the Giants have done nothing but lose pieces this offseason and the Cowboys could be the biggest wild card in the NFL. If Micheal Vick can stay healthy, this team is going to the NFC championship.
Scott Jackson - Philadelphia - No surprise here. The off-season’s bigger winner in NFC have won six of the last ten division titles, and considering the Cowboys haven’t done much besides cut overpaid veterans and the Giants top pick is dealing with foot issues, Philly should have no problem taking the division crown.
Steve Palmatier – Philadelphia – This isn’t a hard pick for me. But I think it’ll be harder for them to win than most people think. Obviously, the Eagles have been extremely active this offseason getting players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. However, I still don’t really trust Michael Vick when it comes to crunch time because he hasn’t showed me anything so far in his career for me to do so. I think the Dallas Cowboys will be better and the New York Giants will be solid, but I think Philadelphia is just too strong.
Jeff Ohlson - Chicago – Defense, defense, defense. As good as Green Bay is, Chicago’s defense will win them a lot of games in the regular season. The Bears won the division last year and went 5-1 against this division, pair that with the Bears being a good road team (6-2 on the road) and you got a hard team to compete against in a division. Jay Cutler has a lot to prove this year and I believe he will rise to the occasion. Another thing to keep an eye on, are the Detroit Lions, this team finished 4-1 in their last 5 games and that defensive line could be scary.
Scott Jackson - Green Bay - The Super Bowl champs didn’t win the division last year. But as long as the injury bug doesn’t bite like it did last year (15 players were on the IR by Super Bowl Sunday including Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley), Green Bay looks primed to claim its first division championship since Brett Favre was under center (and you thought we wouldn’t mention him).
Steve Palmatier – Green Bay – I have to go with the Packers on this one. I think this is still the best team in the NFC, despite what some may say about the Eagles or others. Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as any quarterback in the game coming off his amazing run to the Super Bowl last season. Also, many Packers were injured last year. Everyone talks about the Eagles making moves this offseason to make them better. Well, the scary thing is the Packers didn’t need to do that. They simply just need to stay healthy. In what I think will be the toughest and most thrilling division in football, I see the Packers coming out of it on top.
Jeff Ohlson – Atlanta - The Falcons, have the best team in this division, and best of all, the whole team is relatively young. Matt Ryan should take another step forward and this team should win another division. New Orleans is talented on offense, but their defense can be scored on at will by a good offense, and come on, they lost to the Seahawks…
Scott Jackson – New Orleans – During the lockout they had the most visible organized workouts of any team in the league. Their rushing attack had a down year in 2010, but Mark Ingram should help fix that. Reggie Bush isn’t a huge loss for them.
Steve Palmatier – Atlanta – I’m going with the Falcons for the division. But it’s a very tough call with three very good teams. I’m giving the edge to the Falcons mainly because I think not only did they improve somewhat by drafting wide receiver Julio Jones. But they also added Ray Edwards to bulk up their pass rush. I also think quarterback Matt Ryan is going to take a new step this year in maturing coming off his loss to the Packers at home last year in the postseason. The question will be their secondary, though I don’t see the Saints defense doing any better. Basically, this division for me will come down to who can out-duel each other on offense. But I think with the running ability of the Falcons with Michael Turner, they will win the division for the second straight season.
Jeff Ohlson – St. Louis – Let’s face it, no one actually wins in this division, its like a battle of futility, but I’m going with St. Louis, because of all the teams in this garbage bin of a division, they are undoubtedly heading in the right direction. Sam Bradford has the potential to be one of the best Quarterbacks in football eventually and the defense for the Rams is growing into a solid unit. In a few years, the Rams could be very good.
Scott Jackson - Arizona - Is Kevin Kolb the savior Larry Fitzgerald’s been asking for? I think so. The top quarterback available this off-season, the Kolb beat out Michael Vick for the Eagle’s starting job before being concussed in the season opener. The Cards surrendered a lot (CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd rounder to get him) to get him, but they did land LSU star CB Patrick Peterrson in the draft.
Steve Palmatier – St. Louis – This pick for me comes basically at a thought of who will sneak in the playoffs this year. This division, which is probably the worst in the NFL, I believe will be won by the Rams. I think Sam Bradford, who led the Rams to 8 wins in his rookie season will be much improved this year as he learns the system and team more. With the combination of him and Steven Jackson, I see the Rams winning this division. Even with the addition of Kolb to the Cardinals, I simply don’t think they have enough weapons on offense and defense to compliment him and Larry Fitzgerald.
WILD CARD 1:
Jeff Ohlson – Green Bay – Easy pick, I don’t see this team as one who could have a Super Bowl hangover. Too good on defense and offense.
Scott Jackson – Chicago - Their defense is good enough they’ll make it in spite of Jay Cutler. Roy Williams could have a resurgence now that he’s reunited with coordinator Mike Martz.
Steve Palmatier – New Orleans – These picks are very difficult for me because I think both the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be right there battling for the wild card, but I think the Saints will be the team ending up in this spot. I am picking the Saints to go there because not only do they have an amazing quarterback in Drew Brees, but I think the running game with new draft pick Mark Ingram and the addition of Darren Sproles will help balance off their already dangerous offense. Their defense is suspect for me, but I think they can outscore teams to win games.
Wild Card 2:
Jeff Ohlson – Tampa Bay – Raheem Morris has got something going on down there in Tampa, and this team will be very good this year, I almost picked them for the division and only hesitated because it might be a little premature. The big loser here is the Saints, who I think will just suffer from some inconsistency and some poor defense as that team is growing old. I also think that the Detroit Lions will just miss this second Wild Card spot.
Scott Jackson – Tampa Bay - The other Wild Card will be out of the South. I’m giving the edge to Tampa Bay over Atlanta. Tampa was one of the youngest teams last year, and they’re primed to improve. Atlanta didn’t do enough to strengthen their secondary.
Stephen Palmatier – Chicago – I’m picking Chicago because I think not only will their defense, which is always good will lead them to wins, but I also think Jay Cutler will have a much better season for the Bears with another year under Mike Martz’s system. Cutler has a lot to prove also after the NFC Championship injury fiasco so I see him playing with a chip on his shoulder. The big question will be their offensive line to protect Cutler because Cutler was the most sacked quarterback in the NFL last season.