While the NFC has powerhouse teams like the former champion Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the rest of the NFC is a toss up every year with many teams looking for budding young stars to arise. What teams will we see progress and what teams will continue to struggle? These are my predictions.
Last season,the Los Angeles Rams added Matthew Stafford to a proficient system in need of a leader at quarterback. Bringing in the 13-year veteran proved successful in winning them a ring, and I predict they will be right back in the mix for another one taking the NFC West Title.
The San Francisco 49ers have shown a proficient running game since Kyle Shanahan came to town. Trey Lance will be the deciding factor for this team’s season. If he can live up to the hype, San Francisco will be one of the most exciting, versatile offenses in the league. With Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk lining up out wide, the floor for this team is a Wild Card and second place in the division.
Deandre Hopkins will not be available for the Cardinals’ first six games this season. Arizona has brought in former Ravens receiver Hollywood Brown in an attempt to account for Hopkins’ absence and Christian Kirk’s departure. Having inked a long-term deal with quarterback Kyler Murray, Arizona is locked into the culture that led them to a 7-0 start last season. Unfortunately, their second half of last season has lowered my confidence in this team’s ability to stay competitive while Hopkins serves his suspension, leading them to a third-place finish.
Geno Smith, Drew Locke, put Pete Carroll himself at quarterback, it doesn’t matter. The Seahawks will burn a season of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett’s careers to finish with the worst record in the league. A team who decided to be run-dependent when they had a competent quarterback and a defense that can’t stop the run is not a good formula after running Russell Wilson out of town.
Tom Brady’s absence from the team for 11 days doesn’t scare me. However, Gronkowski retired, Ali Marpet retired and Chris Godwin is nursing a knee injury. The dominant Tampa defense may do the heavy lifting this season, but the division isn’t threatening enough to dethrone the Buccaneers. It’ll be fun to see if Julio Jones revitalizes his career though.
The New Orleans Saints always seem to be a few pieces away. Jameis Winston can move the ball. Alvin Kamara is a top tier running back. Michael Thomas will hopefully play a full season. Rookie Chris Olave is one of the most anticipated rookies in this class. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is out, but Tyrann Mathieu is in. All of the pieces need to fit just right for the Saints to finish above second place.
Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback to come to Carolina since MVP Cam Newton’s historic 2015 season. A team whose best player, Christian McCaffrey, can’t stay healthy has proved detrimental to the team’s success. The team should be better than last year. But the team is young and has too many holes to finish above .500 this season.
Marcus Mariota is a starter in 2022 for the Atlanta Falcons. That is not a typo. The former Heisman winner at the University of Oregon was drafted second overall in 2015 by the Tennessee Titans. As a starter he led the Titans to a third consecutive winning season but was benched midway through the 2019 season for Ryan Tannehill. He was then signed by the Raiders as Derek Carr’s backup and a gadget play guy for the past two seasons. Mariota has the capability to be a solid quarterback and should have some flashes of greatness with Drake London and Kyle Pitts catching passes. It’s a complete remodel from the prior year’s rebuild plan with more upside, but a 5-win ceiling is realistic for this team.
The Minnesota Vikings will finish atop the NFC North for the first time since 2017, and this prediction is not just because I drafted Justin Jefferson with the first pick in my fantasy draft. The Packers are vulnerable for the first time in a while due to the departure of Davante Adams. Kirk Cousins is criminally underrated, and Dalvin Cook is a top 5 running back when healthy. We don’t have to worry about the offense; the defense has always been the problem. Danielle Hunter now has a rushing mate that was swiped from the division rival Packers, Za’darius Smith. This could be one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league if the chemistry is there.
Aaron Rodgers has won MVP after MVP but can’t get past a 13-win season. Green Bay can’t get past the conference championship, and this year I don’t think they reach either of those accolades. The hodgepodge of receivers they have are exciting when they make big plays but don’t seem to be reliable week to week. The backfield duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon will shoulder a lot of the workload, but the downfall of Green Bay is coming.
Hard Knocks was the best thing that’ll happen to the Detroit Lions this season. But the future is bright once they get Jared Goff out from behind center. Dan Campbell will have these guys playing their hearts out, so they could steal more games than expected. They’re just not ready to compete yet.
Matt Nagy is finally gone. The Bears can finally start to build a franchise that will be competent. These first few years of Justin Fields’ career however will be cleaning up the mess that Nagy left behind.
The final division winner will be the Philadelphia Eagles. Jalen Hurts is too talented to not capitalize on the weapons he has now. The run-game will be a little sloppy, but Hurts led the team in rushing last season and can do it again if needed. AJ Brown, a healthy Dallas Goedert, the second year Devonta Smith and a boosted defense that should be Top 10 minimum this season all set them up for at least a 10-win season.
“HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS?” Of course I am saying this ironically as it has become a trend that the Cowboys will underperform. Dak and Zeke never live up to expectations. Ceedee Lamb will have to prove he can be a number one receiver without Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup. Micah Parsons is a DPOY candidate but can’t do it all on his own. Their offensive line is completely demolished, and if they don’t lead the league in sacks given up it’ll be a blessing.
The Commanders will debut as a third-place team in their inaugural season. Carson Wentz is not much of an improvement over Taylor Heineke. The defense is exciting and has some great talent but tends to crumble in the second half of games. I’d love to see them give the Cowboys a run for their money, but a questionable offense and a defense that led the league in passing touchdowns allowed will just be another team that could be a good quarterback away from success.
That means Big Blue and the New York Giants will finish dead last again. This pains me as a Giants fan, but I’m realistic. Daniel Jones is not the answer. The Giants have seven different receivers that could possibly get playing time mixed with what is supposed to be their superstar running back having freak injuries all the time. The defense gets weaker and weaker year by year, and for a team with multiple titles within the past two decades, this might be the worst position they’ve been in the last 20 years.
The NFC looks to have imbalance throughout every division. The competition for division titles may be lacking this year, but sometimes watching bad teams play can be just as fun as watching good ones.