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Matthew’s NFC Preview (and Ridley’s comments)

Matthew thinks Kaepernicking will be in the Super Bowl again

Matthew thinks Kaepernicking will be in the Super Bowl again

There aren’t many things that we’re good at here at the Hour of Power. However, providing yearly NFL previews is something we’ve been able to do twice now, so that’s a win in our book. Below is Matthew’s take on the NFC, with Ridley adding his occasionally sarcastic comments. Later, we’ll post Ridley’s AFC preview with Matthew adding a snarky flavor to spice it up.

NFC East

Washington:  If you were talking about Washington last year, chances are likely you were talking about Robert Griffin III.  He was the major story line of last year and if his performance is any indicator of things to come, he will be the storyline for years to come.  However, this season we should take a look at the other side of the ball.  Washington’s passing defense was ranked 30th in the league with 281.9 passing yards per game.  If Washington wants to take the next step they need to stop the pass.  However, I still think they can win 10 games.

-Ridley: The biggest question surrounding this team is whether RGIII can survive the whole season. Having drafted him on one of my fantasy teams, I certainly hope so.

NY Giants:  Did you know what QB played all 16 games and was only sacked 19 times?  That right, I am talking about football’s favorite little brother, Eli Manning.  Speaking as a little brother, I know that living in a brother’s shadow can be difficult. However, that sack total was a whole two less than big brother Peyton.  Honestly, as fans we are so lucky that these brothers are in their prime at the same time.  The Giants are a solid team on offense and defense.  They will win nine games and maybe more.

-Ridley: Elisha (real first name) is as good as any in getting the ball out under pressure. However, the defense is in decline, with a lack of pass rush and no proven linebackers. I see them topping out at eight wins.

Philadelphia:  A new coach and a new beginning for the Eagles.  No one knows what this team will be this year and if Coach Kelly will bring a new, prolific offense to the league.  What we do know is that Michael Vick will start the year as QB, their defense will have to do better if they are going to go anywhere, and “Chip” is an awesome name for a head coach.  Other than that, this team should be exciting to watch this season.  A rough season but still seven wins.

-Ridley: Philly is certainly intriguing. Can Vick hold up? Will he limit his turnovers? This team will go as he goes, and I don’t see it going well. Another losing bid in the City of Brotherly Love.

Dallas:  This is Ridley’s favorite team and I totally understand the pain you are going through.  The Raiders at one point had an older owner who was out of touch with football just like Big Man Jerry.  With new defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, I believe that Dallas will be better. However, with an offense that will struggle, I cannot see them winning more than seven games.

-Ridley: Dallas’ offense doesn’t worry me. Romo, despite his reputation, is constantly in the top 10 for every stat QBs are measured by. They’ve got studs in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and have other quality players to support them. The problem will be maintaining a healthy, respectable defense that can produce turnovers. Also, we need a new coach. Dallas goes 8-8 again.

NFC North

Green Bay:  Aaron Rodgers.  Like that sentence this team begins and ends with Aaron Rodgers (Who, in my own humble opinion, is the best QB in the league right now).  This team has a great offense and a defense that ranks in the top half of the league in all the major categories.  That is really all I can say about this team, so I will take some time to say that last year Ridley said that the Colts would have 5 wins and did not believe in Andrew Luck.  So take all his projections with a grain of salt.  Green Bay will win 11 games this year.

-Ridley: Green Bay’s offensive line is among the worst in the league. If they can’t keep Rodgers upright, they’re season will fall down as well (see what I did there?). Even with his ability to get the ball out quickly, he gets sacked way too often. Then again, given his mustache, maybe he likes it.

Chicago:  Can Chicago’s struggling offense keep up with their powerful defense?  I know what you are thinking… you have heard this before.  Year after year after year, the story is the same.  However, this is a new Bears team.  They have a new coach and a new attitude, but will that translate to more wins?  Probably not.  With Jay Cutler having only one reliable target in the passing game I’m afraid it might be the same story again.  They will be in the playoff hunt, but not the bell of the ball.  I’m afraid the fans of Chicago will have another eight win year.

-Ridley: Cutler got a new weapon in Martellus Bennett, but in typical Bears’ fashion, they’ll probably choose to ignore him. Brandon Marshall was the league leader in percentage of team targets, and if that happens again, this offense will continue to sputter. Add in a hyper-competitive NFC North and you getting to seven wins could be a challenge.

Detroit:  Matthew Stafford was second in the league in yards, and also first in completions and attempts.  However, the number that really matters is four.  The Lions were fourth in the NFC North and they only had four wins.  The Detroit offense has got to be more than Stafford and Johnson if they want to take the next step into the playoffs.  Detroit’s defense was in the bottom half in almost every category.  That defense needs to step up if they want to get into the playoffs.  I’ll give them a little credit… probably five wins.

-Ridley: El Leons (as my friends south of the border call them) lost a whopping seven games by one score or less last season. Add in the fact that Calvin Johnson was tackled at the 3-yard line or closer ELEVEN times last year and you can see that the Lions record last season screams “fluke!” Expect them to rebound for eight wins.

Minnesota:  This is a big year for Minnesota.  It was not long ago that we were saying that the Vikings had everything they needed except a starting quarterback.  Well, times have changed but the need is still the strongest on this team.  This will be a make or break year for Christian Ponder, who ranked 21st in passer rating last year.  The running game is still one of the tops in the league, but the defense has taken a few steps back recently.  This will be a tough year for Vikings fans and they will be shopping for a QB after a four win year.

