Monday, August 18, 2008

2008 NFL Preview - Post 2

Today, it’s part two in a four part series for the annual NFL preview! Please, contain your excitement. It’s a beautiful day – sun’s shining, birds are chirping, and Season 4 of The Wire is in the DVD Player ready to go.

In the past, I’d throw a 20,000 word epic post up here that would take everyone a week to read. Last year I realized that’s not the best idea, and this year I’m following my model. Two divisions a day through Thursday. And Friday, will be my second post of the year over at SpartyAndFriends (click if you missed the first one).

So let’s continue – today, the NFC North & East


2007 Standings

Green Bay (13-3)

Minnesota (8-8)

Detroit (7-9)

Chicago (7-9)

One name dominates this division in 2008. And since he’s no longer in the NFC North, it’s not worth even bringing him up again until I have to. Which should be right about…

Brett Favre. There. I said it. He’s gone, and Green Bay fans (not to mention the team) will have to deal with that reality. The Packers can go one of two ways this season, they can either rally behind Aaron Rodgers and try to repeat last year’s success, or they can pack it in and use any number of excuses up to and including the loss of an icon, the new and more difficult first place schedule, etc etc etc. Look – Aaron Rodgers was a very highly touted first round quarterback a couple years ago. Brett Favre had a career year in 2007, but he was not the whole team. A serviceable QB should be able to take what is essentially the same team and lead them to about 10 or 11 wins. In the NFC North, that should be good enough for a Wild Card berth, at the very least. Prediction: 11-5

Detroit is still in a sorry state. They had another below average draft, and added absolutely nothing through free agency. But look at the list of free agents they had come off the books after the 2007 season. They shed twenty-four contracts! That’s half a team! How did they not improve through free agency? More importantly, how is Matt Millen still employed? Has anybody even seen William Clay Ford family alive in the past five years? I know it’s an old line to fall back on, but seriously, how does this guy keep his job every year? I suppose maybe Ford is falling back to the old-time sports administration, allowing a GM ten to fifteen years to fix the problems of the team. I suppose loyalty is nice, but it just doesn’t work in today’s sports world. Prediction: 5-11

The Bears had two major weaknesses this offseason – offense and defense. And that’s being generous. Somehow, they almost managed a .500 season with an aging defense and the worst quarterback situation in the NFL. They addressed the need at runningback by cutting ties with Cedric Benson and adding Matt Forte through the draft. Forte has had a pretty good preseason, but he can’t carry the offense by himself. Since the Bears are pretty much flipping a coin between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton from now through the beginning of the season, they are going to need to rely on their defense – yet again – to keep the team in games. They only signed two free agents – Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd – and kept Lance Briggs in Chicago for a handful more years, but they had a defense heavy draft. If any of those players can step up quickly, the Bears might be able to return to the playoffs in a weak NFC. But more than likely, they’ll be stuck at the bottom of the North barrel again. Prediction: 4-12

Finally, Minnesota. They’ve been the trendy pick to win the NFC before, and this year is no different. But until I see something, anything, to make me believe that Tarvaris Jackson can be a competent NFL quarterback, I won’t believe they’re much better than a mediocre team. Adrian Peterson was a revelation at runningback last year until a knee injury derailed his season. But can he repeat the same numbers this year? The Vikings biggest strength is their defense. They’ve turned into the 2005 Bears and the 2000 Ravens – Quarterback questions, an above average runningback, and a dominant defense. They could be the Super Bowl Champs. They could be 8-8 again. I’m leaning towards a Wild Card berth and just above mediocre. Prediction: 9-7

NFC East

2007 Standings

Dallas (13-3)

NY Giants (10-6)

Washington (9-7)

Philadelphia (8-8)

Listen, I know the Giants won the Super Bowl. I’ve come to terms with it. I’m not happy about it, but I’ve learned to deal with it. They went on a magical run for a month last winter, they caught every break, they made every big play, and they won it all. And after saying all that… I still don’t think they have the horses to win this division. Not that they’ll need to – I think they proved that back in February. Eli Manning finally matured into the quarterback the Giants thought they were getting four years ago. Brandon Jacobs proved that you don’t need lightning for thunder to be effective (though Ahmad Bradshaw was a nice surprise). And the defensive line was dominant for most of the year. With only two major subtractions from the team (Jeremy Shockey traded to New Orleans and Michael Strahan retired), the Giants should be primed to at least return to the playoffs, if not make another run deep into the postseason. Prediction: 10-6 (I know… it’s boring but it feels about right)

Dallas is still the top dog in this division. They’ve got the offense, they’ve got the defense. They’ve got talent all over the field, and they’ve got to be pissed about how their year ended in 2007. They’ve got absolutely no reason to lose this division, or to not advance to at least the NFC Title Game. They lost only Julius Jones and Jacques Reeves, and added Zach Thomas in free agency. Not to mention adding Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins early in the draft. They should be able to put up at least 12 wins, probably more. They have five tough games total through the season, and no tougher road trips than St. Louis following Arizona in mid-October. This looks like a good year for them. Prediction: 14-2

Washington made a nice run last year, even managing a playoff berth (though I have no idea how). But without a first round draft pick, and virtually no free agent imports or losses, the only real change for the ‘Skins was bringing in Jason Taylor who may or may not still have enough in the tank to rejuvenate their defensive line. This year, that probably won’t be enough. Jason Campbell is another quarterback on a short leash trying to prove that he still belongs in this league. They don’t have the guns to stick around all year long, on offense or defense. Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia is kind of getting caught on the short end of the stick here. They’ve still got a top 15 QB in Donovan McNabb. Brian Westbrook is one of the all around best runningbacks in the NFL. They’ve got the defense to contend every year. But there’s something holding them back. Aside from injuries, I can’t tell you what it is. I have absolutely no idea how they lost 8 games while only allowing a total of 300 points all year. I think they were nothing more than a victim of circumstance in their division; 8-8 in a division with three playoff teams is just plain unlucky. This year, they might sneak in a Wild Card berth, but most likely they’ll be on the outside looking in again. Prediction: 9-7

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