2018 NFC Predictions

Although we made it through week 1 of the NFL season we still have to get in our selections for the NFC. The majority of the offseason centered around the Los Angeles Rams amassing a defensive arsenal equal to what they deploy on offense. However we have seen this in the past not play out as it does on paper. Do the Rams have the mettle to make it to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII??

3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football over a metallic silk background

Another team which looks to make a move are the San Francisco 49ers now that QB Jimmy Garopplo is fully entrenched. Can they build off the 5 straight wins to conclude the 2017 season?? We watched the Chicago Bears tilt the field with the trade for Khalil Mack and the terrorizing affect he had against Green Bay in week 1. Do you realize there are no Pro Bowl Tackles in that division?? What does that mean to Minnesota??

2018 Predictions:

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings 12-4*

NFC West: Los Angeles Rams 12-4

NFC South: Carolina Panthers 11-5

NFC East: New York Giants 10-6

Wildcard: Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

Wildcard: Atlanta Falcons 10-6

NFC Champion: New York Giants

This is a season starting with tremendous parity where many teams face unbelievable stretches in their schedule. One team that will have a stretch kill their season is Green Bay. They should finish 4-2 going into their bye week. Then they play 4 of 5 on the road against the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, and rubber match to today’s game in Minnesota. Honestly ask yourself in which of these 4 games would they be favored?? An Aaron Rodgers 20 point come from behind miracle was needed just to make it to 1-0. Its realistic the Pack could be 5-6 going into the stretch run of the season.

Talib and the Rams defense is star studded.

As for the 49ers and Rams in the NFC West, Los Angeles is a legitimate threat with All World DT Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh (when he starts playing), and the best corner tandem in Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters fortifying that defense. However by week 6 the NFL will have an 18 game sample size to study Coach Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff dating back to last year. In week 4 they play Minnesota (#1 defense in 2017) and Denver (#3 defense in 2017) out in Mile High where they could stumble.

Jared Goff was 0-2 against Minnesota and the World Champion Eagles last year and those two played for the NFC Championship. Will this team grow in stature to leapfrog these two teams?? Or can a chemistry issue show up and derail a championship team on paper like the ’94 Miami Dolphins & ’00 Washington Redskins?? Will Jared Goff and Coach McVay make adjustments to offset defensive coordinators taking away what they do best?? Its a long time until January.

The 49ers will make a move next year. Teams will scheme Jimmy Garoppolo and expose him as a second tier quarterback. Keep your eye on what happened to him in Minnesota in week 1. They’re not ready yet and Jimmy G is reading his press clippings.

The Eagles have to navigate uncharted waters as a defending champion with a backup QB a Super Bowl hero. Not only are they going to get everyone’s best shot, Nick Foles isn’t playing well to begin the season. We still may not see QB Carson Wentz until we get out to week 6 or 7. This will short circuit their ability to establish an offensive rhythm before the end of the season. Their defense will keep them in every game, however there will be a few balls that will bounce other teams way this season.

In New York the Giants have a home run hitter in RB Saquon Barkley to team with WR Odell Beckham. This may be the NFC version of the Steelers LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. However the signing of New England’s LT Nick Solder allowed Erick Flowers to be moved to RT where he should be more effective. Then you add massive rookie G Will Hernandez and this line is improved to a strength where they were a liability last year.

Now who do you take away first?? Do you commit to the run and leave Odell Beckham one on one in the back end?? If you have your defense focused on the pass where does that leave Barkley running the ball or catching out of the backfield?? Those same linebackers watching for Barkley out of the backfield will leave TE Evan Engram open. This weaponry will lead to Eli Manning’s rebirth. They will catch stride somewhere at the midpoint of the season as Head Coach Pat Shurmur has the chance to learn what they do best and their best element of attack.

By season’s end watch out as Eli could be heading to that 3rd championship we suggested a few years back. Experience and firepower might be too much for the leaders in the conference to hold off.

That is what the crystal ball of The Chancellor of Football shows.

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AFC Arms Race: Denver Broncos v New England Patriots

The NFL has become corporate in their thinking but have we had two off-seasons where the lead teams in a conference have gone after each other like this?? First, we had Seattle and San Francisco try to one up each other as they fortified their teams throughout the preseason last year. Now this year in the AFC, the Patriots and Broncos have completely raised the bar through the early free agent signing period.

Talib joined the Broncos after signing for $57 million.

Talib joined the Broncos after signing for $57 million.

The Broncos struck first when they snatched Pro Bowl corner Aquib Talib who starred last year for the Patriots. Ironically it was Bill Belichick who complained Denver intentionally tried to take him out of last year’s AFC Championship Game. Now they sign him for $57 million?? Go with that where you will but then they signed DE/LB DeMarcus Ware to fortify the pass rush.

If Ware can show half the skill from his 2008-2010 years, the Broncos could have the league's best pass rush.

If Ware can show half the skill from his 2008-2010 years, the Broncos could have the league’s best pass rush.

No question the Broncos jumped to the early lead in the AFC arms race. Couple these signings with the return and motivation of All Pro Von Miller and this isn’t the defense they sent to Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. The most important factor is Miller is a left side rusher where Ware comes in from the blindside. Neither has to learn to rush from a different stance than they’re used to. With a potent rush, Talib will be able to take away the opponents best receiver.

On the east coast the Patriots recovered from the loss of Talib with the signing of Darelle Revis. Why didn’t they just keep Talib?? Well they also struck gold with the signing of former Seahawk CB Brandon Browner. Knowing they eventually will have to stop the Broncos potent offense, these two signings go a long way in achieving that. Now that WR Eric Decker has signed with the Jets this will be easier to accomplish.

The key for Denver could be signing pro bowl safety TJ Ward.

