In the last edition of Two Sides of the Coin, Mike and Eddie discussed who they thought would win the AFC. Now it’s time to choose who will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Unlike the AFC, the NFC is jam-packed. Half of the teams have a legitimate shot at playing in the Super Bowl.
Let’s see who Eddie is picking to come out of the NFC.
I’ll start with the teams that I don’t see winning the NFC. First off, you can eliminate the Adrian Peterson –led Minnesota Vikings. I love the connection of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in Chicago, but I don’t think that defense is good enough to win in February. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be much improved under new head coach Lovie Smith, but not enough to contend this season. The Atlanta Falcons should be much improved this season, especially with side receiver Julio Jones coming back from an injury. If healthy, Steven Jackson should finally be a difference maker for this team. I like Matt Ryan and think he is capable of becoming a top-tier quarterback, but he plays in Atlanta where title dreams always seem to find a way to crumble. Cam Newton is vastly improving as is his team, but I don’t see them as title contenders, at least not this season. The New York Giants Had a rough season last year and it doesn’t look too promising for this season either. And if you think Eli Manning will complete 70% of his passes this season under the new West Coast offense, well you have another thing coming. The Washington Redskins will be better this year with the addition of wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Robert Griffin III is fully healthy, but I don’t see him or this team winning it all this year, even though they will be in contention for the NFC East title. The Dallas Cowboys are mediocre at best and will not even finish with a record of 8-8. This team is led by Tony Romo, who is the ultimate late-game heartbreaker. Many, including my astound colleague, Mr. Patton, are calling the NFC the NFC West invitational. While I agree that this division is loaded, I don’t see all four teams as Super Bowl contenders this season. The St. Louis Rams will continue to get better and make some noise, but will ultimately not reach the postseason. I love the defense of the Arizona Cardinals, led by Patrick Peterson, but the offense is suspect at best outside of Larry Fitzgerald.
So that leaves me with five teams I give a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl to represent the NFC: San Francisco, Green Bay, Detroit, New Orleans, and the reigning, defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. I think the 49ers are a great team with a great chance at winning the NFC, but I’m not picking them this season. The Saints will always have a shot with the tandem of Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, but I’m eliminating them from reaching the Super Bowl this season as well. No team has repeated as champions since the Patriots in the early 2000s, so take the Seahawks out as well. That leaves me with an NFC North battle to represent the NFC. The Packers are such a dangerous team led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but I’m leaning towards the other team, the Detroit Lions. I know I will receive a ton of flak for that and I’ll be in the minority with that pick, but I’m sticking with it.
New head coach Jim Caldwell will have his work cut out for him as he is working with a team that finished 7-9 a season ago. This season, I see the Lions turning things around and making a huge statement in the NFL. I’m a big Matthew Stafford guy and think he is on the cusp of being an elite quarterback in this league. He threw for 4,650 yards in 2013, with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. While the interceptions will need to be cut down, his ability to sling the pigskin is amazing. His favorite target, of course, is Calvin Johnson. Megatron is the best wide receiver in the game today. Johnson caught 84 passes a season ago, accumulating 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. Along with Megatron, Stafford will be throwing to offseason acquisition Golden Tate, who brings Super Bowl experience with him as he just won with the Seahawks. Reggie Bush will continue to carry the load out of the backfield, hoping for a second consecutive 1,000 yard season.
The defensive side of the ball is where the Lions will have to step up. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh should be highly motivated this season as he is in a contract year. The Lions and Suh have agreed to put contract talks on hold until after this season, which is a good idea. If Suh can keep his attitude in check and use the contract year as motivation, he will be even scarier than what he already is. The secondary will be much improved as it added three experienced veterans. Free safety Glover Quin, cornerback Rashean Mathis and strong safety James Ihedigbo will be the guidance the young secondary needs.
The schedule makers did the Lions no favors, but with all the fire power Detroit has, I see them finishing 11-5 or 10-6 and winning the NFC North and the entire NFC. Call me crazy, but I’m picking be Detroit Lions to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Yes folks. Eddie really just picked the Lions to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Let’s see who Mike thinks will represent the NFC.
The NFC has by far been the most competitive conference in the NFL. Up and down the conference you have teams that are very competitive. Teams like the Bears believe they are not far away while teams like the Dallas Cowboys are further away than some of their fans will realize. But over the last few years, the NFC West has been the most dominant division in football. In fact, the last two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl have been from that highly competitive conference. And to add on top of that, the Cardinals missed the playoffs last season despite having a 10-6 record. There will be no easy outs in the NFC West and that’s what makes the teams in this division so tough and successful (besides the Rams of course). So it would be only right that a representative be picked from the toughest division in the NFC. And even though the Seahawks are the defending NFL champions, it’s the NFC runners up that have strengthened themselves for their run at the title.
A year ago, plenty had the San Francisco 49ers going to the Super Bowl. They believed that Colin Kaepernick had the ability and the acumen to lead them offensively and the defense was Super Bowl caliber. Well, the second half of the equation rang true while Kaepernick continued his growth as an NFL QB. He definitely his high points in the season. Who can forget this sparkling display:
But there were also games that we wanted to forget from Colin like the regular season stinker he put up against the Carolina Panthers. More often times than not, Colin did not have the greatest weapons around him and as a result, the offense would look stagnant at times. Well, the 49ers addressed that this offseason with the acquisition of wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd to go along with the three returning receivers of Quinton Patton, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree ( who missed a huge chunk of the season last year). These added weapons along with the always powerful running game and electric tight end Vernon Davis will make the Niners one of the rougher offenses to face, especially when you think of how dangerous Kaepernick is when he tucks the football and runs. Expect this team to resemble the same team as last year in terms of formations, but look for them to be more explosive. And with more weapons, expect them to finish drives way better than they did last season.
Defensively, the Niners front seven has always been one that was feared by a lot of teams. But heading into this season, two key members are pretty dinged up while another is facing a suspension. Defensive end Justin Smith, the anchor of the Niners defense, had shoulder surgery this offseason and is still recovering. Also linebacker Navorro Bowman suffered a serious knee injury that will keep him out half the season. And to add on to the list of players that will miss some time, outside linebacker Aldon Smith will be missing some time due to a league-mandated suspension (suspension has not been announced yet but is expected). Although Justin Smith is expected to be fine for the start of the season, the other two missing players will be tough to replace. But the good thing is the 49ers have some depth up front. Michael Wilhoite and Corey Lemonier will replace both Bowman and Aldon Smith for the time they miss and these two are both good fits and can produce at a steady level to hold things together. The defense will still be feared and what is even better is they have a better set of cornerbacks this year than last year by far. Add the veteran Antoine Bethea to replace safety Donte Whitner and you have a team that strengthened a weakness while they build depth over the season. As the season goes on, they will become tougher and tougher on teams and allow the offense to have more possessions to put up points. Another bonus this offseason provided San Francisco is more depth in their defensive line. 2013 draft picks Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are expected to be key members of a line rotation that should help the Niners be more explosive up front.
The suffocating defense with added depth over the season and the anemic offense (at times) with added weapons means this Niners team has all the weapons needed to make a Super Bowl run. All they need is better quarterback play and solid contributions from the backups while starters are down. I believe that happens and by the end of the season, this 49ers team is representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
49ers, Lions or someone else? Who do you have winning the NFC?