NFL Season Preview: NFC

Story posted September 5, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by John Murphy

The NFL will be kicking off its 100th season this year, so fans and teams are extra eager to see how their team will fare through the celebration. But which teams will come out on top of their divisions, or even conference, this season? Below is an outlook, preview, and prediction on each NFC team in 2019.

NFC East

1. New York Giants

Here’s something to note: Since 2010, the NFC has had a team go from worst to first in its division six out of eight years. Of those six instances, five came from the NFC East. As one of the most unpredictable divisions in football this decade, it’s easy to see this trend continuing into 2019. The Giants have all the pieces. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones had an outstanding preseason with 416 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Saquon Barkley is still a franchise player and was probably taken first in everyone’s fantasy draft, and the offensive line has seen much-needed improvement. Giants fans hate to hear it, but Eli Manning’s prime has come and gone, and the sooner we see Jones start, the sooner we will see improvement from an up-and-coming young team. With Jones, the Giants are a playoff team and the next worst-to-first team in the NFC.

Prediction: 10-6

2. Dallas Cowboys

With Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys finally coming to terms on a new deal ($90 million over six years), DeMarcus Lawrence agreeing on a five-year deal, and La’el Collins agreeing on another five-year deal, it seems all the offseason questions the Cowboys had are now being answered. In recent years, the Cowboys’ offensive line has been the most reliable and praiseworthy unit, but this season, it seems like will be the defense that earns acclaim. The acquisition of Robert Quinn will only further improve the defense’s status. The NFC East title race is going to be an exciting one this year with almost every team in the heat of the competition.

Prediction: 10-6

3. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles improved on one of their biggest weaknesses last season: running backs. Adding both Jordan Howard from Chicago and Miles Sanders from Penn State, Philadelphia has plenty to be excited about. The biggest question mark for Philly is the quarterback situation. With Carson Wentz proving to be injury prone and Nick Foles now out of the picture, can they rely on veteran Josh McCown, who’s now been on 11 different NFL teams, should Wentz go down again? As for the defense, the departures of both Michael Bennett and Chris Long will likely hinder the line’s prowess. Excitement and cautious uncertainty will be the theme for the Eagles this season.

Prediction: 9-7

4. Washington Redskins

With Landon Collins being the Redskins biggest signing of the offseason, the historically below-average Washington defense is looking to improve for the first time in years. However, with offensive tackle Trent Williams refusing to suit up and the team not trading for more defensive star power or draft capital, it’s hard to see much come out of an already dysfunctional franchise.

Prediction: 4-12

 

NFC North

1. Chicago Bears

The most surprising team last year was definitely the Chicago Bears, which shocked NFL fans with a dominant defense and with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky taking the extra step he needed in his second year. The question now lies on the defense again. Can the Bears survive without Adrian Amos? Is Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a worthy replacement? Of course, the kicking competition hasn’t gained much confidence either, especially with the starting kicker only having job security for just one week. If Trubisky continues his upward trend and the defense stays even half as good as last year, the Bears should be able to compete for at least a wild-card spot, but the NFC North is never an easy division to win.

Prediction: 10-6

2. Green Bay Packers

The Packers have a lot of uncertainties with getting new head coach Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers on the same page, but if we’ve learned anything from watching Rodgers, it’s that he finds a way almost every time. The Packers are coming off their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1991, but their easy schedule this year should help them break that skid.

Prediction: 10-6

3. Minnesota Vikings

The biggest question for the Vikings lies with Kirk Cousins and if he can win the big games he needs to win. After a disappointing season in 2018, the Vikings went all in on trying to rebuild their offense in the draft and in free agency. All they need to do now is get Cousins on the same page while the defense tries to overcome the suspension of cornerback Holton Hill.

