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NFL | NFC East and NFC South previews and predictions

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: (Offence 79.27, Defence 73.23, Overall 76.25)Strengths: What can’t this team do? They are good in pretty much every area of the game, and were able to win the Super Bowl last season with their backup QB. The fact that they have a hungry Carson Wentz - who wants to lift his own Lomabardi trophy - is a huge boost and should stop complacency. Doug Peterson has proven himself to be resilient and adaptable in the NFL, and I trust him to make more good decisions than bad again this year. If you want proof of how smart he is, I would recommend reading his new book “Fearless”. Also, how is Jim Schwartz not a head coach again? He did a great job with the Lions before and is arguably the best defensive co-ordinator in the league at the moment. Weaknesses: The main reason for doubt with this side is due to the losses of both offensive co-ordinator Frank Reich to the Colts and QB coach John DeFliippo to the Vikings. Their linebacking group of Jordan Hicks, Nathan Gerry and Nigel Bradham is not overly impressive. Jalen Mills is an average Corner back, but the rest of that group is strong. Prediction: This is my highest rated team in all the NFL. I have not picked them to repeat last season’s feat, but if they manage it would not shock my in the slightest. The Eagles do things right, they play to win the game, and not to just to try avoid losing. Do go for it on fourth down, they run trick plays and they get creative. They are my second favourites to go all the way after the Rams and I would write them off at your peril. 12-4.

Dallas Cowboys: (Offence 75.03, Defence 72.53, Overall 73.78)Strengths: This offence is still very good and even with some loses to the O-line, they are still a top five group in the NFL. Zeke Elliot is still the heart of this offence, and if Presscott can return to rookie season form they will be hard to beat. The one mocked defence is also fairly good this year, with some excellent players in their front seven with Demarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and Sean Lee. Weaknesses: If I am to praise Doug Peterson for being adaptable and resilient, the opposite can be said for Jason Garrett. He needs everything to be perfect for things to go well. When they missed Elliot last year their offence could not move the ball. He won by 1970's football in 2016 (and nothing wrong with that), but when you’re missing players you have to change it up. He is definitely the biggest weakness I see, but from a players perspective they may be a little light at their receiving core. Cole Beasley and Alan Hurns are decent players, but they might be missing a big bodied receiver for the red zone. Prediction: This team has the talent to go back to the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, so do 12 of the 16 teams in the NFC. With Garrett at the helm, they may lack ingenuity to win close games. 7-9.

New York Giants: (Offence 69.18, Defence 70.86, Overall 70.02)Strengths: Saquon Barkley could be a game changer at running back, much like Elliot was for the Cowboys two years ago. Odell Beckham is seriously good when he puts his mind to it, and can catch pretty much anything. Defensively, Oliver Vernon, Dalvin Tomlinson, Kareem Martin, and the very underrated Dam Harrisson give this side a very impressive front four on defence. Combine this with Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins at the backend and you have a solid defence. New Head coach Pat Shurmer worked wonders with multiple QBs in Minnesota, and nothing could have been worse than Ben Mcadoo’s play calling last year. Weaknesses: Eli Manning’s arm has not looked good for two years. It doesn’t help that this offensive line has been very poor. That may get better with Nate Solder at left tackle, but it’s still not a good group. That being said, if Russell Wilson was at QB for this team, I would be tempted to pick them for the Super Bowl, so Eli probably is the main thing holding the team back. Prediction: Good team, probably going in the right direction with Pat Shurmer, but need a better QB to really contend. 6-10.

Washington Redskins: (Offence 67, defence 71, Overall 69)Strengths: Alex Smith was brilliant last year with the Chiefs and is a much better at throwing the deep ball than he gets credit for. Last year, this team were very unlucky with O-line injuries. If they can get the running game going, then I think the receiving core of Jordan Reed, Paul Richardson, and Doctson can have a lot more joy. Defensively this is a strong unit, with the likes of Ryan Kerrigan, Johnathon Allen, and rookie DaRon Payne (sorry but is that the best name for a hard hitting defender you have ever heard). The back-end is also very impressive with Lance Dunbar, DJ Searinger and Josh Norman. Weaknesses: The injury to Darius Guice is a big loss to this offence. Adrain Peterson might be solid, but he may not last anything close to a full year. Defensively this team needs to stop making so many mistakes. They have good players but never seem to play overly well. Prediction: I once thought this team was underrated, but after looking at their squad they are probably rated about right. The will win some games but still lack that killer edge in hard games. 6-10.

