Washington: Vegas line – 8
Prediction: 8. Defenses have an entire year of film on Robert Griffin and the Read Option look. Look for a small step back this year with no major additions to note.
RG3 first 8 games Pass Att 223 – games 66.8CMP% – 70 Rush Att – 476 Rush Yrds – 6 TDs
RG3 final 8 games Pass Att 170 = games 64.1CMP% – 50 Rush Att – 339 Rush Yrds – 1 TD
It: The Redskins started the season 3-5 through their first eight games. They finished 7-1. The simple reason why? Robert Griffin’s usage was significantly cut for the second half of the season. As Griffin’s usage went down, the team’s success soared. With the obvious injury issues, this trend HAS to stay.
Philadelphia: Vegas line – 7
Prediction: 9. My guess is that league is seeing a watered down version of the Philadelphia offense that is to come in the regular season. The Eagles will jump out on teams through the first half of the season before injuries and lack of depth hit this up-tempo attack. Look for them to start 6-2 and finish 3-5 once teams get a second chance at them.
The team with the highest plays-per-game number last year was the New England Patriots. 74
The Philadelphia Eagles are looking to push 80! plays-per-game this year, 13 more than their 2012 average.
It: The team is now full steam ahead with Kelly announcing Michael Vick as the permanent starter. This means it will be closer to the Oregon version of the up-tempo offense than say, the New England Patriots version, if Foles were at quarterback. This current Eagles roster has had, barely, one offseason to prepare for this style of play. It appears to be taking a serious toll on them already; the season grind could really test this team’s depth.
Dallas Cowboys: Vegas line – 8.5
Prediction: 10. The Cowboys have the most talent left on their roster of any team in the division. They’re in the bottom third of the league in strength of schedule, and play Green Bay, Denver, and Minnesota (Playoff teams in 2012) in Dallas.
Fun Facts: Tony Romo’s last 3 full seasons (2009,2011,2012)are a tale of two halves.
2009,2011,2012 games 1-8. 6847 Yards – 63.03 CMP% – 36-25 TD/INT
2009,2011,2012 games 9-16 6723 Yards – 66.83 CMP% – 49-13 TD/INT
Last 2 minutes of each half combined for 14 TDs to 5 INTS
In the 4th quarter with his team +/- 7 points. 15 TDs to 5 INTS\
It: At some time in your fan-life, someone has told you Tony Romo doesn’t have “It”. A popular definition of “It” is performing when it matters most. Romo does that. The stats show he’s significantly better in the second half of the season and in crunch time. So, that someone lied to you.
New York Giants: Vegas Line 9
Prediction: 6.This number is low. REALLY low. Personnel turnover on defense including two of their top three tacklers, and Osi Umenyiora lead me to believe this defense, which was one of the league’s worst last year, may not be getting much better.
Fun Facts: The Giants were 31st in Total Defense in 2012/2013, and 27th in 2011/2012 (I’m fully aware of the outcome of this season).
It: Eli Manning is losing weapons left and right. No more Bradshaw(leading rusher) no more Bennett(starting Tight End) no more Hixon (567 YDS, 2 TDs). Victor Cruz is currently in a walking boot. We’re about to see how “Elite” Eli is.
Atlanta Falcons: Vegas Line 10
Prediction: 12. The Falcons have arguably the most talented offense in the league. Matt Ryan is coming off his best season yet, and he got his first playoff win. He’ll look to do more of the same with two of the league’s best receivers.
IT: Matt Ryan was at his best last year on the road throwing for 21 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions for a QB rating of 111.3. The Falcons will need that this year with tough matches on the road in both Green Bay and San Francisco.
Carolina Panthers: Vegas Line 7
Prediction: 8. Another high octane offense in the NFC south with two running backs capable of running for over one thousand yards each, but a lackluster defense ranking in the middle in nearly every defensive stat.
IT: The Panthers finished last year winning 5 of 6 averaging 150 yards rushing per game and 28 points per game. The previous year they won 4 of 6 with similar stats. They finish their seasons strong, now they just need a hot start.
New Orleans Saints: Vegas Line 9
Prediction: 6. The saints had the worst defense in the league last year allowing the most yards and the second most amount of points. Not even Drew Brees’ 5,177 yards could pull them out of the holes their defense put them in.
IT: The Saints allowed the most rushing yards per game last year. This year they play seven games against top 10 rushing teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vegas Line 7.5
Prediction: 9. Last year the Bucs were doing well until the last 6 games of the year, where they only won one game. They were the worst team last year in pass defense allowing 297 yards per game, but with the addition of Darrelle Revis, they should see that number shrink.
IT: In their wins, Quarterback Freeman only threw 4 interceptions and the team rushed for 157 yards per game on Doug Martin. Running the ball and making very selective throws seems to be a winning formula for the Buccaneers.
