With nine weeks of the NFL season now officially in the books, teams have begun to distinguish themselves as contenders or pretenders. There have been some surprises and some disappointments, but it has all been entertaining. Now the NFL enters its unofficial second half of the season, and there is plenty of dramatic story-lines for fans to be excited about.
How good are the Atlanta Falcons?
The Falcons are the lone undefeated team in the NFL, but despite their perfect record many doubt that Atlanta is a true Super Bowl contender. They had to come from behind in the 4th quarter for three straight games against mediocre teams; those teams currently have a combined record of 8-17. The question is: can the Falcons step up when they face tougher competition?
Can Andrew Luck lead the Colts to the playoffs?
The Indianapolis Colts were the worst team in the league last year, winning only two games. The prize for all their losing? QB Andrew Luck, who they recruited with the first overall pick in the draft. Many predicted that he would be good, but few thought he would be this good. He has already led the Colts to five wins this season and a real shot at the postseason. This could be the start of a long and successful career for Luck, and it should be great to watch.
Happy Labor Day everybody! We celebrate the day by wrapping up our preview of the upcoming NFL season (which is now just two days away) by taking a look at the NFC West.
(To view previous NFL previews, click on any of the following division names: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South, NFC North)
Top Cardinals Games of 2012
The Arizona Cardinals are just a few years away from being in the Super Bowl, but since QB Kurt Warner retired, the team has struggled to find a competent replacement. The starting QB job this year will go to Kevin Kolb, who has struggled throughout his time in Arizona, with John Skelton waiting in the wings if Kolb trips up. If Arizona wants a successful 2012, they need one of the quarterbacks to be able to get the ball to arguably the best wide receiver in the game, Larry Fitzgerald.
Projection: Unless one of the team's quarterbacks exceeds expectations, the Cardinals are on their way to another mediocre season without a trip to the postseason.
So far we have previewed six of the eight divisions in our countdown to the 2012 NFL season, and today we move onto lucky number seven: the NFC North.
(To view previous NFL previews, click on any of the following division names: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South)
The Bears made a big splash this offseason, adding problematic wide receiver Brandon Marshall to an offense that had a serious lack of weapons for QB Jay Cutler. Now, the former Broncos teammates are back together again, and fans in the "Windy City" have high expectations for the two. The problem is, Cutler has had trouble staying away from injuries and Marshall has had trouble staying away from, well, trouble.
Projection: If Cutler can stay healthy, the Bears could be a real threat to dethrone the Packers at the top of the NFC North. Some experts view Chicago as a sleeper pick to go to the Super Bowl.
One week from today, the Giants and Cowboys kick off the 2012 NFL season. Seven days. Seven! Needless to say, I, along with millions of other NFL fans, cannot wait. We continue our countdown to the football season by continuing our preview of the NFL's eight divisions; today we take a look at the NFC South.
(To view previous NFL previews, click on any of the following division names: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East)
Top Falcons Games of 2012
The 2011 season was marked by inconsistencies for the Falcons, but it was strong enough for the team to finish 10-6 and secure a spot in the playoffs. It was the team's second straight year in the postseason. Much of Atlanta's roster is identical to last year's, so the main core of talent, including QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner, will need to step up if the Falcons hope to win the division.
Projection: With the Saints likely to take a step back in 2012, the Falcons are in prime position to capture the AFC South crown.
The NFL season is now less than ten days away and, speaking for myself, I could not be any more excited. Sitting around on Sundays eating way too much food and watching hours of football is now right around the corner. Over the past couple weeks we have been previewing the NFL divisions, and we wrapped up the AFC last Friday. Now we move to the NFC, starting with the NFC East.
(To view previous NFL previews, click on any of the following division names: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West)
Top Cowboys Games of 2012
No team beat themselves more than the Dallas Cowboys did in 2011; always making a key mistake that cost them the game. QB Tony Romo will have to cut down on his miscues and become the elite quarterback everyone expects him to be. Dallas does have one thing going for them: they still have DE DeMarcus Ware on their team. Ware had 19.5 sacks last year and will likely be among the league leaders in the category in 2012 as well.
Projection: The Cowboys are deep in talent, but I don't think that's good enough in the tough NFC East. Finishing around 8-8 is a safe bet for Dallas, which is probably just outside of the postseason.