Previewing the NFC North and NFC East
In my last article we discussed the NFC West and NFC South. Today we will look at the rest of the NFC: The North and the East. Three out of the last six Super Bowl winners have come out of these divisions and it seems like there’s always a legitimate contender to come out of these respective teams.
The Green Bay Packers have been the class of the NFC North ever since their late-season run in 2010 that propelled them to the Super Bowl XLV championship. Aaron Rodgers will have to cope with losing one of his favorite targets, Greg Jennings. The defense, which has improved since their Super Bowl team, needs to continue to improve to be a legitimate contender for another Super Bowl.
The Minnesota Vikings will not try to fool you when it comes to their offensive game plan. One could simply describe their game plan with two words: Adrian Peterson. Until teams find a way to stop him, the Vikings will continue to use him to beat other teams. However, they need to need to be careful of wearing him out. Running backs in the NFL have a short life (although I think Peterson is the exception to that rule). Jennings, as previously mentioned, will boost the Vikings offensive attack even more and will make them a threat to the Packers for the NFC North crown.
The Chicago Bears have stayed relevant for many years because of their defense. Last year their defense was ranked in the top 3 for points allowed. This stout defense has allowed them to remain competitive in the NFC North against the Packers and Vikings. Acquiring Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall hasn’t given them the offensive fire power they thought it would be. But along with Matt Forte, the Bears offense always has the potential to win games late as the defense keeps the game close.
And then there’s the Detroit Lions… The Lions had a breakthrough year in 2011 finishing with a 10-6 record and a wild card playoff berth. But in 2012, the Lions returned to the bottom of the division finishing with a 4-12 record. Their offense can certainly put up points with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The defense, anchored by lineman Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, has the potential to be dangerous but failed to live up to expectations as they ranked dead last in the NFC North in team defense. Their defense needs to improve if they want to rebound in 2013.
Please indulge me for just a moment. I refer to the NFC East, jokingly, as the ESPN division. Much like the AL East in baseball, the NFC East gets more coverage than most other divisions in the NFL. Now that I have that off my chest…
Last season the Washington Redskins won the NFC East, led by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III. The Redskins also had a little bit of luck striking gold with rookie Alfred Morris, who finished second only to Adrian Peterson in the NFL in rushing. Redskins fans everywhere are concerned with RGIII’s health. By all accounts, Griffin will be ready for the opening game. As long as RGIII is a Redskin, they will be in contention for the NFC East crown.
While the New York Giants were not successful in making the playoffs last season, they have been one of the most successful teams of the last decade winning 2 Super Bowls with quarterback Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin. The Giants had the best defense in the NFC East last year statistically. Manning has shown time and time again he can get it done in crunch time, especially in the postseason. It will be fun to see Manning and Griffin go head-to-head in the years to come.
The Dallas Cowboys are always in the middle of drama that happens in the offseason. Tony Romo always makes games interesting to watch, particularly in the 4th quarter. This year Romo and the Cowboys offense will have Bill Callahan calling plays. Jerry Jones is hoping this kickstarts an offense that finished third in the division despite having Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and DeMarco Murray as weapons (Murray missed time with an injury). There is no doubt that head coach Jason Garrett feels the heat to win this year. (What Cowboys coach doesn’t?) The key to the Cowboys season may be Tony Romo getting over his infamous late season turnover problems.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in a place they haven’t been since 1998: Without Andy Reid. The Eagles brought in former Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly, hoping to give the team a ‘change of scenery’. The Eagles are also hoping that offensive threats Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson play up to their potential, especially within Kelly’s fast offensive style. But an invigorated offense may not be able to help a team that had one of the worst defenses in the NFC last season (only the Saints gave up more points). The Eagles have yet to find a defensive coach to replace the late great defensive coordinator Jim Johnson who passed away in 2009 after a bout with melanoma.
This concludes my preview of the NFC (If you missed my preview of the NFC West and South, make sure you check it out). Still to come is my preview of the AFC divisions starting Friday. Soon after will be my predictions for the 2013 NFL season. Stay tuned!
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