Earlier this week, we broke down all 16 teams in the AFC Conference. Now, we are here to give you our previews for the NFC Conference, which produced last year’s Super Bowl winners: The Seattle Seahawks. Will Seattle repeat as champions of the NFC West, and reclaim the pivotal #1 Seed? Find out below!
1. Philadelphia Eagles: 10-6
Last year, all the buzz in the NFL was around Chip Kelly and his high voltage offense taking the NFL by storm. However, after scoring 3 points against Dallas, and 7 against the Giants in the middle of the season, everyone was laughing at the Eagles. Well then, they riled off seven of eight games, including a blistering 54-11 win over Chicago on Prime Time Sunday night football in Week 16, and now, the Eagles are one of the most feared teams coming into this season. In a division that is riddled by average teams, the Eagles should be able to win the division with their offense alone. If they don’t win, it will likely be because of their weak defense.
Shady McCoy is the #1 guy on many draft boards, and for good reason. However, the guy we want to point out is QB Nick Foles. Last year, the Eagles averaged 24 seconds in between plays. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that more plays= more fantasy points. If you don’t get one of the big three (Peyton, Brees, Rodgers), then I would load up on WRs and RBs, and plan on getting Foles in the 5th or 6th round. If he plays all 16 games, Foles should be a top 5 fantasy QB.
2. Washington Redskins: 8-8
Last year was a nightmare for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. RG3 was crippled both physically and mentally by his knee injury in the playoffs the year before, he didn’t get along with Coach Shannahan, and the team basically fell apart around them. Now, they have a new coach, Jay Gruden, a mew system, and RG3 figures to be revitalized. I don’t think they will get back to the playoffs this year, but I certainly expect them to improve on last year’s showing.
Most of the attention on the offensive side will be on the new addition, Desean Jackson, and while I think he will make his former team, the Eagles, pay both times, I don’t expect a huge year from him. The one guy I really like on the team is TE Jordan Reed, who is the prototypical new age tight end, who can line up anywhere on the field. If the offense is as pass happy as I’m thinking it will be, Reed will be a steal in a position that is already shallow at the top.
3. New York Giants: 7-9
Can anyone make sense of this team? Three years ago, they were Super Bowl Champions. Last year, Eli Manning led the league in Interceptions. The previous times he has done that, Manning and the team has bounced back to have a successful season. However, based on what I’ve seen from the 1st string this preseason, I don’t see that happening. The offense is severely lacking for weapons, with the departure of Hakeem Nicks, and the unfortunate retirement of David Wilson. There’s not much to love on the defense outside of Jason Pierre-Paul, and I think if they have another losing record, it might finally be the end of the Tom Coughlin era in New York.
There really isn’t anyone on this offense who I will be eyeing in my drafts. Victor Cruz will be seeing double teams all year, and Reuben Randle has never quite lived up to his physical potential. If there’s one guy to take, it’s probably Rashad Jennings, who figures to have a heavy role in this offense that is traditionally run first. Jennings is one of the last starting RBs being taken in fantasy drafts, and he could turn out to be a huge sleeper when the season is all said and done.
4. Dallas Cowboys: 7-9
There’s one thing we can say about Dallas this year: their games will be fun to watch, especially if you like points. The Cowboys defense figures to be one of the worst in the league, meaning that Romo and company will be in a ton of shootouts. Each of the last three years, Dallas has been there at the end with a game to win the division, and they’ve fallen short all three times. Unfortunately for Dallas fans, I don’t see them getting there this season.
You will be seeing plenty of Cowboys in fantasy rosters throughout the year. Tony Romo figures to be a top 10 QB by the end, Jason Witten will still be a catch machine, and Dez Bryant figures to have another monster year. While all of these guys will be gone early, Terrance Williams will be around in the later rounds as a solid Flex option, and even Gavin Escobar could be a option at Tight End later in the year, as he is a physical specimen.
1. Green Bay Packers: 11-5
As long as Aaron Rodgers has been slinging it in Green Bay, the one knock on the offense was that they had no running game. Well now, they have Eddy Lacy, who figures to pick up right where he left off after his huge rookie season last year. Their defense certainly has some questions, but if the core weapons on offense can stay healthy, and that’s a big IF in Green Bay, this team should win the division, and be right back in contention for the Lombardi Trophy again.
I would proceed with caution on Randall Cobb, who’s fresh off a broken leg from last year. Jordy Nelson is a more reliable option there. The main thing that I will be looking out for is the Tight End role on this team. Jermichael Finley has been the guy for nearly a decade here, but his neck injury has opened up a huge void. Andrew Quarless figures to be the main guy, but if they go with one of the other guys, they will be a hot commodity on the Week 1 waiver wire.
