With week 1 of the 2011 pre-season underway, the NFL is officially back.
To get this year started, Rob and I are going to breakdown each conference, and tell you what we think each team’s records will be. We’ll also re-cap the best and worst off-season moves and we’ll tell you the top 3 games of the year.
First, here is my take on the NFC.
Best off-season move: Philadelphia Eagles signing CB Nnamdi Asomugha
This is obvious. The eagles were already a good defense. Now, pending chemistry, Asomugha can make them a very good defense. Even though the Eagles still have Asante Samuel, adding Asomugha could very well render opposing receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant ineffective. Trent Cole is a premier pass rusher in the NFL. How do you make a pass rush better? Sign a lock-down cornerback.
Worst off-season move(s): The New York Giants’ handling of trades/free agents
First, the Giants cut Barry Cofield, who signed with the division-rival Redskins. Cofield has been a stout NT ever since entering the league, missing only one game in his first five years.
Thursday, after the Giants failed to re-sign him, WR Steve Smith signed with another divisional rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2009, Smith caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and 7 touchdowns, in addition to making the Pro Bowl.
Finally, they have yet to work out a deal to either re-sign or trade DE Osi Umenyiora. The Giants’ asking price was probably too high (reportedly a 1st round pick). Then they told Umenyiora he could seek a trade, and then the Giants rescinded that offer. Now they’re left with a big mess. Even if they did sign Umenyiora, Smith and Cofield, they would’ve likely finished third in the division at best. As it stands now, they better hope the Redskins don’t find their stride, or else they (the Giants) could be headed for last place in the NFC East.
NFL MVP Candidate: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers led the Packers to the Super Bowl after a season without his starting running back or his starting tight end. He put up all-time great numbers in the playoffs, winning every game on the road. Best of all, he won the Super Bowl MVP award after going 24/39 for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns and no interceptions…against the top-ranked Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
This season, both players Rodgers missed last year (RB Ryan Grant and TE Jermichael Finley) are healthy and look very impressive thus far in training camp. Rodgers also gained the services of rookie WR Randall Cobb from Kentucky, who shows solid quickness and good hands.
Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate: Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Ingram gives you little opportunity to doubt him. He plays hard all the time, and his production matches his effort. He will be a goal line threat for the Saints, and should get plenty of opportunity to shine. 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns are certainly in reach for Ingram.
Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate: Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals.
We had him rated as the #1 prospect in the 2011 draft, and he will get many chances to prove himself worthy of that acclaim in the NFC West.
Here is how I think each team in the NFC will finish in 2011 (I looked at every game for every team, instead of guessing a certain record. In other words, a Week 1 win for the Packers corresponds to a Week 1 loss for the Saints):
- 9-7 (4-2), 2nd place in NFC East
- #15 toughest schedule
- #6 seed in the NFC playoffs
New York Giants
- 6-10 (3-3), 3rd place in NFC East
- #22 toughest schedule
- 12-4 (5-1), 1st place in NFC East
- #15 toughest schedule
- #2 seed in NFC playoffs (1st round bye)
- 4-12 (0-6), 4th place in NFC East
- #29 toughest schedule
- 9-7 (2-4), 2nd place in NFC North
- #18 toughest schedule
- 7-9 (2-4), 4th place in NFC North
- #4 toughest schedule
Green Bay Packers
- 14-2 (6-0), 1st place in NFC North
- #13 toughest schedule
- 1st seed in NFC playoffs (1st round bye)
- Returning 21 of 22 starters from last season’s Super-Bowl-winning team
- 8-8 (2-4), 3rd place in NFC North
- #12 toughest schedule
- 10-6 (4-2), 2nd place in NFC South
- #20 toughest schedule
- #5 seed in NFC playoffs
- 4-12 (2-4), 4th place in NFC South
- #1 toughest schedule
New Orleans Saints
- 11-5 (4-2), 1st place in NFC South
- #14 toughest schedule
- #3 seed in NFC playoffs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 9-7 (3-3), 3rd place in NFC South
- #19 toughest schedule
- 9-7 (4-2), 1st place in NFC West
- #32 toughest schedule
- #4 seed in NFC playoffs
San Fransisco 49ers
- 7-9 (4-2), 2nd place in NFC West
- #30 toughest schedule
- 5-11 (2-4), 4th place in NFC West
- #24 toughest schedule
St. Louis Rams
- 6-10 (2-4), 3rd place in NFC West
- #26 toughest schedule
Must-See Games of the Year
#3) Philadelphia @ Atlanta, 9/18/11, 8:20 pm., NBC
- The Eagles/Falcons game will be between two teams who could play each other for the NFC championship (that was the NFC title game on 1/23/05). Michael Vick’s first game in Atlanta since he left the Falcons. Even in Week 2, this game will mean a lot.
#2) New England @ Philadelphia, 11/27/11, 4:15, CBS
- A re-match of Super Bowl XXXIV, this could be a Super Bowl XLVI preview. Both teams have high-powered offenses and young, physical defenses. Who will blink first?
#1) New Orleans @ Green Bay, 9/8/11, 8:30 p.m., NBC
- This is the first game of the 2011 regular season. It pits the last two Super Bowl champions against each other. I believe this game will be a preview of this year’s NFC Championship game (also in Green Bay). Both teams have won and drafted very well recently, and have future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks leading them. The NFL is certainly not saving the best for last this season.
Stay tuned for Rob’s breakdown of the AFC teams on Monday morning.
What do you think? Let us know! Also, be sure to follow us on twitter: @FastFootball1.
Thanks for reading.