On The Record: A Quote Filled NFL Preview-NFC Edition
After an opening weekend that showed that the preseason REALLY doesn’t matter, week 1 of the NFL is in the books. What did we learn? It will be a few weeks before everyone actually shows up. Let’s take a look at the NFC. As before, these are all quotes taken from friends and or fan message boards (or I made them up. Guess which ones! Ssshhhhhh).
“Though it’s tough to bet against Peterson in any context – injury, achievement, etc. – they have to rely on ponder to make the next step. Two mediocre to terrible seasons and a woeful preseason later, nobody is confident that ponder is the one who can lead the team deep into the playoffs let alone into the meaningful January games.”
The Vikings were a bit of surprise last year, with Adrian Peterson going all-world and ending up only nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. With Peterson’s MVP season, the Vikings made the jump from 3-13 to 10-6 and a wild card birth. The Vikings biggest problem? Their starting quarterback. This is the third year for Christian Ponder, and he hasn’t been able to answer Trent Dilfer’s draft night criticism. Will this be the year that he breaks out, or is he just as Dilfer puts it “Elvis Grbac”? The Vikings success rely on that answer.
“The realist in me sees an 9-7 season. The optimist sees 11-5 with their second playoff win in half a century.”
The future seemed bright in Detroit. After bottoming out with an embarrassing 0-16 season, the Lions took Matt Stafford out of Georgia. Stafford eventually blossomed into a good quarterback that the Lions could pair with their God-Tier receiver, Calvin Johnson. Added onto that was a powerful defense anchored by Ndamukong Suh and the Lions made the playoffs in 2011 with a 10-6 record. A better record and another playoff performance seemed all but given for this talented team. But, in 2012 the Lions just could not keep the momentum from last season rolling. Calvin Johnson had another great year, but Stafford and Suh took steps back, with Suh earning himself a reputation as the dirtiest player in the NFL. The Lions were also a hardluck team, 10 of their 12 losses came by 10 points or less. This year is a bounce-back year for the Lions, my pick to win this division. For once, the optimist will win out in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers
“The Packers have lost a number of veteran players who stood out as leaders; Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and Charles Woodson in particular. The offensive line has gone through a pretty dramatic restructuring, and there are a few rookies who will need to gain experience and prime-time confidence pretty quickly. Will they make it to the super bowl? Possibly. Will they be the best in their division? Almost certainly.”
The major flaw for the Packers last year was the offensive line. Aaron Rogers is clearly the best quarterback in the NFL, but with no time to throw, the Packers aerial attack was as effective as it should have been. Rogers was sacked 51 times last season, the most in his career, he’ll need to stay upright if the Packers want a chance to bring another Lombardi trophy back to Lambeau Field. Another issue that Scott brings up is the loss of veteran leadership. Woodson, Driver, and Jennings combined for 26 seasons with the Packers, and you don’t replace leaders like that overnight. This is also an interesting year for Mike McCarthy, although his Packers won the 2010 Super Bowl, the past two seasons he has underwhelmed, unable to get the Packers to the NFC title game. If the Packers come up short again this year, don’t be surprised if there are rumblings about the coach in Green Bay.
“I have nervous excitement for the upcoming season. With all of the off-season changes that have taken place, such as the hiring of Marc Trestman and the retirement of Brian Urlacher, I am unsure as to how well the Bears will do this season. But, even though our schedule is moderately difficult, I believe the Bears will go at least 10-6.”
Probably the most intriguing team in this division, The Bears underwent a ton of change during the off-season. First, they fired beloved (by players) coach Lovie Smith and replaced him with Marc Trestman, who most recently won back to back titles in the Canadian Football League. Tresman has a reputation as a quarterback guru, which he’ll need as he tries to rehabilitate the leagues least likable player: Jay Cutler. Cutler has not earned any friends in the media or the fanbase with what many see as a petulant attitude. Cutler was seen screaming at lineman on the sidelines, disregarding coaches advice, and generally seeming like a putz. But, the talent is there. Cutler still has a rocket arm and if coached properly can go touchdown for touchdown with anybody in the NFL. The Bears still have a lot of work to do, but I feel like this could be a big year for the Bears. Playoffs? Maybe. I see the Bears with a positive record, but missing the playoffs due to a competitive NFC North.
