NFL Preview: Division breakdowns

Shinichi Inoue, Contributing Reporter

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles

Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo has reestablished himself as the team leader and by re-signing wide receiver Miles Austin, Dallas looks to dominate the NFC East again with its talented run-offense combo of Miles and Roy Williams. However, the Giants should give Dallas a run for its money. With safety-duo in Antrell Rolle and Kenny Phillips, the Giants are capable of defending against great passing teams. The only problem is in their linebackers, which as a key part of the defense, surrendered an average of 26.7 points per game (3rd highest in NFL).

The Redskins made a steal during the offseason, nabbing Donovan McNabb from rival Eagles, but weak offensive talents and aging stars like Clinton Portis will have the Redskins scrambling to find some offense. The Eagles, without McNabb, will have a hard time adjusting to their new QB Kevin Kolb, especially when lack of experience and youth isn’t the common winning formula in NFL. The Eagles will learn it painfully this season.


NFC West: San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams

Possibly the most unpredictable division last year, the NFC West will see a rise in one team and a beginning of a new era in another. The 49ers have talents at playmaking spots (Frank Gore and Michael Crabtrees), and improved a suspect defense over the offseason, they are the favorite to win the division. The retirement of starting quarterback is never good for a franchise and Arizona is feeling it. The departure of Kurt Warner left the Cardinals offense in a mess, struggling to put up points consistently. Both the Seahawks and Rams are in rebuilding mode; the Hawks hope college football legend, Pete Carroll, can turn things around. As for the Rams, 1st overall pick Sam Bradford should get them more than three wins this year.


NFC North: Minnesota Vikings Green Bay Packers Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Seriously, enough of Favre, the Vikings are a talented bunch; add Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin, you have one of the best offenses in the NFL. And don’t forget that the Vikings’ defense had the most sacks (48). With that much talent, Minnesota should be able to repeat in NFC North. The “Apprentice” (aka Aaron Rogers) will look to lead his explosive Packers offense against the Vikings; however as long as their soft defense doesn’t improve the Packers have no chance competing against the Vikings.

The Bears brought in Julius Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna, and Chester Taylor to boost their offensive outlook; however the team is still hoping QB Jay Cutler will return to form after a horrendous season. Detroit, fully engorged in rebuilding mode, will look for young QB Matthew Stafford to lead them out of slums of the NFC North.





NFC South: New Orleans Saints Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, , Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Orleans chance to repeat is going to be a Brees. Drew Brees established himself as a top-tier QB after his Super Bowl performance and the Saints young offense will only improve for the better. Look for the Saints to repeat as NFC South champion until another team challenges them. Matt Ryan, entering his third season, looks comfortable as the Falcons starting QB and the addition of Dunta Robinson on the defensive end is a plus. However, the Falcons are still ways away from the Saints.

Jake Delhomme’s departure from Carolina to Cleveland means Matt Moore would be tabbed as the starting QB. Lack of experience and the loss of superstar Julius Peppers will weight the Panthers down as they struggle to reinvent themselves this season. Tampa Bay is in rebuilding mode and relying on sophomore QB Josh Freeman to lead them; however 2010 is not going to be a season to remember.

AFC East: New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” After the Chargers let go LaDanian Tomlinson, the Jets picked him up to be a backup to Shonn Greene. The arrival of Antonio Cromarite, along with Darrelle Revis, creates the best cornerback combo in the league. Look for the Jets to outduel the Patriots to win the AFC East. Tom Brady returns from injury and you should never underestimate the Brady/Belichick duo even if videotaping isn’t involved. The Pats offense still has many holes to fill and right now, the Jets roster is simply more talented than theirs.

The Dolphins definitely improved last season especially QB Chad Henne. However their offense still needs more firepower to compete against the Jets and Patriots. The Bills? The team is in such a bad state that they don’t even have faith in their own QB. (Sorry, Trent Edwards).


AFC South: Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans Jasonville Jaguars

So what does the Super Bowl runner-up do to improve its team? Nothing, it’s the Colts. Miley’s just being Miley. Manning’s just being Manning. Colts will tear up this division as long as Manning is having another MVP-caliber season. Texans finally had a winning season in team history and QB Matt Schaub has an offensive unit that can challenge many teams, but knocking off the Colts? Not so fast. Titans QB Vince Young looks like he finally arrived in the NFL and running back Chris Johnson is definitely a plus, but the defense needs more improvements especially after surrendering 25.1 points per game (5th highest in NFL). Jacksonville is on a slippery slope, QB David Garrard had not been doing his job even after his long-term deal. One thing is for sure, the Jaguars need to begin rebuilding or else it’s going to be in the cellar for quite a while.


AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns,

The Ravens added Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth to help out QB Joe Flacco. With Ray Rice emerging as a top tier running back, Baltimore finally has a balanced offensive unit. A unit that the Steelers will have a hard time against this season is the jury. With QB Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Santonio Holmes both dealing with legal issues, the Steelers offense is locked behind bars.

The Bengals began the season on a 9-3 tear, then burned out and finished with 1-4 record in the last 5 games. Cincinnati hopes franchise QB Carson Palmer would rebound from his lackluster season. The Browns got rid of Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, but adding Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace doesn’t really inspire confidence. Maybe Colt McCoy will save the team, but for now, the Cleveland fans will endure another cold winter.


AFC West: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers

Just like its NFC brother, the AFC West is another mediocre division. The Chargers should rise from the mist thanks to its offense despite the fact that Phillip Rivers is on the decline. The Broncos traded away wide receiver Brandon Marshall, losing its offensive backbone; Denver will have a hard time finding ways to compete against the Chargers. Both the Chiefs and Raiders had added some pieces to improve their team. (K.C. signed running back Thomas Jones and the Raiders got QB Jason Campbell from the Redskins) Don’t look for these two teams to sudden turn into playoff caliber teams just yet.