NFL Kickoff is two days away, and it couldn’t be a better feeling. For all 32 NFL teams, the past is the past, and a clean slate has arrived upon a new NFL season. Last season, the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in a close finish in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVIII.
This season, fans should expect differing results from a season ago—as always, how could you NOT love NFL football? In the NFC, the 49ers will most likely dominate once again, along with the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. Unlike the AFC though, the NFC is loaded—every NFC team has a legitimate chance to shock the NFL world this season, even a team like the Carolina Panthers (really?)
For a special NFL edition on Packers 101, here are our 2013 predictions in the NFC:
New York Giants
Although the Super Bowl is in their home stadium this year, don’t expect any kind of curse to be handed down to the Giants. Despite missing the playoffs last season, this team is more than capable of returning to the Super Bowl.
The Redskins should win at least eight games this season, but the fate of the season largely depends on the health of star quarterback Robert Griffin III. If RG3 can’t stay upright, mediocre won’t be enough to save head coach Mike Shanahan’s job in D.C.
There is so much talent there…but too much pressure. The Cowboys have played poorly down the late-season stretch the past couple of seasons, and expect a finish in similar dramatic fashion again in Dallas—it’ll be ultimate difference between the playoffs or another bust of a season.
A hard team to project, nobody knows how well new head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced no-huddle offensive system will adapt in the NFL, so seven wins is a safe bet for the Eagles in 2013.
Green Bay Packers
San Francisco ruined their season in embarrassing fashion last year, and that is all the Packers have thought about before opening their season against the 49ers. The Packers arguably have the NFL’s best quarterback, but the team isn’t at San Francisco’s level right now.
The Vikings may build momentum off of their stunning 2012 finish into the 2013 season…but don’t expect it. Minnesota will face some of the league’s best rush defenses (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Seattle, Chicago twice) from a season ago, and having to force quarterback Christian Ponder to win games may make Vikings die-hards sick.
It’ll be hard to recognize the Bears without future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher (retirement) in the middle, and a primary focus on offense. Out is defensive-minded Lovie Smith, in is quarterback-guru and former CFL coach Marc Trestman… this should be interesting.
The Lions may have the most talented bunch of players who the coaches seem to get the least amount of talent out of—probably because of a consistent lack of focus and discipline last season, which can easily be blamed on head coach Jim Schwartz, who may have lost control of this football team.
Atlanta was this close to returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1998 season, and although this team is still the perennial NFC South favorite, lacking a game-changer on defense (Osi Umenyiora is solid, but declining) will be a huge negative heading into 2013.
After starting last season 2-8, the Panthers finished 5-1 in their last six games, and even beat the eventual division champion Atlanta Falcons in Week 14. Last season, the Panthers lost four games after they were leading or tied in the fourth quarter, and seven games by six points or less. If they clean-up the mistakes on both sides of the football, Carolina will surprise many fans.
New Orleans Saints
Having head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines is great for the Saints and all, but it won’t help the NFL’s all-time worst defense. The Saints give up way too many points and yards on a consistent basis, and Drew Brees better be ready for many offensive shoot-outs in 2013.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A make or break season for quarterback Josh Freeman, seven wins would not be ideal for the Bucs—but it would be a sign of improvement for the Bucs under head coach Greg Schiano
San Francisco 49ers
With arguably the top dual-threat quarterback (Colin Kaepernick), a physical offensive line (one Pro Bowl selections, two alternates), and the NFL’s top linebacker core (Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman), the 49ers remain a Super Bowl contender
If the Seahawks were still in the AFC, they would be projected to clinch home-field advantage…but instead, the reigning NFC Champions just so happen to sit in the same division as the Hawks. Despite the fierce division-rivalry, the Seahawks are a legitimate Super Bowl contender as well.
St. Louis Rams
Jeff Fisher is the perfect coach for the Rams, but with the superlative dominance of the 49ers and Seahawks in the NFC West, the Rams are not quite there yet—but they are certainly on their way towards the top
Reigning NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians takes over the Cardinals, and has the tough task to not only rebuild the Cardinals, but save new quarterback Carson Palmer’s NFL career. The Cardinals have some positives moving forward, but right now, the negatives outweigh them quite a bit.
NFC Most Overrated Teams: Falcons, Cowboys, Saints
NFC Most Underrated Teams: Panthers, Rams, Buccaneers
NFC Coaches on the Hot Seat: Jim Schwartz (Lions), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Ron Rivera (Panthers), Mike Shanahan (Redskins)
NFC Coach most likely to get fired during season: Schwartz
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