“Over the past few years, I’ve had a love hate relationship with Romo; I loved hating his pathetic playoff ass. I still think Romo doesn’t deserve a contract extension, but he also doesn’t deserve the brunt of all the criticism of why the cowboys can’t perform in the playoffs ( if they even get there). I think the key for the cowboys this season is purely communicative. If Bryant run the proper routs correctly then obviously it makes Romo look like a chuckle head. And visa versa, if Romo can’t hold onto a snap it makes our offense look comedic.”
It all comes back to Tony Romo for Cowboys fans. Ever since he appeared on the scene in 2006, Romo has put up the numbers to prove he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He also hasn’t won jack. The Cowboys always seem to under perform or miss expectations, and shockingly, “America’s Team” has found itself without a playoff appearance since 2009. Even if it’s not entirely his fault, the losses seem to come back to Romo. As talented as he is, his flaws seem to have a way of showing up in the biggest games. Whether its throwing a game ending interception, or fumbling a field goal attempt, Romo will find someway to interject himself into a Dallas loss. During the off-season, Dallas doubled-down on Romo, signing him to a 6 year, $108 million dollar contract extension. I don’t think its the best idea for the Cowboys future to get tied up in Romo for the next 6 years, but if it’s what Jerry wants…
New York Giants
“Like many giants teams in the past, their d-line is crucial. If they aren’t getting sacks and pressuring the qb, don’t count on their linebackers and d-backs to pick up the slack. Rookie Dan Connor isn’t exactly the next Antonio pierce.”
I have no idea how to predict this team. The Giants never make any real sense. They have a talented defensive line, a great quarterback, and an elite coach, but somehow they never play up to their competition. The Giants are more than happy to spend the year plodding along to a 10-6 record and then show up everyone in the playoffs because their defense and passing game are so good. The Giants have been fortunate in recent years because the NFC East has been terrible, and they were kings of the dung heap. But now, with both the Eagles and Redskins revitalized, the Giants may find themselves unable to sleep walk through the regular season. If the Giants want to compete this year, Eli Manning will have to prove he can be elite year-round.
“Will the Redskins finally be the DC team to live up to great expectations? (See Capitals 2011, Nationals 2013, Wizards NEVER). It’ll be interesting to see how RGIII’s knee and London Fletcher’s 38-year old body hold up to the pressure of an excited city.”
Poor Redskins fans. Their season ended TERRIBLY. Yes, they did make the playoffs and, yes they now know that they have a superstar QB, but man, losing a playoff game that they led for three quarters and then losing said superstar QB to injury because the home field turf was too shitty. Luckily for ‘Skins fans, RGIII is back and ready to pick up where he left off last season. Despite a shaky showing last Monday, Griffin and the Redskins should be in contention all year. Griffin could be a regression candidate however, as the league now has had a chance to review the tape and prepare game plans. The fact that he didn’t play at all during preseason will probably bode for some rough play early. Don’t be shocked if there are some grumblings for Kirk Cousins to come off the bench and start for this team. These people are idiots.
“Chip Kelly fled Oregon because of impending NCAA sanctions, but did he flee to a better situation? Despite early sucesss, there is no evidence that Chip Kelly’s blur offense will survive a full season in the NFL.”
If it wasn’t for the New England Patriots, the Eagles would have had won the award for most embarrassing off-season. All the good will from courting Chip Kelly (and seducing him from the Browns. Chip Kelly, what a jezebel!) and the potential that his offense could bring to the Eagles was smashed after it was revealed that WR Riley Cooper is a pretty big racist who really overestimates his fighting abilities. And then, hilariously, the Eagles lost their other WRs so they couldn’t cut him! Now the flagrant racist who openly disrespects African-Americans is the best target for Michael Vick (who, you know, is African-American). I wish Hard Knocks had followed the Eagles this off-season, so I could see Riley Cooper’s first day back. The best thing about Chip Kelly’s offense is that it doesn’t stop. If it works, we’ll be looking at the next best trend in the NFL and a real stepping stone for more exciting games. On the other hand, the Wildcat was super popular once.