2. Chicago Bears: 9-7
The script has changed in Chicago. The Bears are known for their brutal defenses, and ironically, their brutally bad offenses. Now, it’s the defense that has huge questions (remember that 54-11 game I mentioned earlier), while the offense figures to be getting all the attention. Jay Cutler has a brand new, largely undeserved huge contract, Matt Forte figures to be a Top 5 fantasy running back again, and Alshon Jeffrey broke out last year to make for the best receiving duo in the league. However, the old adage is defense wins championships, and that will prove oh so true for this team, as I see them barely missing out on the postseason.
The weapons are spoken for here, so my only bit of advice would be to go with Brandon Marshall over Alshon Jeffrey. There’s always a chance that Jeffrey will regress a bit this year, while Marshall has been crushing it, especially with Cutler by his side, for years. Not only that, but Marshall can basically line up anywhere, while Jeffrey is largely just an outside the numbers deep threat.
3. Detroit Lions: 8-8
For the past few years, the Lions have been jam packed with talent, but always fallen on their face due to a lack of discipline from the coaching staff. Well now, Jim Caldwell is at the helm, and I don’t think he will be taking any of his teams shenanigans. Now that could go two ways. The team could get in line, reach their potential, and become a serious threat in the NFC. Or, they could rebel against the new system, and fall apart even more. I think Detroit will be a playoff team next year in Caldwell’s second season, but I don’t see them making it this year.
The Lions have been plagued by their lack of a second option opposite that Megatron guy. While I’m not convinced that Golden Tate is really the answer for this offense, I do think he will be better than any of their options the past few years. Tate came on strong at the end of the year for Seattle, and could be a huge part of this offense. Tate should be a great sleeper option later in the draft, and could be your starting flex all year.
4. Minnesota Vikings: 5-11
I look at this team, and I’m still baffled they made the playoffs two years ago. Adrian Peterson sure did earn that MVP award, because the rest of the offense is severely lacking. Couple the fact that the defense lost their leader in Jared Allen, and there just isn’t much to like about this team this year. AP is good enough to win a couple of games virtually by himself, but that won’t be good enough to get to the playoffs in the NFC, which is packed with Super Bowl contenders.
The only guy I like on this offense outside of All Day is Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson started off his rookie year slow, before stepping up in the fantasy playoffs with a few huge plays. Simply put, Patterson is a playmaker, and given the Viking’s options at QB, I think Patterson will be getting screen catches all game long. Look for Patterson to make one or two huge plays a game, and to be a reliable WR2 all year long.
1. New Orleans Saints: 11-5
The Saints got some much needed help on defense, pairing upstart safety Kenny Vacaro with free agent Jarius Byrd to form one of, if not the, best safety combo in football. This will add huge boosts in matchups with NFC pass happy rivals like Atlanta and Green Bay, especially come playoff time. Brees will surely miss his favorite little target Darren Sproles, but Bradin Cooks figures to pop right back in and be lethal from the get go. There’s alot to like if you are a Saints fan. Expect another big year from the black and gold.
Jimmy Graham will get all the attention. Brandin Cooks will get all the hype. But what will happen with Marques Colston? Colston had an unusually down here, capped off by one of the worst on-field decisions in recent playoff memory. At 31, Colston is likely past his prime, but I still think he’s worth a shot as a WR3 in this pass happy offense.
2. Atlanta Falcons: 10-6
Not many people saw the Falcons collapse coming last year, but not many would have predicted that Julio Jones would be out for the year by Week 5, and that Roddy White wouldn’t be 100% healthy….all year really. With these two back and healthy, the Falcons figure to get to regain their winning ways, though the days of competing for the #1 seed in the NFC are gone by now. The main question will be how long can this defense bend and not break to give the high powered offense chances to win them games.
Going into drafts last year, Julio Jones was the #2 Wide Receiver on my boards, only trailing Calvin Johnson. Up until his foot injury, Julio was fully living up to those lofty expectations. Now that he has had a full year to rest it, I don’t see any reason why Julio shouldn’t reclaim his spot as my #2 guy. It sure is a risk, but unlike Dez Bryant, who can inexplicably disappear at times for his team, Julio is consistently a monster who I see average 15 points a game, with regular 30 point games, especially in PPR leagues.
3. Carolina Panthers: 8-8
There’s alot that I really like about this Carolina team. I love the defense, equipped with arguably the best front-seven in football. I love their coach, Ron Rivera, who’s drill sergeant like approach has got this team to believe when they went 12-4 last year to win the division. And I love Cam Newton. The kid is a freak of nature, with great legs and a rocket for an arm. However, there’s only so much that Cam can do by himself. The Panthers lost their top four wide receivers, leaving a huge void to be filled. And they didn’t do much to fill that void, counting on rookie Kelvin Benjamin, and veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant to be their new pass catching guys. Simply put, it won’t be enough to get to the playoffs in this packed division.
