NFC North Picks, Preview and Predictions
NFC North Division Winner: Green Bay Packers (-154 at Bet Mayor Sportsbook)
While it’s hard to say what teams like Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota are going to do this season, it is clear the Green Bay Packers are the class of the NFC North yet again. As long as Aaron Rodgers is playing quarterback, the Packers will have a chance to make a deep playoff run. If their key skill position players like Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson can stay healthy the Packers will have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. The addition of Julius Peppers will provide some stability on defense and if they can slow down opposing offenses to some extent they will run away with the NFC North. The new regime for the Chicago Bears will have major issues on defense again this season, after allowing almost 27 points per game last season they will be starting three rookies in 2014. Their secondary, specifically their safeties are among the worst in the league and when you play teams like Green Bay and Detroit twice a year it is hard to be successful if you can’t slow down the passing game. Minnesota was the only passing defense worse than Chicago’s last season. They brought in Norv Turner as their new offensive coordinator but that isn’t going to fix a defense that lost its best player, Jarod Allen, to the rival Bears. While any team with Adrian Peterson has the potential to win some games, the Vikings have too many holes on both sides of the ball to be contenders this year. The Detroit Lions could make a playoff push if they can limit the mental mistakes and Reggie Bush stays in the field. They actually had the best defense in their division last year and that won’t change this season. If their offense doesn’t stall at the end of games and they can limit their penalties under new head coach Jim Caldwell, they could be a darkhorse to snatch the NFC North from the Packers.
NFC North Final Standings Prediction
Green Bay Packers 12-4 (Odds to Win NFC North -154 at Justbet Sportsbook)
Detroit Lions 10-6 (Odds to Win NFC North +360 at Bet Mayor Sportsbook)
Chicago Bears 9-7 (Odds to Win NFC North +345 at Carbon Sportsbook)
Minnesota Vikings 5-11 (Odds to Win NFC North +1250 at Carbon Sportsbook)
NFC North Final Thoughts: We really like some of the changes this division made during the offseason. The Lions secondary should be improved, Chicago should be able to score with any team in the league this year and Green Bay is still a Super Bowl contender. Peterson can only put the Vikings on his back for so many games, making them the only team not fighting for playoff spots in the final weeks of the regular season.
NFC West Picks, Preview and Predictions
NFC West Division Winner: Seattle Seahawks (-145 at JustBet Sportsbook)
The NFC West looks to be two horse race between teams who won’t be happy with anything short of a Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. While many people believe the NFC’s Super Bowl representative will come from this division, we think this is the year the rest of the NFC catches up with the West. San Francisco’s defense isn’t getting any younger. They will be without NaVorro Bowman for much of 2014 with a torn ACL he suffered in January, Aldon Smith will likely be suspended for part of the season and Justin Smith turns 35 in September and Patrick Willis turns 30 this season. Add that to an aging Frank Gore and Vernon Davis and this could finally be the season San Francisco takes a step backwards. Seattle bolstered its defensive front in hopes of containing Colin Kaepernick, last offseason and it worked. Their lockdown defense and strong running game carried them to the Super Bowl while Russell Wilson wasn’t spectacular, he didn’t have to be. They won’t win many shootouts but their defense is so strong that they don’t need to score many points to win games. Combine that with the best home field advantage in the NFL and the Seahawks will be playing football into January again this year. The Arizona Cardinals surprised some people last season winning 10 games behind an outstanding run defense. But three of the key players responsible for that success are gone including Karlos Dansby who went to Cleveland, Daryl Washington who is suspended for the season Darnell Dockett who tore his ACL and will miss all of 2014. The Cardinals who relied on their ability to stop the run last season won’t have that as a strength this year and will regress because of it. The Rams were a trendy pick to emerge as a breakout team this season, as their young players were said to be maturing and their youngest defense in the NFL was supposed to finally make strides. Then, last weekend, quarterback Sam Bradford tore his ACL. So, with the very average backup Shaun Hill taking snaps for the Rams their playoff chances fall dramatically.
NFC West Final Standings Prediction
Seattle Seahawks 12-4 (Odds to Win NFC West -145 at Justbet Sportsbook)
San Francisco 49ers 10-6 (Odds to Win NFC West +177 at Justbet Sportsbook)
Arizona Cardinals 9-7 (Odds to Win NFC West +829 at Justbet Sportsbook)
St. Louis Rams 4-12 (Odds to Win NFC West +1450 at Carbon Sportsbook)
NFC West Final Thoughts: The race between Seattle and San Francisco will be an important one heading into the playoffs because both of these teams like their home field advantage. Seattle plays great at home and terrible on the East Coast while San Francisco is almost unbeatable at home. The Cardinals defense will have the defense that has the most success against the high-powered offenses in San Fran and Seattle but their own lack of offense will keep them out of the division race.
