2018 NFC Preview

Well, yesterday I crowned the Jaguars as the 2018 AFC champions. But who will they play in the Super Bowl? If you read my article yesterday, you might’ve realized that I’m not too high on the AFC. I think the only teams I had with winning records are the six playoff teams. The NFC however, is a different animal. The NFC is hard to pick because you could make a legitimate case for almost every team to be a playoff team. So let’s look at each division to see which lucky six get to play in early 2019.

NFC West

I’m going to start with the west because to me, it’s one of the easier divisions to pick in the NFC. The Rams are of course the clear favorite to win. Not only were they 11-5 last year, they added star power on offense and defense with Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, and Marcus Peters. If Jared Goff can build on an impressive sophomore season, this team could steamroll their way into the playoff. The rest of the west will be chasing the Rams, but they won’t necessarily be bad. Many people don’t realize that the Cardinals were 8-8 last year, and that was without David Johnson and with a combination of Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton at QB. Sam Bradford is an upgrade at the quarterback position if he can stay healthy and David Johnson is an elite running back. Add ole reliable Larry Fitzgerald and a stout defense lead by Chandler Jones, and this team could make waves in the NFC playoff picture. The Seahawks are a shell of their former selves. The Legion of Boom is all but gone, save for Earl Thomas, who’s holding out. The Seahawks will win some games because of Russell Wilson, but with an unproven run game an inexperienced defense, and a poor offensive line, it will be along season for Seattle fans. Then of course, we have the 49ers. They were undefeated last year with Jimmy G at the helm. Some people have them as a playoff lock and others even have them winning the division. While Jimmy G obviously improved the team, I think people need to pump the brakes a little. The Niners will be a solid team but I still think they are a year away from truly competing for a playoff spot. They still have some question marks at receiver and on defense, plus they just lost their feature back Jerrick McKinnon for the season. So what will the final West standings look like?

Rams: 12-4

Cardinals: 8-8

Niners: 8-8

Seahawks: 6-10

NFC East

Let’s travel to the east next where the defending Super Bowl champs reside. The Eagles bring back nearly everyone from their run last season. The big question mark is at quarterback. Carson Wentz wasn’t cleared for week 1 vs the Falcons. I wonder when he’ll be cleared and when he is, will he be ready? Or can the Eagles take as much time as they want because they have Nick Foles? I think either way, they’ll be fine, although I do think they’ll take a step back. The Giants certainly improved this offseason, strengthening the offensive line, drafting Saquon Barkley, and signing OBJ to a long term deal. Add in two time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning and the young and dangerous Evan Engram and you have a potent offense. The big question mark for them will be defense. The Redskins improved as well, trading for veteran quarterback Alex Smith, who’s coming off a career year. They also got better by guys getting healthy. The Redskins led the league last year in injuries. Losing Guice for the year hurts, but hopefully a slew of running backs headed by Adrian Peterson can fill the void. And then there’s the Cowboys. They lost both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, leaving a huge question mark at receiver for them. They have pieces, with guys like rookie Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns. They also have Ezekiel Elliot, who should be around for a full season. That will certainly help Dak Prescott, as we saw last year that he struggled when he has to shoulder the load. Final standings:

Eagles: 10-6

Redskins: 9-7

Giants: 7-9

Cowboys: 6-10

NFC South

The NFC south featured three teams last year that made the playoffs. And there’s no reason to think that this year will be any different. The Saints return future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, as well as rookies of the year Alvin Kamara and Marcus Lattimore. This team is ready to get back to the playoffs and hopefully put last year’s crushing defeat behind them. The Panthers were the second playoff team, losing to the Saints in the first round. They return a lot of key players as well and made some good offseason moves. CJ Anderson is a solid back to run alongside Christian McCaffrey. DJ Moore will hopefully be the number 1 receiver that Cam Newton needs. However, losing Matt Kalil is a huge hit to that offensive line. I’m not even going to talk about the Bucs because I think they have no shot of doing anything. Not only has Jameis Winston been inconsistent at the quarterback position, he’s shown a lack of maturity throughout his time in Tampa. I think it’s time for them to cut ties and rebuild the franchise. The last team to talk about is the Falcons. I saved the Falcons for last because I think they are the most interesting team. They drafted Calvin Ridley, who’s a solid option opposite Julio Jones. Their defense is also looking solid. I think their defense could be sneaky good and easily be in the top 10 this year. The big thing for them though is that Steve Sarkisian has a year of experience under his belt. This offense was better than people realized last year. They were top 3 in yards per drive. The issue is that their red zone efficiency was terrible. I think that will change this year with Sarkisian learning for his mistakes. This offense will click and the Falcons will be a force to reckon with both offensively and defensively. Final standings:

Falcons: 12-4

Saints: 11-5

Panthers: 9-7

Buccaneers: 3-13

NFC North

Last but not least, we have arguably the best division in football: The NFC North. The Vikings return their entire defense, get Dalvin Cook back, and got Kirk Cousins. My big issue with the Vikings is that they didn’t really improve at quarterback. I think Kirk Cousins is a much better quarterback than Case Keenum, but I don’t think you’ll get much more production out of Cousins this year than you did Keenum last year. But what you do get is stability. Cousins can give you years like last year every year. However, Cousins has been known to lay eggs in big games. Vikings fans are hoping that they don’t see a repeat of last years NFC Championship at some point in the playoffs this year. While the Vikings may have more stability at quarterback, the Packers have true star power. Aaron Rodgers is back and ready to take the NFC by storm. Picking up TD machine Jimmy Graham will certainly help out Rodgers. Add in Davante Adams and Jamaal Williams and the offense will be as strong as ever. One thing the Packers did that I loved this offseason was draft defensively. Their first two picks were at the cornerback position and both corners could have an instant impact on defense. If the Packers can have an above average defense with Aaron Rodgers on offense, they could be ready for Super Bowl run. The Lions are in a tough position. They are hoping to have solved the running back position with Kerryon Johnson and Legarrette Blount however, outside of Ziggy Ansah and Darrius Slay, their defense is going to be the big question mark. The Bears are also in a tough position. Being in this division isn’t easy for a team looking to rebuild. However, with the addition of Khalil Mack, this Bears’ defense is a legitimate threat and second only to the Vikings. If the offense can live up to their potential under Matt Nagy, this team could make a run at a Wild Card spot. Final standings:

Packers: 13-3

Vikings: 11-5

Bears: 8-8

Lions: 7-9

So if you’re keeping track, the NFC playoff picture looks like this:

  1. Packers
  2. Falcons
  3. Rams
  4. Eagles
  5. Vikings
  6. Saints

So in the first round, we have Rams vs Saints and Eagles vs Vikings. I think the Saints are able to send the Rams packing and the Eagles handle the Vikings again like last season. So the divisional round becomes Packers vs Saints and Falcons vs Eagles. The Falcons dispatch the Eagles and the Packers are able to beat the Saints. For the NFC Championship game, we have a rematch of the NFC Championship game from a couple years ago. This time, the Packers get their revenge and head to their second Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers.

In the Super Bowl, the Packers square off against the Jaguars. Aaron Rodgers is by far the superior quarterback and is able to make the Jaguars defense look silly. Rodgers hoists his second Lombardi Trophy and wins Super Bowl MVP.

Super Bowl Champs: Green Bay Packers

-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)

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