NFL Preview 2014 - NFC

By Ian Palmer

The NFL’s 95th season kicks off Thursday, September 4 and runs until December 28, 2015. The postseason begins January 3 with Super Bowl XLIX taking place Sunday, February 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium, in Glendale, Arizona. This season’s Pro Bowl game will be contested in the same stadium on January 25. The Seattle Seahawks will be attempting to defend their title, but will have some stiff competition from several teams this year. Let’s take a look at the NFC in our NFL Preview for the 2014 season.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

  • Last Season: 8-8, Second in NFC North, Missed playoffs
  • Head Coach: Marc Trestman
  • Newcomers: DE Jared Allen, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Willie Young, and rookie DB Kyle Fuller
  • Left Town: DE Julius Peppers, KR Devin Hester, QB Josh McCown, and DT Henry Melton

Detroit Lions

  • Last season: 7-9, Third in NFC North
  • Head Coach: Jim Caldwell
  • Newcomers: WR Golden Tate, S James Ihedigbo, TE Eric Ebron, LB Kyle Van Noy, PK Nate Freese, QB Dan Orlovsky, FB Jed Collins, CB Cassius Vaughn, CB Nevon Lawson, OL Travis Swanson, DE Darryl Tapp, DE Larry Webster and DT Caraun Reid
  • Left Town: CB Chris Houston, S Louis Delmas, WR Nate Burleson, DE Willie Young, PK David Akers, QB Shaun Hill and S John Wendling

Green Bay Packers

  • Last Season: 8-7-1, First in NFC North, Lost Wild-Card Playoff
  • Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
  • Newcomers: LB/DE Julius Peppers, and rookie S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Left Town: WR James Jones, and C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Minnesota Vikings

  • Last Season: 5-10-1, Fourth in NFC North
  • Head Coach: Mike Zimmer
  • Newcomers: Rookie LB Anthony Barr, rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, LB Jasper Brinkley, S Kurt Coleman, CB Derek Cox, DT Tom Johnson, NT Linval Joseph, rookie RB Jerick McKinnon, CB Captain Munnerlyn, and DE Corey Wootton
  • Left Town: DE Jared Allen, TE John Carlson, CB Chris Cook, QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, DT Letroy Guion, LB Erin Henderson, LB Marvin Mitchell, and DT Kevin Williams

Top Two
The Green Bay Packers have the best quarterback in the NFC North division in Aaron Rodgers, and basically they’re the best team in the division. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was drafted in the first round this summer and he’ll help to anchor the secondary. Still, this should be a close race for the division title since the Chicago Bears are also quite strong. Quarterback Jay Cutler is healthy and he’s got a lot of fine offensive players to throw to and support him. The Bears are likely to finish a close second to the Packers.

Bottom Two
The Minnesota Vikings have Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and Adrian Peterson is still a good running back and this could help them stay out of the cellar if they can stay healthy. This means the Detroit Lions will finish last in the NFC North. Detroit has some talented players, but they also need some time together to gel and create some team chemistry. They started the 2013 season quite well, but collapsed late in the season to miss the playoffs.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

  • Last Season: 8-8, Second in NFC East
  • Head Coach: Jason Garrett
  • Newcomers: DT Henry Melton, rookie RG Zack Martin, and DE DeMarcus Lawrence
  • Left Town: DT Jason Hatcher, and DE DeMarcus Ware

New York Giants

  • Last Season: 7-9, Third in NFC East
  • Head Coach: Tom Coughlin
  • Newcomers: G John Jerry, LB Jameel McClain, DE Robert Ayers, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, SS Quintin Demps, G Geoff Schwartz, RB Rashad Jennings, C J.D. Walton, CB Zack Bowman, T Charles Brown, CB Walter Thurmond, and WR Mario Manningham
  • Left Town: G Kevin Boothe, RB Andre Brown, DT Linval Joseph, SS Ryan Mundy, WR Louis Murphy, TE Brandon Myers, WR Hakeem Nicks, TE Bear Pascoe, LB Keith Rivers, and DE Justin Tuck

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Last Season: 10-6, First in NFC East, Lost NFC Wild Card Round
  • Head Coach: Chip Kelly
  • Newcomers: RB Darren Sproles, S Malcolm Jenkins, QB Mark Sanchez, S Chris Maragos, rookie LB Marcus Smith, and rookie WR Jordan Matthews
  • Left Town: WR DeSean Jackson, QB Michael Vick, DE Clifton Geathers, and RB Bryce Brown

Washington Redskins

  • Last Season: 3-13, Fourth in NFC East
  • Head Coach: Jay Gruden
  • Newcomers: Rookie CB Bashaud Breeland, S Ryan Clark, DL Jason Hatcher, LB Adam Hayward, WR DeSean Jackson, LB Akeem Jordan, OL Shawn Lauvao, P Robert Malone, QB Colt McCoy, OL Mike McGlynn, rookie OT Morgan Moses, rookie LB Trent Murphy, CB Tracy Porter, WR Andre Roberts, and LB Darryl Sharpton
  • Left Town: S Reed Doughty, MLB London Fletcher, OL Will Montgomery, WR Josh Morgan, P Sav Rocca, DE Darryl Tapp, and CB Josh Wilson

Top Two
The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFL East last year and the odds are good that they’ll do it again in 2014, even with quarterback Michael Vick leaving the fold. Vick has signed with the New York Jets where he’ll be backup to starter Geno Smith. The Eagles will go with Nick Foles as their fulltime starting quarterback and he’ll get some support from LeSean McCoy at running back. The New York Giants also look strong this season with Eli Manning at quarterback and a good set of linebackers as well as Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams as running backs. This should be enough to see them challenge the Eagles for top spot.