“2013 could be the year Atlanta finally gets over the hump, but equally possible that NO, SF, Seattle and GB are also better, leaving the Falcons as the 4th best team in the NFC and destined for another early exit in January.”
Every year, there seems to be a good team that no one is afraid of. This team usually goes about its business winning game after game in convincing fashion, but yet leaves pundits and fans unimpressed. Last year this team was the Falcons. Despite going 13-3 and running away with the NFC South title, the Falcons were given the label of “Team everyone wants to face” in the postseason. Atlanta took that label and nearly made the Super Bowl. Despite that success, no one seems to be talking about the Falcons this year. Which is weird, because all the Falcons did was make an NFC Championship Game team even better. Atlanta dumped the corpse of Michael Turner and picked up the shuffling zombie that is Stephen Jackson. Despite the fact that Jackson’s best years are pretty far behind him, he represents a strong upgrade at running back and will give a potent Falcon offense more weapons to work with. Adding Osi Umenyiora gives the Falcons a great addition to their pass rush and some much-needed swagger on defense. Will this team repeat last year’s success? It’s tough to say in a much stronger NFC South, but the Falcons only got better since last year, so expect to see the dirty bird dancing into January.
New Orleans Saints
“With the team back to full strength, we could see an offensive juggernaut. Can they stop anybody? Probably not, but who doesn’t like 47-to-35 games?”
I’ll say one thing about last year’s Saints: they lead the league in righteous anger towards Roger Goodell. The entire city of New Orleans had declared a fatwa against Goodell and any other high-ranking NFL official. The aftertaste of Bounty-Gate (I love how everything gets-Gate attached to it.) left a pereinneal contender without its head coach, and it became clear that the Saints without Sean Payton are like a high-class yacht without an engine. It looks great, you can tell your friends about how good it can perform, but without the motor, it’s just going to sit there. Directionless. Now, with Payton back, the Saints can do what they do best: score all the points. The problem is that this is now a much more competitive NFC South, and the rival Falcons are now more dangerous than ever. While Drew Brees is still one of the top 5 QBs in the league, the Saints lack of defense may cost them.
“Simply put, the Panthers are mediocre. The secondary will prove to be crucial if the Panthers want to make the postseason, and there are serious questions as to whether they’ll deliver. Also, if the team does not make the playoffs, Ron Rivera will probably be dismissed. He’s proven to be a coach that has the inability to motivate so far. Cam Newton has the tools to be successful, but he needs to go through the progressions whilst passing the ball. He just can’t wheel and deal anymore. It’s time to grow up.”
Cam Newton’s faced some unfair criticism in the first two years of his pro career. After a rookie season where Newton wowed experts by throwing for over 3,000 yards and 21 TDs. He followed that up with a much panned sophomore season where he posted…over 3,000 yards passing and 19 TDs. Huh. Granted, Newton threw more interceptions in 2012, but still, many fans would kill for their quarterback to put up numbers like Newton did the past two years. Strangely, Newton also became a target for controversy during the season as many pundits and fans labeled Newton as a “Diva” and that he didn’t care enough about his game. Silly arguments really, Newton is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL and if his development continues, Carolina will see success along the lines of their 2004 Super Bowl appearance. Oh. They also need to fire Ron Rivera DESPERATELY. The guy costs them at least seven points a game, and since the Panthers lost the most close games out of any team last season, they need every point they can get.
Tampa Bay Bucs
“This team hasn’t been good since Gruden left. Warren Sapp is not walking through that door.”
The Buccaneers are in the final year of the Josh Freeman experience and at times, Freeman has seemed great. Other times, pretty mediocre. But in a league filled with bad quarterbacks, Freeman’s been able to hang on just by virtue of being mostly competent. The Bucs are now in a position to make Freeman their future, but I don’t think Josh Freeman can win you a Super Bowl. 9-7? Totally. 10-6? Maybe. NFC Championship Game? No way. The Bucs will finish nearly missing a playoff spot and Freeman will be out of a job.
