By Stefan Anderson
Let’s continue our preview our 2015-2016 season preview with looking at the NFC conference.
Arizona Cardinals- The Cardinals look to continue after their 11-5 season in 2014-15. Arizona came out striking during the first half of the season but was unable to sustain that momentum when Carson Palmer fell to injury. The Cards roster was depleted, but still remained competitive but didn’t have enough to win the NFC. Coming into this season , Arizona addressed a major problem by signing RB Chris Johnson to help open up their rushing game which suffered a league’s worst 3.3 ypc. Johnson redemption alongside Andre Ellington could help out the Cards. Although they lost Antonio Cromartie, they still have two of the best young DB’s in Patterson and Mathieu.
St. Louis Rams- St. Louis has rebuilt through the draft over the past few seasons, acquiring talent after talent, and now have one of the emerging rosters in the NFL. The Rams have found some success in the run and game their great defensive line that was led by Robert Quinn. But the Rams have not been able to air out the ball completing just over 60 percent of their passes, with Nick Foles in the starting role, the former Philly starter has a lot to prove after failing to reach the same success after his 1st successful season with the Eagles.
San Francisco 49ers- The 49ers have witnessed a roster overhaul after the leaders like Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, Michael Crabtree and HC Jim Harbaugh have left. Harbaugh was a part of the re energizing the franchise a few seasons and now the 49ers are getting ready to be under the leadership of Collin Kapernick. I expect the Niners to become a team that passes more after Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin get to reunite with speedy backs Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush.
Seattle Seahawks- The Seahawks return from that nightmare of Super Bowl 49, and look to bounce back to the greatness they have shown in the past two seasons. Seattle returns with a brand new weapon in Jimmy Graham to help solve their red zone issues and boost their 22 passing TD’s to a higher number. The top defensive unit has lost their coordinator and could lose their SS Kam Chancellor if contract issues are not settled, which will damage the “Legion of Boom”. The Seahawks can return to the same form but would prefer to have Chancellor alongside Sherman, Thomas and newly added Cary Williams.
Chicago Bears: After the injury to Kevin White and trading Brandon Marshal, Chicago will now revert an offensive that allows for shorter passes and specializes in taking what the defense gives them. The new system implemented by Coach Fox and his staff will help to reduce Jay Cutler’s 19 interceptions thrown. As well Coach Fox will help to improve the leagues 31st ranked defense in his 3-4 scheme.
Detroit Lions: Detroit will posses the same high quality offense as shown over the past few seasons with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and QB Matthew Stafford, but their offense will need some support from their running backs after finishing 30th in the league. Losing Suh will will be tough bu the Lions have found a solid replacement in Haloti Ngata to keep their top tier rushing attack alive.
Minnesota Vikings: The return of Adrian Peterson and other additions will help boost Teddy Bridgewater into a prominent QB. On the defensive side the DB core of Newman , Exum Jr, Smith and Rhodes will play a huge part if t the Vikes look to have success this season.
Green Bay Packers: The loss of Jordy Nelson will be detrimental to Green Bay this season, but if there is one QB I trust to figure out a way it would be Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers still has two of his favorite targets Adams and Cobb, will be reuniting with former WR James Jones. The Packers front 7 contains talent with Peppers, Raji and Matthews spearheading it, but will have to contain the run if they want to make an impact after allowing over 4 ypc to opposing teams..
Atlanta Falcons- Last season, Atlanta struggled tremendously on the defensive side of the ball, allowing the most rushing TD’s and passing yards will not help your team no matter how good your offense is. The answer to solving that problem, get the Defensive Coordinator of the top ranked Seahawks as your head coach. Dan Quinn will find a way to revitalize Atlanta’s defense. They have switched their offense to west coast system and on defense moved to a 4-3. Atlanta’s air assault will keep them alive and if the defense plays on the same accord they can fight for playoff position.
Carolina Panthers- The Panthers are looking forward to having a healthy Johnathan Stewart , after the RB has failed to play a full season for over four years. Carolina will need Stewart’s effort to help score more than 10 TD’s especially after suffering the loss to top wide out Kelvin Benjamin. The defense will continue to play solid under the leadership of Luke Kuechly and veterans Roman Harper and Charles Tillman. It would interesting to see Carolina win the division three years in a row.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs will now have their franchise QB in Jameis Winston, two good wide outs in Evans and Jackson but will look to the company of RB’s to help lead them. Tampa Bay was only able to put up 85 ypg on the ground and Doug Martin and co. will have to step up their efforts in order to improve from last season. Alterraun Verner , Gerald McCoy and the rest of the Bucs defense will have a better chance of succeeding with a better offensive unit and look to expand on their 25 turnovers caused last season.
New Orleans Saints-The Saints have seen some pieces go but look to bounce back this season after revamping some positions. The Saints were able to add Brandon Browner and Jarius Bryd to their secondary to help defend after giving up 250 ypg in the air. Drew Brees will now have Mark Ingram as his feature back and a great backup in CJ Spiller to help replace what Darren Sproles once brought. Look for Brandin Cooks to see more action after the loss of Jimmy Graham and the Saints could return to the dynamic they were seasons ago.
New York Giants- The Giants have a gem in Odell Beckham Jr, but the return of Victor Cruz will essential for the G-Men. Protecting Eli Manning from being sacked will be a priority, Manning was dropped nearly 30 times last season. The Giants will have to secure their secondary which has been brittle over the past few but hopes that Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara can stay on the field for New York.
Dallas Cowboys- The Cowboys return to seek more and reach the Super Bowl after falling short last season. The Cowboys have lost rushing leader Demarco Murray and now have a carousel of backs with Darren McFadden and Joesph Randle and newcomer will have to replace the effort Murray brought last season. On the defense end, Dallas has lost one of its primary defensive backs in Orlando Scandrick, but the return of Sean Lee and addition of Greg Hardy will keep the Cowboys amongst the elite.
Washington Redskins- Washington will now operate under Kirk Cousins and will not change the dynamic of the offensive but gives the Redskins a better option at QB. The Redskins hope to improve and open up the run game with Alfred Morris. The Redskins have a solid defense but will have guard receivers better but the addition of Deshon Goldson should help to patch up the problems in the secondary.
Philadelphia Eagles- Chip Kelly and Co. have made numerous move to create the team that can live up to the expectations. Philly has a good amount of RB’s and QB Sam Bradford who is under contract season and wants to make a statement after being down from injuries. The only concern for the Eagles would be their depth at WR. The Eagles however brought in a lot of bodies in that defensive back to help to move up from the bottom of the league in passing defense. The additions of Walter Thurmond,Malcolm Jenkins and Byron Maxwell will pivotal for the Eagles success.