NFC East Picks, Preview and Predictions
NFC East Division Winner: Philadelphia Eagles (-117 at JustBet Sportsbook)
The NFC East was once considered the most physical division in all of football, now it is considered one of the weakest. Only one team, the Eagles, had a winning record and reached the post season in 2013. They lost to the Saints 26-24 in the Wildcard round. Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly brought his fast paced offense to the NFL and many said it wouldn’t work, but the Eagles were 4th in the NFL with 27.6 points per game last season and first in the NFL with 160 rushing yards per game. Their defense needed to improve after allowing almost 300 passing yards per game last season so they spent 5 of their 7 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball and if any of their rookies can produce they will run away with this division. The Washington Redskins proved how important Robert Griffin III is to their team after going 3-13 without him last season. This lead to the firing of coach Shanahan and the start of Jay Gruden’s tenure. They added the Eagles number one receiver Desean Jackson to play alongside Pierre Garcone to create a serious WR tandem. Their biggest question will be whether or not RGIII can return to his rookie form. The extra season to help prepare for what RGIII brings to the table will help NFC East defenses learn to contain him. The New York Giants enter the season looking for some old magic from Eli Manning because he is coming off his worst season in the NFL throwing an unimaginable 27 interceptions. Their offense only scored 18 points a game last season and Eli was sacked 39 times. The Giants are also switching to a west coast offense this season, which Manning has never ran before and it will take them a few weeks to get a feel for it. Their defensive line, lack of running game, and the mistakes from Eli Manning will keep the Gaints near the bottom of the division all season long. The Cowboys have literally rebuilt their entire defensive line and started from scratch. The whole dilemma for the Cowboys is their defense. Their offense can score with anyone but they can’t win a shootout every week as Tony Romo’s lack of clutch plays in important games has been well documented. If they can run the ball effectively and get some semblance of a defense, especially in fourth quarters, the Cowboys will have an outside shot of winning this very mediocre division. Regardless of who comes out on top, the NFC East will square off with the NFC West this season and it’s going to be a long season for all four of these teams with none of them having a shot at a Super Bowl run.
NFC East Final Standings Prediction
Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 (Odds to Win NFC East -117 at JustBet Sportsbook)
Dallas Cowboys 7-9 (Odds to Win NFC East +440 at Justbet Sportsbook)
New York Giants 6-10 (Odds to Win NFC East +393 at Justbet Sportsbook)
Washington Redskins 6-10 (Odds to Win NFC East +400 at Justbet Sportsbook)
NFC East Final Thoughts: The success of the Redskins depends a lot on the health of RGIII, and we are anticipating him being at least banged up during the season. The Giants will continue to regress and Philadelphia’s high speed offense will be hindered by its defense. The Cowboys will lose a close, important game at the end of the season, again, to keep them out of the playoff picture this year.
NFC South Picks, Preview Predictions
NFC South Division Winner: New Orleans Saints (-191 at Carbon Sportsbook)
The unpredictable NFC south looks to be a crapshoot again in 2014. No team has repeated as champion in this division since 2002 which is bad news for the Panthers who finished 12-4 last year and won it. The Saints will be better and will be looking to knock off the Panthers who do have a very solid lineup top to bottom. Any time you have Drew Brees as your quarterback, you’re in good hands. The Saints are still an elite NFL team with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston doing their jobs, they will score points. The Saints defense was the shocker last year, as they rose to top 10 in the league and another showing like that will have the Saints atop the NFC South. The formula for success in the NFL right now is a strong defense and a running game, and the Saints have neither, which is why it’s tough to see them beating a Seattle or a San Francisco in the playoffs. It’s hard to believe that a Falcons team that went 13-3 in 2012 fell all the way to 4-12 in 2013. Most point to Julio Jones and Steven Jackson’s inability to stay healthy as the biggest reason for the teams downfall. The injury concerns weren’t addressed in the offseason and they will be one key player going down away from mediocrity again this year. A healthy Julio Jones will help fur sure but the loss of Tony Gonzalez and a below average defense leads us to believe this Falcon team will be 9-7 at best, if they can stay on the field. The Panthers sit below the Falcons as far as odds to win the division go, which is interesting considering Carolina’s dominance in this division last year. Carolina will have one of the best defenses in the league again this season lead by defensive player of the year Luke Kuechly. Their weakness is the receiving core with names like Jerricho Cotchrey and Jason Avant that won’t scare opposing defenses and make life very hard for Cam Newton. Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are going to have to play closer to their potential this season if Carolina is going to repeat as division winners. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be better than their 4-12 season in 2013, they have to be, but that isn’t saying much. It’s a stretch to say that they can compete with the better teams in this division with a new QB in Josh McCown and a questionable receiving core. Their defense will be their strength but you need an elite signal caller to be successful in this league and Tampa doesn’t have that.
NFC South Final Standings Prediction
New Orleans Saints 11-5 (Odds to Win NFC South -191 at Justbet Sportsbook)
Atlanta Falcons 9-7 (Odds to Win NFC South +485 at Justbet Sportsbook)
Carolina Panthers 8-8 (Odds to Win NFC South +455 at Justbet Sportsbook)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10 (Odds to Win NFC South +775 at Justbet Sportsbook)
NFC South Final Thought: The Carolina Panthers will take a big step back this season and make way for the Saints to run away with this divison. Atlanta is too injury prone and Tampa Bay doesn’t have the quarterback play to compete. If the Falcons can stay healthy they will have an outside shot as a Wild Card team but New Orleans is the only sure playoff team in this division