-Ridley: Minny seems to be the team every is taking a collective dump on this offseason. Without Percy Harvin as Ponder’s security blanket, I can see why. AD will have to reach his 2,500 yard goal to bring this team back to the postseason.

NFC South

Atlanta:  This team should be a great team to watch this year.  They are solid at QB, they picked up Steven Jackson to beef up that running back position, and their 1-2 punch at wide receiver is one of the best in the league.  On the other side of the ball, the defense struggled last year, but managed to only give up the fifth least amount of points per game.  It is very possible that a high-powered offense this year could cover their Swiss cheese-like holes in the defense.  They will win the division with 11 wins.

-Ridley: I just can’t see Atlanta winnings 11 games this year. Their defense is incredibly weak, Matt Ryan doesn’t scare anybody and they’ll be battling a rejuvenated Saints team for top billing. Nine wins is much more likely.

New Orleans:  Last year their defense was historically bad and their offense needed to carry them (Much as Ridley carries me in most of these articles).  Like Ridley, Drew Brees’ back must be hurting him after the giant weight he carried much of last year.  If the defensive side of the ball can be in the top 15 to 20 overall, this team could go far because they will put up a lot of points.  That is great for fantasy teams and great in reality.  They will win 10 games.

-Ridley: Saints will rebound under the leadership of Sean Payton, but their defense is still as stout as Matthew after a deep conversation with his buddy Johnny Walker. Expect a lot of shootouts as the Saints battle to top .500.

Carolina:  This team is very difficult to judge.  If you were to come back from the future and tell me they would be 12-4 I would believe you.  I would also believe you if you said they were 4-12.  However, my first question would be, “Why the hell did you come back just to tell me about the Carolina Panthers?”  This team is a well-rounded team and solid.  I am afraid that their record will also be well rounded and solid.  Eight wins for the Panthers this year.

-Ridley: Don’t ask me why, but Carolina is my “worst to first” pick this year. Granted, they were in a three-way tie for both second, third and fourth in their division, but that’s beside the point. I think Cam Newton finally puts it together and the Panthers pull off a couple upsets they couldn’t in 2012.

Tampa Bay:  This year Tampa Bay has beefed up that defense and I think that will help them a lot.  Remember when the Bucs went to the Super Bowl?  They did it with a good defense and Brad Johnson as their QB.  The offense will still be weak as Josh Freeman may not be able to get better than a 54-percent completion percentage.  While this team is improved, I do not think that defense is good enough to carry them again, they will struggle to get five wins this year.

-Ridley: Josh Freeman is in the final year of his contract and the Bucs made ZERO attempts to resign him. That should tell you all you need to know about this team and where it’s headed.

NFC West

San Francisco:  There was a time that if you wanted to see eight wins a year in the Bay Area you had to watch both Raiders and 49ers games.  Even then it would be a stretch.  Look at how this team has grown up.  They are building through the draft, they are making smart free-agent pickups (Boldin), and they are putting their players in good situations to win.  This team is talented and young.  I see good things for them as they go for 12 wins.

-Ridley: A. I don’t see the Niners beating out the ‘Gulls for the NFC West. B. I certainly don’t see them being two games better than Seattle. I think you let homerism get the best of you here. With Boldin being the only wideout of consequence, this offense will struggle at times.

Seattle:  Great defense, high-powered offense and good on the special teams.  This team is well rounded and a championship contender.  They have built this team the right way and it is paying off for them in a big way.  Last year they ranked fifth in rushing yards per attempt, fourth in passing yards per attempt and Russell Wilson stunned the league with only 10 interceptions the whole season, proving that he is smart with the ball.  This year the “Twelfth Man” will help push them into the playoffs with 10 wins.

-Ridley: Seattle is the new in vogue team. They’re considered one of the favorites to win the NFC and they certainly have the talent. However, for this to take place, two things must happen: Russell Wilson must avoid a sophomore slump and the city of Seattle needs to ban Adderall within a 100-mile radius.

St. Louis:  This is a young team with some upside this year.  They showed some real promise last year with their defense ranked 14th in the league in total yards per game, and points per game.  Their offensive leader (Sam Bradford) only completed 59-percent of his passes, while leading his offense to 18.7 points per game (good for 25th in the league).  This team needs to put up more points on offense, but I think that the Rams will look better. They will likely lose a few close ones and be stuck with six wins.

-Ridley: Their defense is definitely solid and will only get better due to its youth. The question is, can Sam Bradford finally live up to his top pick billing. Also, will Tavon Austin be able to provide a dynamic weapon to an otherwise mundane offense?

Arizona: Many people are saying that Arizona will not be as bad as they were last year.  That Carson Palmer will be a better game manager and they will take steps forward.  Having watched Carson Palmer on the Raiders last year I can say with all honesty… “I thought so too.”  I thought he would be able to come in there and help the team win games, but he did not.  He was the best player on the team, but he couldn’t do it himself.  This time he will have Larry Fitzgerald to help him, but it will not be enough.  Five wins, but they will be in many of the games they lose.

-Ridley: To say that Carson Palmer couldn’t succeed in Oakland is placing too much burden on him. Larry Fitzgerald wipes away more talent every morning than what the Raiders put on the field last year (I’m looking at you DHB!). He’ll add a level of stability to the offense. However, the lack of a suitable tight end in a system that demands one will hamstring this offense. But the Honey Badger is good for an extra win, so we’ll go with six on the year.

Playoffs

That means my playoff teams are:

San Francisco (12)

Green Bay (11)

Atlanta (11)

Washington (10)

New Orleans (10)

Seattle (10)

I’ll take San Francisco to represent the NFC in the Championship game.

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