This week the focus is on the NFC.
Next week, on the eve of the start of the regular season, I’ll have my
projections for how the 2001 season will unfold and project the result of Super
NFC East: Philadelphia is
the team on the rise with QB Donovan McNab maturing as a quarterback.
He was outstanding last year, more impressive when you consider that much
of the latter half of the season was played without star running back Duce
Staley. With an above average
defense the Eagles should again make the Playoffs with a legitimate shot to win
The New York Giants won the
Division last season due mainly to the lock they seemingly have over the Eagles
(the G-men have defeated the Eagles nine straight times) and the weakness of the
other three teams. The Giants are
not flashy. Given their schedule
the Giants could finish anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6 with 8-8 a very likely
Washington is the ”˜wild card’
key to the division. Although the
Redskins are an aging team they have a good mixture of youth and experience at
most skill positions and on both sides of the ball. New coach Marty Schottenheimer should run the team with a
free hand. Schottenheimer’s teams
often overachieve, and recall that Washington did start 6-2 last year with six
of its eight losses by six points or less.
There’s a huge gap to Dallas and
Arizona. Both teams have major problems on both sides of the ball. Arizona owns
the better offense because of the experience edge held by QB Jake Plummer over
Dallas rookie Quincy Carter.
Minnesota must deal with the retirement of RB Robert Smith, but coach
Dennis Green has made the Playoffs in eight of his nine seasons.
And having one of the top five quarterbacks (Daunte Culpepper) and two of
the top ten receivers (Randy Moss and Cris Carter) only solidifies the
expectation that the Vikings will again contend.
Their chances may be as good as
Tampa’s given that there are questions about whether QB Brad Johnson will make
a difference in directing the offense. No
questions about the defense though.
Green Bay and Detroit both figure
to contend for the Playoffs. The
Packers played very well down the stretch and with QB Brett Favre healthy the
Pack should be in contention again. Detroit
has the nucleus of a contending team with a solid RB, James Stewart, and a pair
of gifted receivers, Johnnie Morton and Germaine Crowell, to enable an average
QB, Charlie Batch, to succeed.
The Bears have made some
improvements on defense with LB Brian Urlacher having an outstanding rookie
season in 2000. The offense has
many questions, including QB. Give Chicago about two years to catch up in the
NFC West: The
Rams have retooled their defense, which will
complement their high powered offense. If
teams are to defeat the Rams they are more likely to do it earlier rather than
New Orleans became the fifth NFC
West team to win the Division in five years when the captured the title last
season. The Saints are a team on the upswing. Aaron Brooks has
been named starting QB but backup Jeff Blake is more than capable.
San Francisco will be tested after
having lost RB Charlie Garner and WR Jerry Rice.
QB Jeff Garcia had a breakthrough season last year and Rice’s
leadership will be missed. San Francisco has an outside chance to make the
Atlanta has the better short term prospects than Carolina, especially if Falcon RB Jamal Anderson is in full health. Carolina will likely start rookie QB Chris Weinke and hope for the best.