Arizona Cardinals: – Vegas Line 5.5
Prediction: 8. The cardinals had the worst offense in the league last year, and their defense was mediocre. The only averaged 263 yards per game and scored 15.6 points per game. The upside—the just brought in Carson Palmer, who threw for 4,000 yards with the Raiders last year.
IT: The Cardinals won their first four games of the year, all under Kevin Kolb. He only played in 6 games that year. If they can have a consistent quarterback this year in Palmer, look for their offensive numbers to rise.
Seattle Seahawks: – Vegas Line 10.5
Prediction: 12. Last year the Seahawks had arguably the best defense in the league only allowing 15 points per game. They also had a top ten offense generating 26 points per game. This year they’ve added even more weapons with Harvin (if he can stay healthy) and 11 draft choices.
IT: The Seahawks were one of the hottest teams at the end of the year winning 7 of their last 8 before the playoffs, crushing everyone in their way by averaging 31.5 points per game. They only lost to the falcons in the playoffs by a field goal–with 8 seconds left.
San Francisco 49ers:– Vegas Line 11.5
Prediction: 10. Another team with a stifling defense, only second to their division rivals in points allowed per game at 17. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick may receive most of the credit with the new hype as “best ever”, but the 49ers will look to their defense again this year to carry them into the playoffs.
IT: Both quarterbacks Smith and Kaepernick had the same amount of throwing attempts—218. Smith’s completion percentage was 7.8% higher, and his passer rating was 104.1 to Kaepernick’s 98.3. It seems no matter who is taking snaps for them, they’re going to win.
St. Louis Rams: – Vegas Line 7.5
Prediction: 5. The Rams ranked 25th in points per game last year and 23rd in yards per game. They just lost Steven Jackson to the Falcons and Sam Bradford is still waiting for his breakout season. Coupled with their offensive woes, the Rams defense was very middle of the road last year allowing 22 points per game.
IT: The Rams have Jeff Fisher for their head coach, who took the 7-9 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans to Super Bowl contenders in only a few years. The Rams have pieces to build around—they just need time.
At any rate, the NFC North is a division that is arguably the most competitive division in the National Football League. Every team in the NFC has made the playoffs at least once in the past 3 years. The division contains the best running back (Peterson), arguably the best quarterback (Rodgers), the top receiver (C. Johnson), arguably the best receiver outside of Megatron (Marshall), and one of the most consistent defenses in the League (The Bears). Sadly, not all 4 of these can win the division, or make the playoffs.
Chicago Bears: – Vegas Line 8.5
Prediction: 7. Chicago had 310 yards per game total offense, 28th in the NFL. At times, the Bears looked like one of the best teams in the league. They were one game away from winning the division, and had the third ranked defense in the league. Sadly, 2012 was a repeat of 2011. As good as the Bears defense was–their offensive counterpart was equally bad.
IT: The Bears did lose Jay Cutler for a portion of the season, but even with Cutler, they weren’t great. The horrible output on offense led to the firing Lovie Smith and the hiring of an offensive-minded coach. Even though the offense may improve, I see the bears taking a step back on defense with the loss of Urlacher and Coach Lovie Smith.
Detroit Lions: – Vegas Line 7.5
Prediction: 7. The Lions allowed 27 points per game, 6th worst in the league. Calvin Johnson set the record for single season receiving yards, Matthew Stafford threw for nearly 5000 yards, and the offense averaged 23 points per game. Somehow, the Lions still managed to lose 12 games (typical Lions). This was caused by an extremely porous defense.
IT: Coach Schwartz is a former defense coordinator, so the knowledge is obviously there. The Lions did address their defense in the off-season, but will the additions of Glover Quin (Strong Safety) and James Jones (Defensive End) be enough to get the Lions back into playoff contention? I say it won’t be.
Green Bay Packers: – Vegas Line 10
Prediction: 12. The Packers run game was terrible last year. They ranked 32nd in yards per rush and 31th in sacks allowed. Having a great football team is like having a well-oiled machine. All parts are working and moving toward one goal. When one part is broken, it causes deficiencies in every other piece of the machine. What I am saying is the Packers inability to run the football forced them to pass more. When defenses knew they were passing, they dialed up pressure and got to Aaron Rodgers.
IT: The Packers had two very good offensive line miss a major portion of the season (Ryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod. Granted Aaron Rodgers style of play may or may not have caused more sacks, but the running game must improve. Balance is everything. The Packers addressed this need by adding running back/offensive line depth in the draft.
Minnesota Vikings: – Vegas Line 7.5
Prediction: 6. With only 171 Passing Yards per game, the Vikings ranked 31st in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings pulled together a great run into the post-season using an “old-school” mentality. Run the football and play great defense. However, I would imagine it was by necessity and not choice.
IT: Adding Greg Jennings should help the struggling passing game add production, but it is debatable if Christian Ponder is a capable starting Quarterback in the Nfl.