As you can tell from above, I don’t have much faith in this offensive unit. I don’t want much of anything to do with Cam Newton this season, nor do I want to deal with the headache of figuring out what running back to go with here either. I’m keeping my eye on Benjamin, as he has gotten rave reviews in training camp, but I still don’t love him.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-10
There’s a ton of young talent to like on this Tampa Bay offense, but most of it will be dependent on the Quartback situation. Mike Glennon figured to be the starter, but new coach Lovie Smith has brought in his favorite veteran on Josh McCown. McCown is more of a game manager, which could limit the impact of huge weapons Vincent Jackson and rookie wideout Mike Evans. Under Lovie Smith, this team figures to be a contender…eventually. This year, they don’t figure to make a ton of playoff noise, but that could change next season.
Doug Martin was another guy who fell flat on his face last year, struggling through the first six games before going down with a season ended shoulder surgery. I fully expect Martin to bounce back from the dreaded sophomore slump, vaulting back up to his usual RB1 status in the process. While he may be a slight risk, he is still young, and has the prime of his career ahead of him.
1. San Francisco 49ers: 10-6
The San Francisco 49ers have been less than impressive so far this preseason, but it’s important to not look too much into these results. Rest assured, when it’s time for the regular season, Coach Harbaugh will have his team ready. The Niners still have one of the most dominating defensive units in football, even without Navarro Bowman for the first half of the season. And on offense, Kaepernick keeps getting new weapons, adding Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd to an already stack list of big name playmakers.
Given how shallow the Tight End position is this year, I’m surprised Vernon Davis isn’t getting more love. Last year, Davis matched his career high with 13 Touchdowns, and with Michael Crabtree ready to play a full season, I expect Davis to be equally effective with the middle of the field likely to be wide open most of the time. Speaking of Crabtree, I love him and Kaepernick together. Look for Crabtree to solidify his spot as a WR2 on your team, and hopefully we can see what this freak can do in a full 16 game season.
2. Seattle Seahawks: 10-6
The old adage in football is that the only thing that’s tougher than winning a Super Bowl is repeating as champions. I have a feeling the Seahawks are going to know this all too well throughout the season. I still expect them to make the playoffs, but I don’t expect to see the same dominant team we saw last year. The Legion of Boom will have less boom after Brandon Browner left for the Patriots, and while they still have an incredible home field advantage, the offense has a ton of questions. Marshawn Lynch went throughout a holdout in the offseason, but more importantly, Russell Wilson is short on weapons to spread the ball out to. With Golden Tate bolting to Detroit, and Sidney Rice retiring, Wilson is left with an injury prone Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and no other proven WR in the NFL. All this adds up to a solid, but not super bowl winning, season for the Hawks.
Last year, I was all about Marshawn Lynch, spending big to get him in my big money league, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I see him having a down year. Many have questioned Lynch’s work ethic, and the after effects of his holdout will likely spring up a few times throughout the year. I’d rather have guys like Eddie Lacy, Zach Stacy, and Montee Ball over Lynch this year.
3. Arizona Cardinals: 8-8
The Cardinals were in the midst of another disappointing season last year, before they ended the season 6-2 to threaten for the playoffs. Led by newly signed shutdown corner Patrick Peterson on defense, and all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald on the offense, the Cardinals certianly have the talent to make the playoffs. However, this defense is just so brutal, with the giants at the top, and an up and coming team in the Rams below them, that I just can’t see this team playing in January. Still, it wouldn’t shock me to put together another 10 win season, which could make the playoffs this year.
The coaching staff has been vocal about running the offense through new starting running back Andre Ellington, not only with runs, but also passing out of the backfield. In a PPR league, Ellington could potentially be a RB1 if all the hype is indeed warranted, and in many leagues, you can get him in the early 3rd round. If he’s still hanging around in the 3rd, snatch him up and don’t look back.
4. St Louis Rams: 7-9
This is another team where I love what they are doing, but I still think is a year or two away from being a serious contender. The Rams have bolstered their defense through the draft and free agency each off-season this decade, and it started to come to fruition last year. The big question is: Can Sam Bradford stay healthy? And if he can, will guys like Tavon Austin and newly acquired Kenny Britt be able to make plays for them? I think they will end just under .500, but I could easily this team being a sneaky sleeper for the playoffs.
I was one of those guys who brought into the Tavon Austin hype machine last year, drafting him on most of my teams figuring I would have a consistent start at Flex. Well, that didn’t quite work out for me, though Austin finally started making plays at the end of the season. I’ve seen Austin available in the 11th or 12th round of some drafts this year, and he certainly seems to be worth taking a flyer out for in that position. Just don’t take him everywhere, or you could feel the same pain and frustration I did last year.
NFC Playoff Teams
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Green Bay Packers
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Seattle Seahawks
6. Atlanta Falcons
That wraps up our preview of the NFC Conference! Our 12 playoff teams have been picked, and on Friday, we will be whittled 12 down to just one. Be sure to come back to find out who we think will be hoisting the Lombardi trophy. Here’s a hint: Seattle will not be defending their title.
What did you think of our NFC Conference preview? Do you agree with our playoff selections? Do you think the Seahawks will be making a return trip to the playoffs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!