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It is the middle of July, and it is time to start thinking about football season right around the corner. Seems like just yesterday my New York Giants were giving it to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in 4 years, and Eli Manning was lifting the MVP trophy for the second time in his career. However that was last year, and it is time to look forward to another great season of football. How will this football season turn out? Will the Giants be able to repeat as Super Bowl champions? Will Tony Romo ever win a came in December? Can Andrew Luck successfully replace Peyton Manning? How long will it take Jets fan to be chanting for Tim Tebow? I will attempt to answer some of these questions as I lay out the football season.

NFC East Preview

      1. New York Giants 11-5The Giants still have the offensive weapons to lead them back to the Super Bowl. Eli Manning has established himself as an elite quarterback in the league. He still has Hicks and Cruz as wide receiver threats. The defense is now healthy and if not bitten by the injury bug, better than the defense that smothered Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The glaring weakness on the team is still running back, where Bradshaw now has to carry the load. The offensive line will need to gel quickly to protect Manning. Manning and the passing game are good enough to lead this team to double digit wins.
      2. Dallas Cowboys 10-6The Cowboys have really improved themselves defensively in the secondary through free agency, a position that cost them 4 of their last 5 games at the end of the season. They have an up and coming star in Demarco Murray, and they have some really good weapons in Austin Miles and Dez Bryant. If the defense plays up to its potential and Tony Romo maintains his focus on football and not country singers, this team could overtake the Giants for the division.
      3. Philadelphia Eagles 8-8Vegas has the Eagles winning 10.5 games this year. If I was a gambling man (which I am), I would bet the bank account on the under. This is a team that has not improved their defense in the off season. Yes, they drafted a DT who will help plug the middle of their gain nine yard defense. However, they did little to upgrade the secondary and their safeties are mediocre at best. Offensively, this team is still run by Michael Vick, a third rate quarterback at best. They have a top 3 running back in the NFL, however Andy Reid is the coach and he does not know how to utilize the talent he has to win football games. And most importantly, they do not have a backup quarterback to play when Vick misses the inevitable 4 to 6 games he always misses a year. Another 8-8 year should get Reid fired, however with the dismissal of Joe Banner, it will earn Reid a promotion to President.
      4. Washington Redskins 6-10The Redskins have definitely started their move into the future, drafting RG3 to be the quarterback. Unfortunately rookies dont just come in and win 12 games their first season. This team does have some pieces in places for RG3, including some decent running backs, Fred Davis at tight end, and a collection of wide receivers nobody would want. This team could surprise and win 8 games, with a good defense and a good offensive line to protect RG3. Anything over 6 to me would be a reach and would make Redskins fan happy since this franchise has been a cellar dweller for years now.

NFC North Preview

  1. Green Bay Packers 14-2The Packers are led by the best Quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers. He still has all his wide receiver threats including the most under-rated wide receiver in the league in Jordy Nelson. The only thing lacking on the offensive side of the ball is a running back. This team was 30th in rushing last year. This team wont need a running game to get back to the playoffs as they have one of the easiest schedules in the league. They will need to improve defensively and stay healthy if they want to return back to the Super Bowl.
  2. Detriot Lions 12-4This is the year that the Lions begin to establish themselves as the new up and coming team in the NFL. Rising star QB Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson lead this team offensively. No Madden cover jinx can sidetrack this offense. They will need the defense to come up big for them. This team is just a few pieces short on defense to being a Super Bowl contender.
  3. Chicago Bears 7-9The Bears recent signing of Matt Forte is one of the smartest moves this off season, along with the trade for Brandon Marshall. How the Bears will utilize the two running backs that they now have on the roster, with the addition of Michael Bush, will determine how many wins they get. This team has the tools and the defense to win more than 10 games, however Jay Cutler will only be able to lead them to 7.
  4. Minnesota Vikings 3-13The Vikings reached in last years draft, picking Christian Ponder with the 12th pick, and he did little to prove he was worthy of that pick. They lost Adrian Peterson late last year, an injury that could keep him sidelined into this season. The defense gave up over 250 passing yards a game last year, and they did not improve in that department in free agency or the draft. This team will be fighting for number one pick in the draft next year.

