MARK'S WRONG NFL PREVIEW, PART TWO --- THE NFC
My predictions and the rebuttals from my fans-of-the-team friends continues! Woo hoo!
The Panthers have a pattern of a .500-ish year followed by a big season, so since they were 8-8 last year, it stands to reason they'll have a big improvement in 2007. The schedule gods helped them out with a very cake slate of games. Carolina is a team that has a lot of talent that I'm still on board with, but who others have deserted. I still think John Fox is one of the better coaches in the game, though I'm sure a lot of Panthers fans wouldn't mind seeing Fox fired and new North Carolina native Bill Cowher taking over in 2008. I still like Jake Delhomme even though he played like a pile of wet rags last season. Carolina is going to rebound with a big showing.
The counter comes from my amigo, Colin...
"The Panthers are a team with great potential, and little ability to play to it. John Fox is a fine coach, but has lost his impact on the team, as it continues to have massive turnover from one year to another. The team is set perfectly to play to another .500 season. This team also has the greatest potential to suffer through a quarterback controversy. THe addition of David Carr will put a lot of pressure on Jake Delhomme, who has struggled in the face of adversity in the past. Steve Smith is the greatest wide receiver to only play 40% of a career. If he succumbs to injury again, the team's offense will suffer tremendously. The team is average, at best."
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints will have a similar season to last year, except without the hoopla. Remember that their 10-6 record was enough to win the division, and in between U2 halftime shows had more than a few shaky performances. The bloom will be a bit off the rose for New Orleans this year but given their weak division and weak schedule for a division champ, the Saints can lose a step and still be on top in the NFC South. I'm curious to see how the Reggie Bush experiment continues in 2007. I'm still not sold on Bush as a regular back, or even a guy that can be relied upon in a straight platoon.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs have about nine quarterbacks on the roster, none of them good. Their defense ain't much, even after poaching Cato June from the Colts. Cadillac Williams and the receiver core are a B-minus. This is a make or break year for management, or else Jon Gruden and the front office are going to be fired en masse. On the bright side, they're not the Falcons. Tampa Bay is finishing 6-10.
Ha ha ha! Well, obviously the Falcons are going to be brutal. Even if Michael Vick hadn't thrown his life away, I wouldn't have been very high on the team this year. Ignoring the monstrous Ewing Theory potential here, the only question is if Atlanta will win two games or three. Brian Brohm is favoured to be the #1 pick in the 2008 draft, and he played for Falcons coach Bobby Petrino at Lousville. So, yeah, that's a plus. This team will play so badly that Petrino will take the players behind his property and drown them, electrocute them and/or toss them onto the ground.
Providing the rebuttal is my friend Dave...
"You can't blame Vick for doing what he did -- like Whoopi says, dog fighting is part of Michael's cultural upbringing. Plus, Jamie Foxx says that Vick just didn't realize the things he was supposed to avoid as a celebrity. That's good enough for me -- this is clearly the most flagrant case of celebrity injustice since OJ's brief incarceration. As with then, it's time we let the Juice loose.
To quote Whoopi once again, there are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of the country. For folks in Georgia, those things include grits and sweet tea at breakfast, a Braves October swoon, and the sexual predations of Ted Turner. A Falcons controversy is not one of those things, so it will be interesting to see how the Peach-folk deal with the negative media attention. My guess: support for the team will be at an all-time high, and Vick jerseys will continue to move like hotcakes.
Look, I've gotta be honest -- I'm only a Falcons fan since I can recall MC Hammer gracing the team's sidelines in the early '90s, with Deion Sanders asking Mr. Burrell to sing him a few bars. That presence, combined with the Dirty Bird, make the Falcons the greatest _ sports _ franchise _ ever. Not a doubt in my mind.
Lastly, Jerry Glanville looked great in the video for Too Legit to Quit, even though it was filmed almost 20 years ago. Thus, all things being equal, I predict a .500 season for the Falcons, with playoffs on tap for next year."
The Seahawks are probably in the last or second last year of success with this current crop of players, so they'll be hungry if they realize their window for a Super Bowl title is quickly closing. I talked earlier about the Madden Curse, which boned over Shaun Alexander last season, but there is also evidence of a Madden Rebound. I think Alexander is going to have a monster season. To support this, I even picked him early in a fantasy league, so I'm clearly pretty sold on him, folks. You can't buy that kind of an endorsement. Any idiot can pick a guy for a big year, but it takes a commitment to use the crucial early first-round pick on one of the second-tier of running backs after LT and Stephen Jackson.
