Trying To Knock Off The Eagles
Friday - September 23, 2005
Here’s a look at the NFC: NFC East. Philadelphia has unhappy superstars in Terrell Owens and RB Brian Westbrook. They let DT Corey Simon get away. And they’re still the best in the division by a ton. Credit savvy QB Donovan McNabb, a big play D led by DE Jevon Kearse and Pro Bowl safeties Michael Lewis and Brian Dawkins, not to mention the most under-rated coach in the league in Andy Reid.
Dallas finally has a Parcells-type defense. LB Demarcus Ware and DE Greg Ellis are impact guys, ILB Dat Nguyen is disruptive and S Roy Williams is feared. Parcells also has a comfort zone with QB Drew Bledsoe. RB Julius Jones will dim the memory of Emmit Smith.
New York now has real targets for QB Eli Manning. WRs Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress and a healthy Jeremy Shockey will provide balance for durable RB Tiki Barber. O Line is improved. D Line is strong with Michael Strahan and Ori Umenyiora. Linebackers are average and must step up. Rookie CB Corey Webster will be a starter by year’s end.
Washington has a woeful offense. Already QB Patrick Ramsey has been replaced by Mark Brunell. Clinton Portis doesn’t fit the offense, and neither Santana Moss nor David Patten are a No. 1 type receiver. On D, the only unit that is strong is the secondary. S Sean Taylor is gifted but a head case. A long year in Redskin nation.
NFC North. Detroit - why not? This once proud division is the NFL’s weakest, but Steve Mariucci has real targets for QB Joey Harrington. Time to put up or shut up for Joey - who started 0-2. The Williams boys, Roy and Mike, along with Charles Rogers have removed excuses. RB Kevin Jones can play and OL is solid. The D is solid up the middle with DT’s Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson and MLB Earl Holmes. They’ll be fun to watch.
Minnesota looked awful istarted 0-2. WR Troy Williamson is big, fast and unproven. Nate Burleson is a possession type. Dante Culpepper is the only extraordinary talent on O, and he can’t do it by himself. The D is all new at LB and half new in the secondary. Chemistry anyone?
Green Bay may be on the down cycle. QB Brett Favre is aging, RD Ahman Green is an old 28, and WR Javon Walker is out for the season. The D is almost average. Only CB Al Harris is truly top shelf. Oh well, there’s always brats and beer.
Chicago has no QB, below average receivers and is barely adequate on the O line. Only RB is strong. More promising is the D, where DE Adewale Ogunleye and DT Tommie Harris are very good. MLB Brian Urlacher needs to get healthy, and secondary is decent, but they’ll need to hold opponents to less than 13 points in order to win. That’s a tall order.
NFC South. Atlanta is the power in a surprisingly good division. Michael Vick presents problems, RBs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett can hurt you, and rookie WR Roddy White should complement veteran Michael Jenkins. The D is excellent; everybody can run and everybody hits. DE Patrick Kerney is an emerging star, LB Ike Reese is a nice addition to a strong unit.
Carolina was decimated by injury last year and should rebound. QB Jake Delhomme is cool under pressure, WR Steve Smith is back, RBs Stephen Davis and DE Shaun Foster should be 100 percent shortly and the O Line has been strengthened. The D is solid and could be excellent if DT Kris Jenkins is fully recovered. DE Julius Pepper is big time. The backers are fast and the secondary is improving. Looks like wild card.
If adversity builds character, New Orleans should be off the chart. Their toughest opponent is named Katrina, and the Saints responded with a huge win over Carolina in the opener. QB Aaron Brooks is ready to take his place in the top tier, RB Deuce McAllister is a player and WR Joe Horn and Dante Stallworth are real threats. The D is a force up front, but the secondary must step up if the Saints are to remain the league’s best story. Tampa Bay has a journeyman triggerman in Brian Griese, a rookie RB in Cadillac Williams and adequate WRs in Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton. The O Line has to improve. The D needs better play against the run. DTs Anthony McFarland and Ellis Wyms need to play up. The backers are aging, but still productive.
NFC West. Seattle may be the best of a weak division. QB Matt Hasselbeck has improved. RB Shaun Alexander is excellent and now, if the receivers would kindly hang on to the ball. Worst hands in league history! The D has been sliding over the last year, but there’s enough talent to get by, particularly since they get S.F. and Arizona twice.
St Louis can still score in bunches if only coach Mike Martz would let them. QB Marc Bulger gets the ball out but takes a beating. RB Stephen Jackson is an emerging star, Marshall Faulk is still a factor and WRs Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt are dangerous. The D is a sieve. Everybody runs on this group, and the experiment putting Pisa Tinoisamoa at S has been abandoned. Smallest D line in the league is part of the problem.
San Francisco switched to a 3-4, taking advantage of the team’s only strength. Julian Peterson is a freak. Winhorn, Ulbrich and Smith are all reliable. CB Ahrmand Plummer is back from injury, and this group may be better than expected. QB Tim Rattay has few weapons on offense. How much can emotion and new coach Mike Nolan help?
Arizona has injury prone QB Kurt Warner, good young receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but unproven O line. Defense is going to have to excel, and they’re better up front than in the back end.
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