2007 NFC Preview: Mad Scramble to the Top

Barry Rothbard

NFC EAST

1. Dallas: The Cowboys seem ready to take the next step this year. If QB Tony Romo can recover from last season’s collapse in the playoffs, he can lead his team deep into the playoffs. Romo’s experience, the talented combination of running backs Julius Jones and Marion Barber and a stingy defense make this team a serious contender.

2. *Philadelphia: The Eagles will go as far as McNabb’s balky knee can take them this year. Because of that, I cannot predict that they will win this division. RB Bryant Westbrook is officially a star, Reggie Brown is a budding stud at WR and the defense is steady. Yet McNabb seems to get hurt every year, and Philly’s window to win is narrowing rapidly.

3. Washington: The Redskins are an extremely talented team with two stellar running backs in Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. However, they have a huge question mark at QB in the inexperienced Jason Campbell. If Campbell can limit his mistakes and the defense finally plays up to its potential, the Redskins could make some noise this year.

4. Giants: Different year, same old story for my beloved Giants. With arguably the most disliked coach in all of professional sports, the Giants need to prove that they want to be on the field before one can even begin talking about them as a contender. For all the talent on this team, the Giants lack the one key element that every successful team needs: heart.

NFC NORTH

1. Chicago: The Bears lost their starting running back (Thomas Jones) and start one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks of all time (Rex Grossman). But the Bears still play in the NFC North and they have a budding star at running back in Cedric Benson. There is simply no team that is in the Bears’ class in this division.

2. Detroit: I don’t believe in QB Jon Kitna, but I do believe in the dynamic duo of Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson at WR. Anyone should be able to throw for 25 touchdowns and 2,500 yards simply by tossing the ball up and letting these two studs try and come down with it.

3. Green Bay: It pains me to rate a team led by the legendary Brett Favre this low, but he just isn’t the same QB he once was. While rookie RB Brandon Jackson shows some serious promise, he and WR Donald Driver are simply not enough for the Packers to contend this season.

4. Minnesota: Tavaris Jackson is not the answer at QB for this team. He will make mistake after mistake and put this talented defense in holes too big to climb out of. Adrian Peterson, the cream of the talented rookie RB crop, will be the lone bright spot for the Vikings.

NFC SOUTH

1. New Orleans (NFC Finalist): The Saints overachieved last year, but they still have RB Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston around to snag Drew Brees’ spirals. They might not make too many stops themselves, but who cares? They have the ability to drop 50 points on any given Sunday. As long as the defense can make a few stops , the Saints promise to repeat as last year’s great success story.

2. Carolina: If the Panthers had a reliable answer at QB, they would be the unanimous favorite to make the Super Bowl from the NFC. DeAngelo Williams should continue to impress in his second season at RB. WR Steve Smith and DE Julius Peppers will keep doing what they do and make big plays.

3. Tampa Bay: The Bucs have the potential to surprise a lot of people this year. Tampa’s defense always seems to find a way to make big plays. With a QB (Jeff Garcia) who has both the biggest heart and hottest wife in the NFL, the Bucs could make some noise this year if RB Cadillac Williams can rebound from last year’s poor performance.

4. Atlanta: Michael Vick. Dogfighting. Jail. Enough said.

NFC WEST

1. San Francisco: If RB Frank Gore can stay healthy, the 49ers have a legitimate shot to reach the Super Bowl. Their defense has made huge strides in the past year and QB Alex Smith seems like he knows how to run a team. TE Vernon Davis is one of the most exciting young players in the league.

2. *Seattle (NFC Champion): RB Shaun Alexander should go back to being his old self this year. Matt Hasselbeck is as steady as they come at QB, and WR Deion Branch should flourish in his second year with the ‘Hawks. Their defense is unheralded, but led by the talented LB Lofa Tatupu, they seem to make plays every week.

3. Arizona: QB Matt Leinart will have a huge season with two of the most reliable WR’s in the game in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Also, RB Edgerrin James can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year. As long as this defense can come up with some big plays, this team has the ability to outscore anyone.

4. St. Louis: Torry Holt’s knee is in bad shape and WR Isaac Bruce is washed up. RB Stephen Jackson is a bona fide stud, but QB Marc Bulger never stays healthy. Also, the Rams’ defense simply has too many holes.