Also, to clear up a common misconception, Matt Hasselbeck isn't the one married to crazy Elisabeth from The View. That's Matt's brother Tim, the recently-cut Giants backup. I'm standing up for Matt's rights here since I have a soft spot for any quarterback that is openly balding and doesn't try to hide it. Hasselbeck still has a ways to go to make up for his asinine "we want the ball and we're going to win!" boast in the playoff game with Green Bay a few years back, but baldness is a good beginning.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The Niners seem to be the consensus dark horse pick this season, which means they'll probably struggle to around a 7-9 record and then make their big leap in 2008 with an easier schedule. But still, there's always hope San Fran can step it up this year given that they sched is already pretty light and they're in a weak division. I love the pick of Patrick Willis in the draft, largely because he's one of those players that literally everyone (every pundit, every coach, every broadcaster) seemed to agree was going to be a very good-to-great pro that any team would want. So, of course, he dropped to #11 behind several guys who were much bigger question marks. I don't get the draft process sometimes. Anyway, Willis helps a defense that also added some big-ticket free agents (though Nate Clements is totally not worth that much money). Frank Gore should continue to be a beast, and Alex Smith should continue his development as one of the #1 overall pick quarterbacks who isn't awful. You should check the list sometimes, it's quite interesting. It's almost a dead 50-50 split between guys who became great or near-great and total bombs.
The response comes from my buddy Trev...
"Yeah I'd probably agree with most everything that you've said. As much as their off-season acquisitions are going to improve the team I still think they've got a ways to go before they're true contenders. Granted pre-season games don't even have a shred of significance, but I have a feeling the inconsistency that they showed is going to carry over to the regular season. Just as they have the past few seasons the team will finish strong, but I'm worried that they won't put it together until it's too late.
While I agree that Alex Smith hasn't been a complete bomb, I just don't see him ever being a true impact player in the NFL. For some reason I just can't get past all the criticism about his small hands (and his smelling like cabbage). Oh well, at least Mike Nolan will look good walking the sidelines in a three piece suit. If you can't out-coach Belichick et al. you might as well out-dress them.
So there it is. Probably not the most informed opinion but that’s all you’re getting from me. After reading this a few times I’ve come to realize that I’m not overly optimistic about any of my teams this season. The Jays, Habs, Niners – it’s quite a mediocre bunch… oh well, at least we can fall back on the consistently excellent Western Mustangs. Yikes."
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Meh. I should be a lot of impressed by the Rams than I actually am, since between their excellent offense and weak schedule, they're on pace to be a playoff team. But for some reason, I just don't see this bunch getting it done. I just have a feeling that something bad will happen, ala a Vernon Wells-esque post-contract letdown from Marc Bulger, or an injury to Stephen Jackson that will cause mass suicides of fantasy football players. The Rams' defense isn't particularly good either, which doesn't help in a division where they face Arizona, Seattle and the potentially dangerous Niners twice each. I'm just very blah on the Rams, and the definition of blah is 8-8.
Nobody will ever believe the Cardinals are good until they actually do something. As good as Arizona's coaching changes and player acquisitions look on paper, this team has such a legacy of disgusting failure that they could've signed the 1986 Bears defense and I'd still be concerned. The key for the Cards is Edgerrin James playing like he is capable. It will also help if Arizona survives going 0-5 or 1-4 in their first five weeks, since three of the games are against division foes and the other two are against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Pop quiz, hotshot: will Matt Leinart get more TDs or VDs during the 2007 season?
Imagine getting married knowing it will end in disaster. Sure, a lot of people may enter into wedlock perhaps thinking things will go wrong, but imagine if you were told before the ceremony by a fortune teller (picture the woman who told Lisa Simpson about Hugh) that the marriage would absolutely, positively fail. Would you go ahead and do it? Not at all...unless you're the Bears. I know, you know, all football fans know that if Chicago makes it back to the altar with Rex Grossman, he will leave them as heartbroken as that sucker who married the runaway bride. We saw what happened at the Super Bowl -- Grossman predictably played like feces. Had Grossman managed even a Dilferian level of competence, that game could've gone differently. He is a terrible quarterback who simply cannot be trusted to lead a team to a Super Bowl title.