NFC South Preview

  1. Atlanta Falcons 11-5Matt Ryan is going to need a break out season in a division that is up for grabs. Julio Jones came up big his rookie year, and if that trend continues in year 2, big things could happen for this team. They still have Roddy White opposite giving them one of the best 1-2 WR threat in the NFC. Defensively, they struggled in pass coverage. But the acquisition of Asante Samuel should help them in pass coverage. Matt Ryan needs to learn how to win the big game for this team to go anywhere in the playoffs.
  2. New Orleans Saints 8-8The Saints finally signed Drew Brees, about the only event that was good for the organization this off season. Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire year, and while the Saints seemed prepared for this event by signing line backers in the offseason, neither amount to the talent of Vilma. They lost Robert Meachem to the Chargers, and most importantly they lost Sean Payton for the year. This will be the biggest loss to the team, and will cost them a trip to the playoffs.
  3. Carolina Panthers 8-8The Panthers are led by second year player Cam Newton, who surprised many with this play during his rookie season. His strong play led to the resurgence of Steve Smith, and TE Greg Olsen had another solid year for the team. The team added short yardage expert Mike Tolbert, who could help Newton from running so much in short yardage situations. The team struggled defensively, and will continue to do so this year as well. However, as shaky as the defense is, Newton can bring this team to a .500 win season.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneeers 4-12This team had serious running back issues last year as Josh Freeman was their second leading rusher on the team. The team addressed this issue through the draft by snagging Doug Martin from Boise State. If LeGarrett Blount can stay healthy, their running game will improve. Mark Barron will improve this defense that could not stop the run or the pass last season. The defense is young and will need time to gel and come together. It will not happen for the Bucs this year. It will also be a year to determine whether Josh Freeman can be a fanchise quarterback, or whether this team will be going after Matt Barkley from USC in the next draft.

NFC West Preview

  1. San Francisco 49ers 10-6The 49ers couldn’t beat them, so they signed them. They acquired 2 pieces from the Giants Super Bowl team in Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham, along with the signing of Randy Moss. I am not buying into this team, who looked into signing Peyton Manning in the off season. Instead the stayed with Alex Smith, who granted played well last year, but has never shown he could be that franchise quarterback in the NFL. This year he has no excuses with Moss, Crabtree, and Manningham as wide receivers. They signed Jacobs to help lighten the load from often injured Frank Gore. They still have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and they will need one as this will still be a team that struggles to score points with Smith at QB.
  2. Arizona Cardinals 7-9This team has more questions than answers at the Quarterback position. Honestly, Andy Reid deserves an Oscar for being able to sell Kevin Kolb the way he did. I think Skelton is the play, but they paid Kolb too much money to sit on the bench. But he will struggle and cost this team games before Skelton permanently replaces him around game 6. They still have Larry Fitzgerald who put up decent numbers with no real QB around him. And now with the addition of Malcolm Flyod from Notre Dame and Early Doucet having a good year last year, Fitzgerald could see less double teams. The unsettling nature of their quarterback position will cost this team a 500 season. A difficult schedule will hurt also.
  3. Seattle Seahawks 5-11Matt Flynn will finally have a chance to get out of the shadows of Aaron Rodgers. Last year he looked impressive in a start last year. We will see how he plays when he is not behind a Pro Bowl offensive line. He may be without Marshawn Lynch who is facing possible suspension for 6-8 games for his recent arrest. They added TE Kellen Winslow to go with Zach Miller, and Golden Tate was having a break out season last year until injury stopped him. The defense is pretty solid and will have to play tougher as this team faces a very difficult schedule. And if they lose Lynch, they have no running back to replace him which places more pressure on Flynn.
  4. St Louis Rams 4-12It is amazing to think that a team with Steven Jackson could be this bad. However the inability to stay healthy is a major concern for the Rams. They do get back a healthy Sam Bradford, however he has no wide receiver threats that will scare any defensive coordinator in the NFL. This is a team that will struggle to win the 4 games I gave them. The lack the talent on all sides of the ball to be good. 4 wins may be a stretch, 2 might be more reasonable.

Playoffs

6th seeded Cowboys defeat 3rd seeded Falcons

Tony Romo finally wins a playoff game. Matt Ryan is still ice cold in playoff games.

5th seeded Lions defeat 4th seeded 49ers

No miracle win for Alex Smith this year as Jim Harbaugh wishes he signed Peyton Manning.

Calvin Johnson dances in the end zone on a copy of Madden 13.

1st seeded Packers defeat 6th seeded Cowboys

Tony Romo’s secluded island vacation was delayed a week as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

make the Cowboys see stars.

2nd seeded Giants defeat 5th seeded Lions

A lack of defensive aware allows Eli Manning to have another stellar performance in a playoff

game.

1st seeded Packers defeat 2nd seeded Giants

A late game fumble by Bradshaw leads to a field goal by Crosby and sends the Packers to their second Super Bowl in 3 years.

AFC preview will be here in a few days! As always thanks for reading. I welcome comments and feedback either here or follow me on twitter @ken_progolf.

Ken

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