NFC South

Atalanta Falcons (Offence 78.56, Defence 69.23, Overall 73.89)Strengths: This is the second highest rated team after the Eagles. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Mohammad Sanu, Grady Jerett, Keanu Neal. I could just keep naming great players until it loses all relevance. Player by player they are great, and it’s hard to fault any one position group very much. Weaknesses: Steve Sarkisian is the worst play caller in the NFL and it’s not even close. He has turned an unstoppable offence into one with the lowest red zone efficiency in the league, despite the fact that he has two good running backs, good O-Line and a multitude of good receivers. If he is fired now and they get a competent play-caller, this team becomes a Super Bowl contender once again. Until then it’s hard to talk about this team as the glaring weakness is just so obvious. Prediction: Good team, bad coaches. If they don’t get to the play-offs it will be a travesty, and at the moment I think they may just miss out. 9-7.

New Orleans Saints: (Offence 73.2, Defence 72.76, Overall 72.98)Strengths: What a fun team this was last year. With Drew Brees, Alvan Kamara, and Micheal Thomas, the Saints might have a legitimate challenge to the Steelers for the best trio in football. Sean Payton has never been afraid to go for it, and it has made this team very fun to watch over the years. Defensively they are much better than they were two years ago. Cameron Jordan is a beast, and the same can be said for Alex Okafor and Marcus Williams. Weaknesses: Although they have some studs on defence which are mentioned above, they also have some very average players such as AJ Klien, Sheldon Rankins, and Ken Crawley. While on their offensive line which has been a bug bearer for years has Andus Peat and Max Ungar who are not very good players. Prediction: This should be a fun team to watch once again, and I think they are good enough to make the play-offs. Brees isn’t getting any younger, so he will be anxious to try and get his second ring. I wouldn’t fully rule this out, but I’m not going to pick them to get there. 10-6.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (Offense 68.62,Defence 70.25, Overall 69.44)Strengths: Gerald McCoy, Vinny Curry, and Jason Pierre Paul are a very impressive group up front. Add first round rookie Vita Vea and they might be starting to reform the dominant group that they had in the early 2000’s up front. They also still have Desean Jackson and Mike Evans at wide receiver, which are a good duo on paper. Their offensive line is also solid. Weaknesses: Jameis Winston has proven once again that his respect for women is simply not good enough. He is meant to be the franchise leader, and denying allegations of groping for over a year after previously being accused in the past is simply not good enough. These scandals are never good for teams, and could very possibly suck the life out of the Bucs, who overall have some talent.

Prediction: Having Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB for the first four games - in which they face the Siants, Eagles, Steelers, and Bears - it is hard to see how they win more than one game against four better teams. It could be a long year. 4-12.

Carolina Panthers: (Offense 74.95, Defense 72.66, Overall 71.08)Strengths: Like I have said in so many in these previews, this is a talented team. It starts with Newton, who on occasion can take over games with his arm and legs, and there’s no way to stop him. With Christian McCaffrey, Greg Olsen, and Devin Funchess, this offence can be very exciting. Defensively, Luke Kuechly is a freak who must act as a magnet for the ball as I’ve never seen a linebacker who has as many interceptions as Luke. Mario Addison, Kwann Short, the ageing Julius Peppers, and Dontari Poe also give this defence some serious muscle. Weaknesses: Cam Newton can be great sometimes, but can also be very inaccurate at times, and starts to try to win the game with entirely his legs, which can mean he takes huge hits. Their back end is not as good as it once was since the departure of Josh Norman, and it may get picked on during the year. Prediction: If the Panthers were in the AFC I would have them as my Super Bowl pick. However, in the NFC, they may get squeezed out by some other great teams. 8-8. Richard Corbally

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