So, of course, the Bears kept him around for the 2007 season. They really honestly are screwing themselves. Their defense is outstanding, probably the first or second best in football. They have a solid line, good receivers and a good...well, solid running back in Cedric Benson. The only thing holding them back from being a true contender is Grossman. Other teams have question marks at a lot more positions than the Bears, but in many of those cases, those question marks indicate genuine uncertainty about the answer. It could be bad, or it could be good. In Chicago's case, they know the answer isn't there. I think the Bears will be at least in the NFC championship game this year and should win this division without much problem at all. But as long as Rex Grossman is taking snaps, this team won't win a Super Bowl.
With the counter, my associate Jordan...
A lot was made of Grossman's inconsistent play last year, but the bottom line is that the team DID make it to the Super Bowl with him at the helm. Maybe he does in fact come from the school of "winners" that includes the likes of Gustavo Chacin, where his team seems to win in spite his personal failings. But, it's hard to argue against sticking with Train Rex this season. Consider that in the 2006-07 campaign, his Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde act at center churned out seven games with a QB rating of at least 100. Only Rams QB Marc Bulger had more with eight. In reality, Grossman may not be the make or break element for the Monsters of the Midway. The biggest question mark deals with who Grossman will be handing the ball to this year.
Chicago opted to part ways with RB Thomas Jones in favor of giving the full-time job to Cedric Benson, who has neither established himself as the next Walter Payton (highly doubtful), Anthony Thomas (B-Train?) or Curtis Enis (Dear God, no!). If Cedric can become "The Entertainer" and keep Chi-town's running game intact, that will only help Grossman out. If Benson can't come through, then Grossman will be more exposed and more of those 0.0 QB rating games could be on the horizon.
Amidst their questions -- and they don't seem to have as many as other clubs -- the Bears should indeed cruise to the North title once again. The D is solid and should help overcome any offensive inefficiencies that go along with Grossman's mistakes, Benson's learning curve, or relying more on Bernard Berrian at WR and getting Devin Hester to transition well to being a receiver. One player to watch is rookie TE Greg Olsen, who could be an added weapon on O.
Can Da Bears get back to Da Super Bowl? Sure. Can they win it with Grossman as their guy? Well, it'd help if Peyton Manning wasn't on the other side...
I'm picking the Lions to finish second in this division. I'd suggest the next step is stocking up on bottled food and shotgun shells, since the apocalypse is nigh. Detroit is one of the few teams in sports that could be in serious contention for the title of The Pinnacle Of Suck. No NFL titles in 50 years, nary a successful playoff run in that stretch, and a long stretch in the Millen era as one of the NFL's biggest jokes. But I really think they may be on a track out of the crap factory. Small steps are being made, and they seem to be in the right direction. I can't really point to Calvin Johnson as a turning point since saying "Oh, the Lions picked a star receiver in the first round, they're set now!" would be idiotic given their recent draft history and .333 batting average in finding quality pass-catchers. But Calvin Johnson is the real deal, and may be a favourite for rookie of the year along with Adrian Peterson. Granted, this second-place ranking is based in large part on this awful division, but still, it'll be a relatively good year for the Lions, which by their standards is like winning a Super Bowl. Maybe 7-9?
Supplying the rejoinder is my crony and fellow blogger (check the links section) Wasko. His material is funny, and even funnier if you read it in a Jimmy Stewart voice, which Wasko (occasionally) sounds like.
"Oh, what a surprise. Mr. I'm-Down-on-all-Detroit-Franchises (see in particular: the 2006 Detroit Tigers) is sour on the 2007 Detroit Lions. Maybe you're ignoring the fact that our QB is poised to pass for 4,000+ yards, that we picked the best player in the draft (Calvin Johnson), that we have the potential for a high powered offense, that Ernie Sims and Cory Redding are going to anchor a much-improved def—wait…what? You picked them to finish second in the division at 7-9? Hmmm...that's actually probably a bit charitable. Truth be told, Kitna is interception prone, the receivers are underachieving prone, and Mike Martz is, well, Mike Martz.
