Finally got a proper day to myself, no hassles, no messing about. Right, NFC East.
Actually, before I start, the last one of these I did was on the NFC North and since then the Packers have gone out and picked up Cedric Benson, I'm sure as part of a devious plan to ruin my predictions. Personally I think that's a really good move on their part as Benson is a good runner and a solid body in pass protection, which understandably is something the Packers are quite big on.
Now on to the NFC East. Promise.
We haven't even started the season properly and already Mike Vick is looking like an injury liability. And really this is why coaches in the NFL are sceptical about the fad for running quarterbacks. In college it’s not quite as bad, mainly because they’re only there for four years, perhaps only the starter for three, and generally their relative speed compared to the defense is quite reasonable.
Suddenly you make it to the NFL and everyone on the field is a lot closer to you speed wise, many of them are bigger than you and you still have 8-10 years of your career left. Paying quarterback money for a running back who can’t take the punishment is not something that NFL coaches are inclined to do, not least because they pay the same money and get a pocket passer who is more useful to them, broadly speaking.
Still, Mike Kafka and rookie Nick Foles are not bad back ups and generally speaking the Eagles have a pretty good team. At running back they have speed and power, especially with young Chris Polk who is a downhill bruiser that could serve them well in short yardage situations. Their collection of receivers and tight ends is also pretty solid.
The big issue for the Eagles on offense is the O-line, with Jason Peters injured they look a little sketchy on the outsides. That’s never a good thing for any team and on top of that you have to wonder how often that pressure off the edge will prompt Vick to get on his horse and run?
Defensively the Eagles look pretty good. They’ve had a chance to bed in their linebackers now and they still have an elite pass rushing unit. On the back end I think they’re in a better position at safety, though the corner shuffling act is still going to take some tweaking.
Overall I like the Eagles, but that weakness on the line could be a killer. If they can’t stop the rush off the edge then it’s going to be a long season offensively, especially if their linebacking struggles from last season rears its ugly head again, and teams run them ragged up the middle.
Suspect quarterback play? Check. Receivers having issues off the field? Check. Difficulty protecting the quarterback? Check. Slightly suspect secondary? Check. Oh hey, it must be the Dallas Cowboys!!
And it is. Unfortunately. As per last season the Cowboys have a strong front seven and a decent running game that they’ll never use because JJ wants it airborne. If anything I think the Cowboys look a little more suspect on offense, namely at the receiver position. The secondary perhaps isn’t that bad after the addition of Brandon Carr, but I still don’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling about the Cowboys.
More like a slow, lethargic, inevitable sense of doom.
New York Giants
Other than the Giants secondary, I have to honestly say that they’ve either stayed the same or improved across the whole board. That should scare the sh*t out of people. If the pass rush measures up as well as it did last year, and with their offense looking like it won’t skip a beat, I have to say that the Giants should be pegged as having a good chance of repeating their triumph this season.
I have to say, there’s a lot to like about the Redskins, mainly on defense. I really like the receiving corps as well.
What I don’t like is the quarterback and running back situations. I’m still not sold on Robert Griffin. And I’m really not sure if they have enough strength at the back to take the pressure off of him. I get a morbid feeling that Griffin will be expected to do a lot of the heavy lifting himself, and I just think that’s too much for him in his first season.
If the defense can pitch in then they have a chance to snatch some wins, but I can see them struggling still inside of their own division and I’m just not sure they’ll be able to put up enough points to stay competitive. I like the rookie Kirk Cousins, but even he still has a way to go and is unlikely to see the field this year.
Maybe if Roy Helu – who I think is a decent back – can get some playing time then maybe the Redskins can grind out a few wins, but don’t hold your breath.
And on that note I’m done. But I also have some time on my hands so I must as well do the NFC South while I’m here.
The Falcons have been building up for a while, always seeming to be just one piece away from putting together a great team. This year they may, may, have just cracked it.
If I were a Falcons fan I’d be a little worried by the loss of Curtis Lofton, especially to a division rival, because that central linebacker spot looks a little shakey now, but other than that there is a hell of a lot to like about the Falcons.
Their defense looks pretty solid up and down the roster, the offense looks really good and has some variety at running back, and quarterback Matt Ryan will be a lot more comfortable in the offense, especially with both Roddy White and Julio Jones to work with on the outsides.
Keep an eye on the Falcons; they could be one of the better teams in the NFC this year.
The Panthers are looking rough. Sort of.
Defensively they look awful. I know everyone is going to point to Luke Kuechly, but that’s one player not a team. The secondary looks dire and much of the front seven is a little iffy. Then we have the offense.
I stand by what I said last year. I think Cam Newton did a lot of what we in England would call “hoof and hope”, or in other words just slinging the ball up there and hoping Steve Smith would come down with it, which he did enough last year to make Cam look good. But frankly, their red zone offense looked tragic last year, with people piling in the middle to stop the run and challenging Cam to make touch passes on the outside, which he couldn’t do.
The saving grace for the Panthers is their running game. Jonathan Stewart plus DeAngelo Williams has long been one of the toughest one-two running back combos in the NFL. Adding Mike Tolbert to the mix as a full back and occasional runner just makes it all the more ridiculously good.
However, hold the celebrations Panthers fans. Historically speaking this is a combination that has been sorely underutilized and if last season is anything to go by, then Cam will likely be the center piece of the offense. I don’t think the Panthers have the receivers to support that kind of attack, especially if people have a shred of common sense and lock down on Steve Smith.
Could be a tough year in Carolina after last year’s hysteria.
New Orleans Saints
I fear for the Saints.
Not really, because I’m not a big fan of the Saints. But if I was I would fear for them. The loss of Head Coach Sean Peyton is problematic for a start. Then we come to the defense. The problem the Saints have had in the last five years, one that was solved somewhat when they won the Super Bowl (along with a healthy dollop of luck), has been that they struggle to generate enough offense to keep teams in check while their offense wins the game.
I can see them returning to that form in 2012. Their pass rush looks almost non-existent for a start. Lofton is a nice addition at the linebacker spot, despite being a 4-3 guy stuffed into a 3-4 scheme, while the secondary has some high points and some very low points.
I just don’t think they have enough of a complete package this year, which is made worse when you consider how strong the Falcons are. Play offs might still be a possibility, we’ll have to wait and see how the offense holds up as the season drags on and what kind of play calling they use.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m torn about the Buccaneers. There are many things to like, and many things to sort of turn your lip up at and say “meh, can’t see that working”. Vincent Jackson gives the Buccaneers a big lift, but the rest of the receiver corps looks underwhelming.
LaGarrette Blount and Doug Martin are intriguing as a running back tandem, but I’m still not convinced by Josh Freeman at quarterback. On defense I like Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy on the D-line, but I think McCoy works better as an end which they likely won’t use him as, putting him inside instead.
At linebacker I think they’ve done really well, because Lavonte David is a great rookie and I’ve been following Dekoda Watson and Rennie Curran with interest since they first entered the league. But then I look at the secondary and I frown. I really like young Anthony Gaitor and you also have Aqib Talib, but there are a lot of question marks dotted all across the rest of that group.
I think the Buccaneers have the foundation of something good, but it still needs a lot of work and a bit more time and attention spent on it. This year is likely going to be another rough one I think.