Prediction: 6-10

4. Detroit Lions

The Lions face one of the toughest schedules in the league in the first half of the season, and things have already started to turn for the worse, as Jarrad Davis and Frank Ragnow, both starting linemen, suffered ankle injuries in the preseason. While neither are season-ending injuries, Detroit needs all the help it can get in the first half. New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is going to have a lot on his plate right out of the gate for an already subpar team. This is now Matthew Stafford’s fifth new offense to learn under a new coordinator. Will he be able to adjust yet again?

Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints

With defensive end Alex Okafor leaving this offseason, there are some uncertainties about the Saints pass rush. Cameron Jordan, while an amazing defender himself, needs help. If Saints are able to figure out the pieces with Marcus Davenport, it’s hard to see how they could lose even three games this season, especially with Drew Brees still at the helm.

Prediction: 13-3

2. Carolina Panthers

Here’s a fun stat: In years that end in an even number, the Carolina Panthers average 7-9, have zero playoff berths, and only make the playoffs 25 percent of the time. In years that end in an odd number, the Carolina Panthers average 9-7, have two playoff berths, and make the playoffs 42 percent of the time. Why is that more than just a random statistic? Because it shows that the Panthers know how to make adjustments and that the front office is good at pinpointing their mistakes and improving the team in a year. With that said, the team relies heavily on Cam Newton being healthy, and with him already suffering a minor injury in the preseason, the Panthers could be one injury away from going from a wild-card team to being a top-five pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Prediction: 10-6

3. Atlanta Falcons

Offensive line was the Falcons’ main goal this offseason, made evident by first-round draft picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. The Falcons look to get back into the playoff hunt once again after a disappointing 2018 campaign, and with their greatly improved offense, it’s hard to dismiss them. You can never count out Matt Ryan to work his magic, especially with new pieces to get that magic going.

Prediction: 10-6

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston still has a lot to prove in his fifth year as quarterback after so many rocky seasons. Add in a very poor performance from the offensive line this preseason and a sub-average defense, and it’s hard to get excited about much from this Bucs team. The only thing that could save the Buccaneers is if Chris Godwin is able to continue where he left off last season while Winston finally makes that next step.

Prediction: 4-12

 

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle came away with the biggest steal of the offseason in acquiring Pro Bowl edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney from Houston. Even when Seattle struggled at the start of last season, Russell Wilson was able to turn the Seahawks around and push them into the playoffs. The biggest question marks for Seattle will be how they fare without Doug Baldwin and if DK Metcalf can be the breakout star that Seattle needs to win the division again.

Prediction: 12-4

2. Los Angeles Rams

What an amazing performance we saw from Jared Goff in what was essentially his ‘prove it’ season. The Rams will also have Cooper Kupp returning into the lineup: a very promising wideout who would have done the Rams good in the Super Bowl last year. While not much has happened for the Rams this offseason, that might be a good thing with an already proven squad under McVay. The Rams are one of the most well-balanced teams with an amazing defense led by Aaron Donald and an amazing offense by Goff and running back Todd Gurley. Can they repeat an NFC title? It won’t come easy, but it’s certainly a realistic possibility.

Prediction: 11-5

3. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are in rebuilding mode after the last few seasons showed no improvement. Rookie quarterback Kyle Murray will have a lot to prove in a brand new system that nobody has any idea about. Is he ready for such a huge leap into something so different in his first year? Even if he is able to pull it off, what else do the Cardinals have? The pieces are coming together slowly, but like the start of any rebuild, there’s almost nothing connected at first.

Prediction: 3-13

4. San Francisco 49ers

While everyone will be focused on the battle between the Rams and Seahawks for the NFC West title, there will be another battle going on in the NFC West between the 49ers and Cardinals for the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The 49ers continue to struggle at the QB position with Jimmy Garoppolo coming off an ACL tear. If he has even a slight setback, the 49ers are in for another long offseason, and with running back Jerick McKinnon being placed on injured reserve, there’s no telling how much this team will struggle. Could this mean Tua Tagovailoa heads to San Francisco in 2020? We’ll just have to find out.

Prediction: 3-13

 

John Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jbm5928@psu.edu.