SI, in its infinite wisdom, picked the Lions to go 4-12, dead last in the NFC North but, embarrassingly, one win better than last season. Reading the preview was actually a little bit painful, since the brighter spots consisted of (a) Martz optimistically noting that "only 9" of Kitna's 22 picks ( 22?! Science Dammit!) were "his fault"; (b) Jeff Backus saying that it's the first time in seven years that guys on the team "actually like each other"; and (c) Coach Marinelli happily observing that the "Do-Right List" (essentially, a glorified breach of etiquette tally) was blank this pre-season. Phew…that's a load off my mind. I'm truly excited about the Calvin Johnson Era (when Mike Furrey—2 nd in the NFL in catches last year with 98—is your number three receiver, you know that your offense has a chance to be explosive), pleased that they signed Tatum Bell, and hopeful that Kevin Jones is healthy enough to contribute. But, at the end of the day, they're still the Lions.
Looking at their schedule, I feel confident that they have absolutely no shot against Chicago (at least once), Philadelphia , Denver, Dallas , and San Diego. So can they go 7-4 against the following teams: Chicago (at home), Oakland, Minnesota (twice), Green Bay (twice), Washington, Tampa, Arizona, the Giants, and KC? Assuming they stay reasonably healthy and assuming that their new stud OLs (Edwin Mulitalo and George Foster) are all they're cracked up to be (thus buying time for Kitna so that he can...presumably suck less), I say yes. That'll put them at 7-9, which should, as you've noted, be good enough for 2 nd in the division—seriously, Favre's arm might very well fall off this season (sorry, buddy!) and having a sexy looking Adrian Peterson-Chester Taylor RB tandem won't mean a damn thing in Minnesota once teams realize the extent of Tarvaris Jackson's awfulness (my guess: about a quarter and a half). That's respectable, but nothing to get excited about . I think I like what Vietnam vet (thus fulfilling the apparent contractual obligation to refer to him as such in every article about the team) Marinelli is doing and I think that they may be on the right track, but I won't be trawling Ebay for playoff tickets anytime soon. That said, if you thought things seem bleak now, I'd like to point out that we're one rolled ankle or twisted knee away from " now entering the game at QB for Lions: Dan Orlavsky!" He went to fucking UConn!
It's hard, of course, to be optimistic about a team that has such a long legacy of being tragically inept. This is, after all, the same team that essentially sapped Barry Sanders, only the most dominant back in the NFL and one of the greatest players ever, of his competitive spirit, prompting him to abruptly retire after the 1998 season. The same team that elected to kick after winning the coin toss in an overtime game (so that they could be with the wind) at a time when everyone was loudly denouncing the OT system for being unfairly skewed in favor of the team that won the toss and received the kick. The same team that missed the 2002 playoffs by allowing a desperate last second drive and long-distance FG as time expired against the Bears. The same team that lost a game on a botched PAT snap (I can't even remember when it was or who it was against, but I remember the game being around Christmas and me almost having a stroke). The same team that went three years ( years) without a road win. The same team that opted to give the team CEO, a man who'd been at the helm for a pants-shittingly bad 24-72 (that's a .200 winning percentage for those keeping track at home) five year stretch, a contract extension…That has won one playoff game in my lifetime (and I'm fucking old)…That perennially drafts seemingly talented players that immediately lose interest in playing football (Mike Williams) or in being punctual (also Williams) or in maintaining their playing weight by displaying even a modicum of willpower when it comes to their eating habits (one more time) or in not being a whiny bitch that no one could possibly in their right mind follow into battle— GOD!! (Joey Harrington) or in not repeatedly fracturing their collarbones (Charles Rogers). Seriously, I can keep going. I mean, the last time they won an NFL title (1957), most teams weren't even desegregated (OK, maybe just the Redskins). That's…an awfully long drought.
That said, I'm well past the "this franchise drives me batshit crazy" phase and I'm coasting into the "this franchise is hilarious" phase. I've found that it's much less stressful if your expectations entering the season are virtually nil. Although, if the Lions lose to the Raiders in Week 1 on a last second TD catch by Mike Williams, I will kill myself."