San Francisco 49ers
“The 49ers have consistently had a great defense. The usual weakness has been the offense. Yet, for the first time in over a decade, the 49ers have the same Head Coach (Jim Harbaugh) and Offensive Coordinator (Greg Roman) returning for a third season. Be prepared to see more points on the scoreboard this year!”
First off, “Who’s got it better than us?” Is the worst slogan I’ve ever heard. 49ers fans are getting dangerously close to New York/Boston smug levels with that. Granted, its a valid question. With a vaunted defense, an excellent QB, and a head coach who looks like his head will explode at every call, the 49ers are a loaded Super Bowl contender. Adding Anquan Boldin to that already dangerous offense makes it hard to pick against them. Boldin made a living with Baltimore last year by catching pretty much anything Joe Flacco threw at him. Kaepernick’s a bit more accurate than Flacco and playing with a receiver whose hands are seemingly made of Sitck-Em will improve his numbers all around. The defense has returned most of its starters, and the 49ers made a sneaky good move in the off-season by adding kicker Phil Dawson. The 49ers are the sexy pick to win it all this year, and its hard to pick against them. Unless you’re a fan of the next team.
“The only thing I love more than my Seahawks is my delicious Starbucks coffee and my city’s lack of an NBA team.”
Who would’ve thought that Pete Carrol would end up being a successful head coach. I didn’t say “good” because, well, he’s not a good football coach. But, he is successful! The Seahawks were a surprise last season, and it seemed that everything really kickstarted for them after they won the Replacement Refs Bowl. After that everything came together for the Seahawks. Russell Wilson proved that short men CAN throw, Marshawn Lynch continued to Beast Mode, and Richard Sherman wiped the floor with Skip Bayless (and played some pretty damn good coverage in the secondary). The Seahawks went from “Hey, maybe they’ll be good” to “Holy shit, they could win the Super Bowl” almost overnight. The Seahawks biggest problem is that they play in the suddenly hyper-competitive NFC West. It’s going to be fun watching them battle to the death with the 49ers over the divison title. I hope it ends with Jim Harbaugh holding Pete Carroll’s severed head while screaming “THIS IS OUR SYSTEM. THIS IS HOW IT WORKS.”
St. Louis Rams
The Rams haven’t been good since Kurt Warner left. They had some mild success with Marc Buldger behind center, but were unable to even come close to the legacy left by the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Now the Rams are facing another crossroad: Is Sam Bradford really any good? Bradford went number one overall in 2010 and since then, he has been less than impressive. At first, injury and lack of talent gave Bradford a pretty good excuse as to why he wasn’t playing up to his draft pedigree, but in year 3 its put up or shut up time for Bradford. Unfortunately that comes at a time when the Rams are more limited offensively than ever. The Rams lost their best two offensive weapons and their best offensive lineman to free agency this year. The Rams may struggle, and Bradford will get the blame if the offense stutters.
“The Cardinals have an arsenal of playmakers on defense and a much improved passing attack but tough divisional opponents will keep them around .500.”
The Cardinals have needed a quarterback for what seems like ages now. If they didn’t get Larry Fitzgerald some help, I think the Peace Corps were going to storm University of Phoenix Stadium. Even though they’ve been stuck on the world’s saddest QB carousel, the Cardinals were able to put together a fairly strong defense last season, and even began undefeated, winning their first four games before dropping eleven of their last twelve. Now, with an actual QB (!) in Carson Palmer running the Cards offense, they’re dangerously approaching competency. At least Larry Fitzgerald will have someone with the arm to overthrow him at the very least.
Well, there you have it: the least professional football preview ever. Good job everyone. We made it. As for the Super Bowl? It’s too early, but I like the Broncos and the Seahawks, with Peyton Manning winning his second ring. See you in four months when its Houston-Atlanta and we all feel like idiots.
When not bastardizing the sacred art of the NFL Preview, Ben Christ writes about videogames and sports for Hobbeslives.com