Predicting the NFC

Many of the teams in the NFC have a shot at the playoffs, but two teams stand strong as favorites to win the conference.

Editor’s Note:>Over the past two days, Viking Update has previewed the 2015 season and made projections how we see the season unfolding. Today we look at the NFC and who will be the contenders and pretenders. Yesterday we looked at the AFC

The NFC may have as many teams capable of making the playoffs as any time in recent history. It can be argued that, coming into the season, there isn’t a team that doesn’t have a shot at the wild card. There are two dominant teams – Seattle and Green Bay. The rest of the conference is wide open. Unlike the AFC, where there are several haves and just as many have nots, a case can be made for a fan base for just about every team to have a shot to make the NFC playoffs, whether as a division champ or a wild card. It’s going to be an open battle just about everywhere.

AFC EAST – This is always a crapshoot because the teams rise and fall so quickly in this division that they tend to pass off the division title from one year to the next. The Cowboys are the defending division champ and they have the horses to get deep into the playoffs. Allowing DeMarco Murray to leave will hurt, but Dallas has the talent to get the job done. The Giants are a team that you figure should finish 8-8 every year, but they tend to either win double-digit games or lose double-digit games. There’s little middle ground. But, to be safe, always pick them to be 8-8.

The most interesting team is clearly the Eagles. Chip Kelly has systematically gotten rid of every elite skill-position player on the team, yet he’s won 21 games in his first two seasons. They’re going to be in it the entire year because it’s clear the NFL hasn’t completely caught on to what they’re doing or how to stop it. But signing Murray away from Dallas could be the difference in winning or losing the division title. Washington is an enigma. Robert Griffin III is facing a crossroads, but the bigger issue is defense. The Redskins allowed 24 or more points in 11 games last year, while scoring 24 or more just five times. You don’t win a lot of games that way.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Dallas 11-5; 2. Philadelphia 10-6; 3. New York 8-8 (don’t hold us to that); 4. Washington 6-10.

NFC NORTH – Like it or not, the Packers are the best team in the NFC. The window may be closing a bit as their success makes it more difficult to re-sign players to big contracts, but, for 2015, get ready to get salty Vikings, Lions and Bears fans.

The Vikings are a team capable of winning a bunch of games, but, as of right now, it is promise unfulfilled. The X Factor is Adrian Peterson. Say what you want, but the timing of A.P.’s return coincided with him being named the 62nd best player in the NFL heading into 2015 by his peers. The Vikings are building a young nucleus on both sides of the ball and, if Peterson plays angry and looking to prove his doubters wrong, there is reason to think that teams will be fearing the Vikings on the schedule. If things go right, 10 wins should be the expectation, not eight.

The Lions have enough horses on offense to stay in games. They don’t have the defense to win with any sort of regularity. Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley won’t be any help to that problem. The Bears are the oldest team in the league and hired an old coach to plug the boat. Prepare for sour times in Sweet Home Chicago.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Green Bay 12-4; 2. Minnesota 9-7; 3. Detroit 8-8; 4. Chicago 6-10.

NFC SOUTH – Take your pick and good luck with that. There isn’t a dominant team in the division. Every team has a giant hole that hasn’t been filled and NFL teams tend to exploit such glaring weaknesses.

Atlanta’s clear weakness is defense. That’s why they hired Dan Quinn. Many factors are catching up with New Orleans. Max Unger may help keep Drew Brees upright, but when he looks for Jimmy Graham and he isn’t there, he has to look for Option B. Jimmy will be missed. Cam Newton plays like he doesn’t care and was rewarded with a huge contract to reaffirm the point that he doesn’t care and he’s rich. The Bucs are going with crab-thief Jameis Winston in hopes of being the catch of the day, but the fact is that the Tampa-2 has come home to roost and seems like an appropriate place to die.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Atlanta 9-7; 2. New Orleans 7-9; 3. Carolina 7-9; 4. Tampa Bay 5-11.

NFC WEST – Seattle has earned its swagger and, if not for a monstrously moronic play-call from the 1-yard line, the 12th man might be barking “3-peat!” Seattle remains the best top-to-bottom team in the NFL despite attrition of players and coaches. They have a bull’s-eye on them that could be critical to their demise, but they’re still holding sway as the big dog in the best division in football.

Arizona is the little brother of the NFC West that has plenty of talent, but not the swagger the Seahawks have. They’re going to be a contender, but their arc is reaching its peak and good things had better happen soon. They will soon be replaced as the next usurper to the Seahawks throne by St. Louis, which had addition by subtraction in the Sam Bradford deal. The 49ers are a Titanic that has everyone who sees the iceberg coming grabbing a boat. Volatile Jim Harbaugh is infamously going shirtless in Michigan, but he was replaced by adding Eric Mangini and Tony Sporano to the staff. Will that mean two bulls in one china shop.

PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Seattle 11-5; 2. Arizona 9-7; 3. St. Louis 9-7; 4. San Francisco 6-10.

PLAYOFF TEAMS – Dallas, Green Bay, Atlanta, Seattle, Philadelphia and Minnesota.

SUPER BOWL TEAM – (Don’t hate us) Green Bay.

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