[size=12pt] Input would be appreciated, I am turning this in as the NFC preview for my schools newspaper... so any input would be appreciated :)[/size]
Every season the time comes to separate the men from the boys. Only six teams have a chance to make it into the NFC playoffs and contend for the only game that matters, the Super Bowl.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only the start of the season, but it is never to early to start predicting who will make it to the playoffs. Here are six teams to keep track of this season.
Its been over 30 years since the purple people eaters were the most feared line in the NFL. Defensive linemen Alan Page, Gary Larson, Jim Marshall and Carl Eller were four linemen that struck fear into opposing offenses in the late Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ60s to mid Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ70s. Well, the second coming of the purple people eaters have come.
With the offseason pick up of defensive end Jared Allen from the Kansas City Chiefs, the Vikings solidified there defensive line. Defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams and defensive end Ray Edwards will join Allen. The front four will most likely be one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
Another offseason free agent pickup for the Vikings was wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Since Randy Moss left in 2005 the Vikings have been looking to find that big play receiver. They believe Berrian can be that explosive receiver and allow running back Adrian Peterson to run a muck on opposing defenses.
If quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and the defense can stay healthy throughout the season then the Vikings should make it deep into the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers.
The biggest story in the NFL this past offseason has been the waffling of legendary-gunslinger Brett Favre. The man known for his rocket arm and childish love for the game became a sore in most fansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ eyes over the summer. The will he, wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t he play debate has been going on for the past two or three seasons and I for one thought it might finally be over. Alas, it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t over and Favre is back in green, well green and white that is.
The Green Bay Packers looked as if they may be able to take another run for Super Bowl XLIII this season. That is until Favre was traded to the New York Jets for a conditional fourth round draft pick. Not since Steve Young took the reigns from Joe Montana has a team that lost a franchise quarterback returned to super-bowl contention with the successor. Unless Aaron Rodgers is the second coming of Young, Packer fans will most likely be in for years of suffering until they find the second coming of Favre.
Green Bay did not dabble in free agency over the summer, but did make some key draft picks to help their quarterback position. The additions of rookie quarterbacks Brian Brohm from Louisville and Matt Flynn from LSU were brought in to fight for back-up quarterback. With Rodgers history of injury, Brohm or Flynn may be starting sooner then anyone anticipated.
The Packers defense will allow the them to stay in contention for the NFC North, but without a formidable passing game they just will not be able to make a run for the super-bowl, but may be able to make a wild card run.
The Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have shown to be a team that is on the rise and ready to win. Veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme was injured last year after just three games. If he can stay healthy the Panthers should be able to contend in the playoffs. Wide receiver Steve Smith will miss the first two weeks because of a preseason scuffle with teammate Ken Lucas. With Smith out, the receiving core of the Panthers will be in question for first two weeks, but they should do ok without him.
The Panthers drafted running back Jonathan Stewart from Oregon to replace running back DeShaun Foster. Because of Fosters fumbling problem, the Panthers had a hard time keeping momentum on their side. If Stewart has a good year, the Panthers should do great.
The big issue for the Panthers defense is the health of defensive end Julius Peppers. The Panthers totaled only 23 sacks last year which was the lowest in their 13-year history. Peppers looked really good in the offseason. If the defense stays healthy and works together, this team is a playoff contender.
The Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys finished with a 13-3 record last season. They were the NFC favorites to make the super bowl, but they lost to the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs.
With the additions of defensive back Adam Jones and Zach Thomas the Cowboys looks to add to there already stout defense. The 3-4 defense is still a new system under Wade Phillips and it should improve this season.
Tony Romo was the top-rated passer in the NFC and is still improving. This will be his third year as a starter and has yet to win a post season game. As long as Jessica Simpson doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come to every game, Tony Romo should still be the top-rated passer this coming season.
One of the main things that the Cowboys will need to improve to make it to the super bowl is there running game. Running back Marion Barber will need to be effective as a starter so the pressure does not fall on Romo. Running back Felix Jones should do great as a back up to Barber. All in all the Cowboys look like a very solid team.
New York Giants
Even though the Giants did win Super Bowl XLII, I do not think they have done enough in the offseason to be serious contenders again. They will probably make the wild card, but I doubt they will go much further then that.
With the loss of Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending knee injury the Giants defense is not going to be as dominant as it was last season. Because of the loss of Strahan and Umenyiora the pass rush will most likely diminish. I doubt the backups will be able to duplicate last seasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 53 sacks.
With the loss of tight end Jeremy Shockey the offense may struggle, even though when Shockey was injured the Giants seemed to click and quarterback Eli Manning was more relaxed then when he was on the field.
If Manning can take the next step and become an elite quarterback this team could become more then just a wild card candidate. Manning did show what he can do in the playoffs and super bowl, but throughout the actual season last year he was more of a liability to the team.
The Seahawks are an easy choice for playoff contention in a division that contains the San Francisco 49ers, Saint Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. They have finished first place in their division for the past four years running.
This is Coach Mike HolmgrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last year as the head coach for the Seattle Seahawks and the team may give an extra push just for him. Defensive Backfield Coach Jim Mora has already been selected to succeed Holmgren in 2009.
You have heard the expression, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Offense sells tickets, defense wins games?Ã¢â‚¬Â this statement could not be more true then it is this season. Any team that has a dominant defense has the opportunity to make a run for the playoffs.
The Seahawks donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a good defense. They blew a 14-0 lead in their playoff game against the Green Bay Packers in January. Unless they can come together as a defensive team they will not go far. They are a shoe-in for the playoffs only because they play in such a weak division. I do not see them making it further then the first round.