[Ed: Although not published until after week 1 games, this post was written entirely before the games with the exception of an expanded analysis of Seattle and some editorial corrections.]
Seattle Seahawks: As with all Super Bowl teams, the Seahawks will not be as good in the coming year. I don’t think that they were as good this year as their press made them out to be.
Reasons for Concern:
- They have now lost 2 DC’s in the last 3 years. Their latest “man up” is Kris Richards. That will be hard to overcome.
- Kam Chancelor is holding out. He is the leader of that defensive backfield.
- They traded their starting center to New Orleans for TE Jimmy Graham. As the Ravens found out after their SB win in 2014, a starting center is the difference between a dominating Offensive line (2014 play-offs) and the worst running game in the league (2013)
- Also, I think that Graham was exposed last year and that other teams will know how to neutralize him.
- Russell Wilson is buying into the star syndrome.
Prediction: They are due for a major fall.
Green Bay: Green Bay should have gone to the SB last year Or maybe not as they were almost beaten by the Cowboys in the playoffs (Some say they were beaten, except for the refs.). They have kept the team together, so there would have been no reason for them to be just as good this year except for aging players. However the Jordy Nelson injury puts a major roadblock in their path. I don’t think that that is insurmountable, but that remains to be seen.
Prediction: I believe that they will still perform at a high level.
Dallas: How much is a good running back worth when you also have a dominating O-Line? That is the question in Dallas this year. After losing the best running back in the league in the offseason, they have replaced him with a broken-down Darren McFadden and several other unknown running backs. There is no reason that one of those backs may turn into something special. However, DeMarco Murray was always a special back for the Cowboys, he just kept getting hurt. I think they will miss him a lot more than they think. Their defense has also been problematic and it’s filled with Felons and abusers on top of that. I question whether that chemistry will gel this year. Also, people say that the Cowboys tend not to build on their success, so they are due for a comedown from that as well.
Prediction: They should take a step back this year.
Detroit Lions: Year 2 of Jim Caldwell. I am not a big believer in Caldwell. The first year a new coach can come in and establish discipline and improve a team just from that. The second year becomes a test as other teams now know what the coaching schemes are and can gameplan for them better. They also lost both the DT’s Ndomukong Suh AND Nick Fairly. A late career Haloti Ngata will not fill that gap, especially when he gets busted for PED’s again.
Prediction: They will take a step backwards this year
Carolina Panthers: They were lucky to get into the play-offs last year and will not have that this year. Cam Newton has continued to show that his is only effective when he is a running QB. Lucky for them, that he is big enough to take the hits. However, losing Kelvin Benjamin for the year has left the WR pantry empty and they will not recover.
Prediction: Out of the Playoffs
Arizona Cardinals: People are forgetting that the Cardinals where dominating the league last year before Carson Palmer got hurt. Additionally, Drew Stanton provided a serviceable back-up. It was only when he went down and they were left with Ryan Lindley and rookie Logan Thomas at QB that they fell out of contention (even though they did make the play-offs)
Prediction: There is no reason why that they won’t be dominant again this year.
So with only Arizona and Green Bay guaranteed to return to the playoffs (OK and Seattle, too), who will replace the others? The easy answer is Philadelphia. I also think that both Atlanta and New Orleans will be back in. The other team that is almost guaranteed to make the playoffs are the Minnesota Vikings.
Other NFC Teams: Chicago should be much improved. If Fox and Gase can keep from offending Cutler they may be a lot better than anyone expects. Tampa Bay is loaded at the skill positions on offense, however their O-line is terrible and they have a rookie QB not named Dan Marino or Tom Brady. Washington should be better with a stable QB situation with Kurt Cousins. They have quality skill position players, but again a bad O-line. The Giants will be monsters with Bob McAdoo’s offense if the end of last year is any indication. However, their defense is questionable. They brought back Spagnola, but his schemes are too complex and take away players’ instinctiveness. If they can improve their defense, they may challenge for the play-offs again. The 49er’s will suck. The Rams are a total question-mark. But having to play Seattle and the Cardinals twice will make things difficult for them.