Bottom Two
The Washington Redskins have been in the news with some people accusing them of having a racist team name and it’s been a bit of a distraction. The squad and Quarterback Robert Griffin have a lot to prove to the fans this season, but the club is still a bit weak defensively. They should have a decent season, but will likely finish third in the division. The Dallas Cowboys have Tony Romo at quarterback and a pretty good offensive unit in all, but they’re also going to struggle defensively and that will root America’s team to the cellar of the division.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

  • Last Season: 4-12, Tied for Third in NFC South
  • Head Coach: Mike Smith
  • Newcomers: G Jon Asamoah, OT Jake Matthews, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Paul Soliai, and RB Devonta Freeman
  • Left Town: TE Tony Gonzalez, and FS Thomas Decoud

Carolina Panthers

  • Last Season:12-4; First in NFC South, Lost in Divisional Round
  • Head Coach: Ron Rivera
  • Newcomers: WR Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jason Avant, WR WR Tiquan Underwood, TE Ed Dickson, CB Antoine Cason, S Roman Harper, WR Kelvin Benjamin, DE Kony Ealy, G Trai Turner, S Tre Boston, and CB Bene Benwikere
  • Left Town: WR Steve Smith, WR Brandon LaFell, WR/KR Ted Ginn, OT Jordan Gross, G Geoff Hangartner, G Travelle Wharton, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Michael Mitchell, and S Quintin Mikell

New Orleans Saints

  • Last Season: 11-5, Second in NFC South, Lost in Divisional Round
  • Head Coach: Sean Payton
  • Newcomers: S Jairus Byrd, CB Champ Bailey, C Jonathan Goodwin, WR Brandin Cooks and CB Jean Stanley-Baptiste
  • Left Town: RB Sproles, WR Lance Moore, LB Jonathan Vilma, S Roman Harper, S Malcolm Jenkins, and DE Will Smith

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Last Season: Tied for Third in NFC South
  • Head Coach: Lovie Smith
  • Newcomers: OT Anthony Collins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, CB Mike Jenkins, DE Michael Johnson, QB Josh McCown, DT Clinton McDonald, CB Alterraun Verner, and SS Major Wright
  • Left Town: CB Darrelle Revis, FB Erik Lorig, OT Donald Penn, G Ted Larsen, and G Davin Joseph

Top Two
In recent seasons, the worst team in the NFC South has rebounded the next year to take the division. However, it’s not likely to happen in 2014 since the New Orleans Saints are a bit too strong. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should give them a pretty good battle for the top spot. Tampa will likely fall just short though and finish the season as runners up in the division. Tampa is stronger defensively this year and it looks like veteran Josh McCown will be the starting quarterback.

Bottom Two
The Atlanta Falcons don’t have the best defense in the division, but Matt Ryan’s a pretty good quarterback. His work and the rest of the team’s offense should be enough to keep them from coming in last in the NFC South. This position will belong to the Carolina Panthers since they don’t have enough talent when it comes to the outside of the offensive side of the ball. Cam Newton’s a fine quarterback, but he needs some help since he can’t do it alone.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

  • Last Season: 10-6, Third in NFC West, Missed Playoffs
  • Head Coach: Bruce Arians
  • Newcomers: LT Jared Veldheer, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Ted Ginn, ILB Larry Foote, rookie SS Deone Bucannon, and K Chandler Cantanzaro
  • Left Town: ILB Karlos Dansby, SS Yeremiah Bell, LG Daryn Colledge, RT Eric Winston, RB Rashard Mendenhall, and WR Andre Roberts

San Francisco 49ers

  • Last Season: 12-4, Second in NFC West, Lost NFC Championship
  • Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
  • Newcomers: WR Stevie Johnson, WR Brandon Lloyd, SS Antoine Bethea, CB Chris Cook, OT Jonathan Martin, and RB Alfonso Smith
  • Left Town: CB Tarell Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, SS Donte Whitner, and WR Mario Manningham

Seattle Seahawks

  • Last Season: 13-3, First in NFC West, Beat Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII
  • Head Coach: Pete Carroll
  • Newcomers: Rookie WR Paul Richardson, and rookie DE Cassius Marsh
  • Left Town: CB Brandon Browner, LB Chris Clemons, DL Red Bryant, WR Golden Tate, and WR Sidney Rice

St. Louis Rams

  • Last Season: 7-9, Fourth in NFC West
  • Head coach: Jeff Fisher
  • Newcomers: WR Kenny Britt, DT Alex Carrington, rookie DT Aaron Donald, QB Shaun Hill, G Davin Joseph, rookie CB Lamarcus Joyner, rookie RB Tre Mason, and rookie G Greg Robinson
  • Left Town: QB Kellen Clemens, G Harvey Dahl, CB Cortland Finnegan, RB Daryl Richardson, S Darian Stewart, and G Chris Williams

Top Two
The Seattle Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions, lost some talent during the offseason when cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Brower left town. However, they should still be strong enough to take the NFC West for the second year running. It’s not going to be a cakewalk though since the San Francisco 49ers will give them a good fight. The 49ers are one of the best NFC teams out there, but will have to settle for second place, mainly because Seattle has a stronger defensive backfield.

Bottom Two
The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals are pretty good defensively and both have decent quarterbacks with Carson Palmer leading the way for the Cardinals and Sam Bradford returning from injury at St. Louis. Bradford will be backed up by Shaun Hill. However, Palmer’s a little too inconsistent and if he can’t find his groove it will allow the Rams to sneak into third place in the division.