Ok, here's my crazy flyer this season. I have a weird feeling that the Vikings will be pretty good. There is no logical reason why this should be so. This team has more holes than Travis Henry's box of condoms, but there's always one team that comes out of nowhere every NFL season. Now, this doesn't mean Minnesota will be a playoff team or anything, though in the NFC that's always a possibility. I see them getting off to a strong start -- their first four games are against Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City and they're at home against Green Bay, so a 3-1 or even 4-0 beginning isn't totally out of the question. Then they have a bye, to revel in the "hey, look at the Vikings!" story on ESPN Countdown and FOX NFL Sunday, plus an SI story. Then their next five games are against Chicago, Dallas, Philly, San Diego and (away in) Green Bay, so the rocket will come crashing back to earth. The Vikes will end up around 6-10, maybe 7-9 in all likelihood, but I dunno, I just get a good vibe from this team. Adrian Peterson is going to be a rookie beast.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Some fans are overly optimistic about their teams. I'm not one of these fans. The Pack are going to be awful this year. Genuinely brutal. This team might make the 2005 4-12 team look good by comparison. Green Bay has a rough schedule, no proven receivers besides Donald Driver (and he may be hurt), a defense that got by on fumes in last year's inexplicable .500 season --- when Green Bay were the worst 8-8 team in football history -- and the Pack are putting way too much faith in rookie Brandon Jackson and nobody Verand Morency at running back. The whole key to the team is a strong running game that takes the pressure off of Brett Favre to make him feel like he doesn't have to force passes downfield in order for the team to score. When Favre does this, he gets 2-3 INTs per game and makes me want to set fire to my face and put it out with an axe. This team needed a major overhaul in the offseason and next to nothing was done. This confirms my belief that GM Ted Thompson is a moron who needs to be fired. Only when that happens will Green Bay
By the way, here's a link for you all to read. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_psychology
My chums Hurk and Larkin over at http://spiritofjakeplummer.blogspot.com provided a double rebuttal, which seems fair as Green Bay are my favoured team, so of COURSE they get twice the coverage.
"Overall, the team appears in good shape -- for the future. Despite Mark’s pessimism, Ted Thompson has the Pack on the right track. If it weren’t for Brett Favre’s unwillingness to die/retire, the positives of the rebuilding effort would be more visible. Instead, it looks too much like Green Bay is trying to win now. But with the Lions, Vikings, and Chicago Rex Grossmans appearing on the schedule twice each, a few gimmie wins are always there for the taking.
Offensively, Mark’s concerns are warranted. Throughout the season, dutiful network commentators will remind you that the great Brett Favre is on the cusp of eclipsing the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown record. Good, great, grand. Let’s just try to keep our erections in check and remember he’s also on the cusp of eclipsing the NFL’s all-time interception record, too. He’s like the Lenny Wilkens of football. Wilkens is the winningest coach, yeah, but he’s also the losingest coach, so he’s really just the coachingest coach.
It isn’t all Favre’s fault, mind you. He’s suffered through a sore lack of offensive talent the past few years and has felt pressure to make plays he’s no longer capable of. If anyone understands what Favre’s going through, it’s Eugene Levy. Think about it. Glory days with the first couple American Pie flicks, but he didn’t know when to quit. Now he’s carrying a no-name cast in horrible, direct-to-video sequels, and even if Bubba Fra - er, Stifler, pops up now and then, he doesn’t bring the same talent to the table he used to. Maybe the magic would still be there if Antonio Freeman were catching bombs and Shannon Elizabeth was flopping her hooters in our faces, but we’ll probably never know.
Regardless, the situation isn’t quite as bleak as Mark believes -- there is (some) talent among the committee of running backs; young receivers Greg Jennings and James Jones have shown promise as very solid compliments to Driver; and much of the offensive line is in capable hands thanks to Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher and Scott Wells -- though even the most optimistic fan shouldn’t be too excited about the possibility of revisiting the high-flying Packer offences of the mid-’90s.
Defensively, Mark is more confused than an old man trying to work the DVD player his grandchildren gave him for Christmas. The defensive line is so deep the team has kept 10 players on the roster and all should see fair time in the rotation. Defensive tackle is particularly strong thanks to the emergence of a few youngsters during training camp. This line should keep pressure on quarterbacks and off the secondary and be among the league’s best units.
The rest of the box defenders aren’t too shabby themselves. Nick Barnett is a very solid tackling machine in the middle, though he’s perhaps a bit overrated and certainly a bit overzealous when it comes to celebrating -- no, he didn’t just win the Super 7 or score a threesome with his girlfriend and her sister; he just held Chester Taylor to a three-yard gain on second down in Week 4. Outside ’backer A.J. Hawk is a budding star and Brady Poppinga, while not a household name, will be fine on the other side.
