Training camp may be just over a month away, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead at who is going to challenge in the NFC. Last season the Bears ran away with the conference, winning 13 of 16 regular season games then topping Seattle and New Orleans before falling to the Colts in the Super Bowl. Below is a quick look at the top five teams set to make noise in the NFC this season.
1. Chicago: 2006 record 13-3 – The Bears have made some minor adjustments this past offseason, such as moving Devin Hester to wide out, and trading Thomas Jones to the Jets and giving the running game over to Cedric Benson. The Tank Johnson thing is finally behind them, but the biggest question still remains as to what kind of season will up and down QB Rex Grossman have.
2. New Orleans: 2006 record 10-6 – A great offensive team should only get better under second year head coach Sean Payton. Reggie Bush will play a bigger role in the game plan, and if Drew Brees and Deuce McCallister are where they were last season, this team is going to win 10-13 games. The team needs its defense to play as well as it did a season ago. Many think the Saints are ready to make the jump as the best team in the conference.
3. Dallas: 2006 record 9-7 – Wade Phillips has taken over a tough spot, as the Cowboys are expected to be back as a top NFC team in his first year as head coach. They do have a returning Terrell Owens and he and Tony Romo should have a better second year together. The offensive line was the big question a season ago, and if they are going to make it past the first round of the playoffs, it has to play better.
4. St. Louis: 2006 record 8-8 – The Rams showed at the end of the season they are going to be tough to beat in 2007. Winners of three straight, they seemed poised to take over the NFC West this season as the Seahawks are getting somewhat long in the tooth. Marc Bulger is one of the top QB’s in the league, and the defense showed signs of getting better late in the season. It won’t be “The Greatest Show on Turf,” but it doesn’t have to be to win the west.
5. Philadelphia: 2006 record 10-6 – In 2006 the Eagles came out of nowhere to win the division by winning five straight to end the year and overtake the Cowboys. Of course they did this with backup QB Jeff Garcia, who is now gone. It remains to be seen if Donovan McNabb and co. have what it takes to continue a run deeper into the playoffs.