By Eric Scot
(Editor’s note: For Eric’s AFC predictions, click here.)
The North in the NFC might also be a very intriguing division to watch all season because while most will think (me too) that the Packers run away with the division, I don’t feel as though you can completely rule out an upset by the Bears or Lions. The Vikings might still be a little too far away from fully competing but they will remain competitive a bit of the season before separating out.
It wouldn’t shock me to see all four teams at 1-1 against each of their fellow division rivals. I’m sure that one will be 2-0 and one will be 0-2 but it still wouldn’t shock me. It’s difficult to ever bet against Aaron Rodgers as he is still the best quarterback in today’s NFL. It will be interesting to see if running back Eddie Lacy keeps the starting job that he won almost by default by the end of the season. All of the teams have question marks going into the season too.
- Packers – 11-5 **
- Bears – 10-6
- Lions – 9-7
- Vikings – 6-10
The media’s favorite division could be a three-horse race all season and the last team as the absolute dark horse of all dark horses. We are talking midnight dark here, folks. The Giants will obviously be the favorites among all the “experts” and it’s hard to argue against Eli Manning and what he brings each game. I question their running game and their defense and they could be in trouble if an injury or two happens in the wrong position.
The Cowboys seem like a team on the uptick and coach Jason Garrett will be on the hot seat, too, especially if they start losing games. The Redskins have RG III and he gives them a chance to win every week, while the Eagles return Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, some good wide receivers and a decent defense. Hard to pick the team to win without going with the flow and it’s tough to pick the order without closing your eyes and pointing a finger. I’m going to “upside-down” this division, just because I can.
- Eagles – 10-6 **
- Redskins – 9-7
- Cowboys – 8-8
- Giants – 7-9
I am a fan of the NFC South this year and it would be difficult to the NFC representative for the Super Bowl wouldn’t come out of this division. Besides the Panthers, the other three teams in this division could be tough all year. Since it’s difficult to resist when a “retiring” player makes a one-more-year return for a shot at it all, it will be tough to go against Tony Gonzalez and the Atlanta Falcons. They picked up Stephen Jackson to go along with Michael Turner. They have two big time receivers to be weapons for Matt Ryan and Gonzalez is back for one more shot for glory.
The Saints also have Drew Brees and it’s hard to bet against him, now with coach Sean Payton back in charge. The Buccaneers have quietly put together a nice team in the offseason, and Josh Freeman is a good guy to have throwing the ball. The Panthers do have Cam Newton and I’m a fan of Steve Smith; however, I’m not a fan of their running game. Since they have to play their division opponents twice each, it could be a long season for them.
- Falcons – 13-3 **
- Saints – 10-6 *
- Buccaneers – 8-8
- Panthers – 5-11
This year, the Seahawks are being viewed a legitimate candidate to return to the Super Bowl, while the 49ers are right there with them and the Rams and Cardinals (or Steelers West) will duke it out at the bottom of the division. This is certainly one of the more difficult divisions to call as Russell Wilson leads the Seahawks, while Colin Kaepernick heads the 49ers; their battles will be marquee matchups this year.
The 49ers have Frank Gore at RB while the Seattle has Marshawn Lynch and both teams have good receivers, although the edge for me goes to the Seahawks while the 49ers have a better tight end. Both teams have solid defenses, but I think the 49ers a bit better there so it’s a tough call overall to make. Let’s try anyhow.
- 49ers – 11-5 **
- Seahawks 10-6 *
- Rams – 7-9
- Cardinals – 6-10
NFC first-round byes: Atlanta and Green Bay
NFC wild card round: Seahawks at Eagles; Saints at 49ers
NFC divisional round: Seahawks at Atlanta; 49ers at Green Bay
NFC championship: Green Bay at Atlanta
Super Bowl XXVII in New York City/New Jersey: Atlanta Falcons over Denver Broncos
** Division Winners
* Wild Card Berth