The key for Denver could be signing pro bowl safety TJ Ward.

Up until these signings it seemed the Broncos had the leg up on their AFC counterparts. The Patriots are on the verge of signing wideout Brandon Lafell formerly of Carolina. The glaring weakness that the Patriots were forced to face in the AFC Championship Game is they need bigger receivers. If it weren’t for cap penalties the right thing to do is cut Amendola and sign another big receiver. Former Titan Kenny Britt is scheduled to visit New England today.

Now that RB Knowshon Moreno isn’t really getting the free agency attention he sought, he may come back into the fold. The one signing that has gone under the radar is Denver signing former Cleveland Brown SS TJ Ward. He can bring the thunder in the secondary and create a more aggressive culture within the defense.

The 6'4 Browner matches  well with Denver's big receivers.

The 6’4 Browner matches well with Denver’s big receivers.

We are being flashed back to the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. These two know they are competing with each other while being head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference. The Bengals haven’t proved they can win the big game. Indy is coming on but might be a year away. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have fallen a few steps beneath these two and every move is to one up the other.

Now we look toward the draft to see where these two will go. Each lost a young linebacker as former Patriot Brandon Spikes signed with Buffalo. Wesley Woodyard signed with Tennessee. Time to watch who the Patriots get for Tom Brady the rest of this offseason. They need some size at receiver. As for Denver, they filled all of their defensive weaknesses. Barring injury this should be a better Bronco team than last year’s Super Bowl unit. However with one or two more moves there will be a Patriot team waiting for them in the AFC Championship Game.

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Free Agency Days 3 – 5: Moves That Complete Teams

It was the hard hitting SS Leonard Smith that pushed the late 80s Bills into the NFL elite.

It was the hard hitting SS Leonard Smith that pushed the late 80s Bills into the NFL elite.

Just because some of  the sexier names have taken up the headlines the last two days doesn’t mean there aren’t valued players left to be signed. Those spots that can complete a team and put a team over the top. When you look back at moves of yesteryear, the Buffalo Bills were building through the draft with Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas. It was a move to bring a leader and proven old pro in SS Leonard Smith to push the Bills into the league’s elite. He was the last move that sent the Bills to several Super Bowls as the next decade dawned.

Not Charles Haley...it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Not Charles Haley…it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Same thing for the early 90’s Dallas Cowboys when they traded for Pittsburgh Steelers’ Safety Thomas Everett in 1992. Where they had been 1-3 against Run & Shoot teams in 1991, they went 5-0 against those teams including the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII that finished as the top passing teams that year. It was this interception in Super Bowl XXVII that started the 1990’s reign of the Dallas Cowboys. Otherwise the Bills take a 17-14 lead and the Bills take control of the game.

Wilson moves to New England.

Wilson moves to New England.

In these cases as it has in many instances, it’s the non headline signings that have made the difference in teams turning around their fortunes. One such signing could be SS Adrian Wilson joining the Patriots. Going into his 13th season he is a quick fix that can pay short-term dividends on the field. However he can pay long term dividends  for Belichick by mentoring a young secondary.

You’ll notice the Patriots re-signed CB Kyle Arrington to a four-year deal worth $16.5 million and a one year deal with Aquib Talib, who is only entering his 6th season. They are looking to upgrade the 29th ranked pass defense and will benefit from a full offseason to improve players who know the Bill Belichick and the Patriot way. What happens if the Patriots can improve to a ranking in the teens against the pass?? After all their last two seasons ended in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XLVI respectively.

Another way to improve your pass defense is to improve on the pass rush. Don’t overlook the fiasco that left Bronco LB/DE Elvis Dumervil a free agent. Now the New England Patriots are among those that are pursuing him. Sure he was going to re-sign for a lesser amount to stay with the Broncos. That was all well and good until other teams start to entice him with offers. Just ask the 49ers who didn’t franchise S Dashon Goldson and are now looking at lesser talents in an aging Charles Woodson and the signing of SS Craig Dahl. Who?? Exactly!! Keep your eye on Dumervil with the Steelers, and Ravens also vying for his services. To strengthen yourself and weaken your enemy is the root of free agency.

Greg Jennings is going to look different in a Viking uniform.

Greg Jennings is going to look different in a Viking uniform.

In the words of Robin “Holy Brett Favre batman.” After watching the animosity and angst thrust at his former teammate, Greg Jennings decides to play for the hated Minnesota Vikings. Going into just his 8th season he’s as complete a receiver there is in the NFL. Unlike a Wes Welker, he can play the X receiver, Z receiver, or the slot.  This more than makes up for the loss of Percy Harvin who wasn’t a polished receiver. Taking his career 425 receptions 6,537 yards and 53TDs to a division rival, he will get booed lustily when he returns to Lambeau Field. His play will help the maturation of QB Christian Ponder and take heat off of Adrian Peterson. Don’t forget the Vikings will be going outdoors after next season. Having a cold weather receiver will pay dividends down the road.

Steven Jackson's physicality might be what the Falcons needed. They aren't perceived as a tough team.

Steven Jackson’s physicality might be what the Falcons needed. They aren’t perceived as a tough team.

The Atlanta Falcons have made many moves this off-season and one of the best moves was coaxing Tony Gonzalez from retiring and playing one more year. This up’s the ante for the organization to get it done in 2013 even though he’s signed a two-year $13 million deal. To fill the role of the departed Michael Turner, the St Louis Rams all time leading rusher Steven Jackson signs and brings a big play running back to the defending NFC South Champions. His hunger and desire to be a champion along with Tony’s could propel this team to the top or at least another NFC Championship appearance.  They now have every piece in place with wideouts Roddy White, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan having his first playoff win under his belt, along with Coach Smith are these the two signings that will put the Falcons over the top??

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!