The secondary is led by superb, underrated corner Al Harris and his partner Charles Woodson. They’re not flashy, but they make one of the better corner tandems in the league (seriously -- I’m not saying that just because Woodson is a big name, either; he was legitimately good last year). If the defence falters, it will be because of coverage breakdowns among the safeties and nickelback. Nick Collins has excellent skills but looks like Stevie Wonder trying to catch a butterfly when running down a ball in the air. Atari Bigby will start across from him. I don’t really know anything about him, but his name sounds pretty cool. Nickel is unsettled, though it’s fair to assume it won’t be pretty.
By no means will this season be a disaster. But it won’t be championship-worthy, either. Seven or eight wins and steady improvement of the young roster is reasonable. Give Thompson another year or two to shore up the secondary and invest some more picks on offence and depressed Midwesterners will stop picking chunks of bratwurst out of their moustaches, emerge from their basements and don their Cheese Heads with pride. Please just don’t remind us that the last time we said that, we waited 30 years for another Super Bowl."
God help me, I actually think the Cowboys will benefit in a season after they replaced Bill Parcells with Wade Phillips. This doesn't seem possible. It is the exact opposite prediction that I made with the Chargers and their adoption of a retread coach. What could possibly be the.... oh right, it's because the Chargers are in the AFC and the Cowboys are in the pitiful NFC. I think they take the division with a bit of luck and a bit of a step back from the Eagles. My biggest hope for Dallas' season is that it inspires another year of http://www.tonyhomo.com. I love Burgers!
Mes ami James, avec le repondre...
"Although certain people (author included) were in dire straits when veteran pivot Drew Bledsoe was benched and replaced by the snap-fumbling Tony Romo, I have to agree with Mark that the Cowboys have enough weapons to keep their heads above water in the wimpy NFC. Romo has an impressive host of targets and offensive weapons, and if Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer can pressure the quarterback as expected, no one will want to play the 'Boys."
So why am I picking the Eagles (who have a lot more talent and a lot fewer question marks than the Cowboys) to finish second? Distractions. Cutting Jeremiah Trotter was not a wise move, as though he's lost a step, he was a team leader on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Andy Reid has spent a big chunk of the off-season devoted to family issues, namely his two druggie sons. Insert the "he should be coaching the Raiders or Bengals instead" joke here. Now, I still think the Eagles have enough to get into the playoffs, and might just knock out Dallas should they actually meet up in the first round. But I think that Philly will tease its fans with a big win or two, but then follow it up by losing to an inferior team or choking away a big win in the late minutes. I forsee a frustrating 9-7 or 10-6 campaign for the men in green.
The Skins are my sleeper pick of the season that I actually legitimately like, since the Vikings don't really count. This team has talent, period. If this is going to be Joe Gibbs' last season as an NFL coach before returning to his NASCAR team, then the old coach has too much pride to go out like a Spurrier. I think Jason Campbell will end up being a good quarterback, they have one of the better offensive lines in the league and rookie LaRon Landry is going to be a beast. I may look back on this pick in six months and laugh, but I've got the Skins going 9-7 and maybe even sneaking into that final playoff berth in the NFC. It will take some craptastic play from the likes of the 49ers and Panthers for the Skins to get in, but what the hell, you just have to like a team where the running back has schizophrenia. Clinton Portis is the NFL's answer to Multiple Man.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Speaking of distractions, even in retirement Tiki Barber is a pain in this team's ass. I'm not one to defend Eli Manning or Tom Coughlin, but where the hell does Tiki get off slamming them over last season when their crappiness wasn't nearly the problem that Tiki's ongoing retirement drama was to the G-men? I've given up on Barber ever since that hilarious SI article where he said his role model was Matt Lauer. What an asshole.
Anyway, it's possible the Giants rebound with a Ewing Theory year after losing their overrated running back, especially with man-beast Brandon Jacobs taking over as the featured ball-carrier. But...well, Eli does suck. And Coughlin lost his team last year, and is widely regarded as a dead man walking in the last year of his contract, as Giants management is just itching to clean house with a new staff. Michael Strahan seems to be taking over Tiki's role with the retirement distraction, though that is widely regarded as a smoke-screen to get more money from New York. Strahan, y'see, got taken to the cleaners by his wife in the divorce settlement. I'm sure Strahan has complained at length about it over candlelight dinners of wine and Subway meatball subs with Jared.
NFC wild cards: Eagles, Redskins
NFC champion: Seattle Seahawks