With the NFL season fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at some teams in the NFC that will make some noise this season that can sneak up on other teams around the league. Last season in this article I threw out that I felt the “slepper” teams would be: St.Louis, Arizona and Philly. Well, one out of three isn’t too bad – is it? Let’s see what three teams this season I have as my “sleeper” teams in the NFC, and if I go back to the well with some of the same teams from last year.
Arizona – Yes, I am a believer. This time, I think the Cardinals got it right. Ken Whisenhunt is going to be a solid coach in this league, and you can tell that he wants to win now, as he allowed some of the spotlight go to one of his assistants – Russ Grimm. Whis hired Grimm after the Steelers went with Mike Tomlin, and he got a quality guy that can make an impact with the players. Look for Matt Leinart to flourish under his new coach, for Edgerrin James to have a much better season, and for that O-line, despite the loss of Oliver Ross, to be much better. The defense does need some work, as last year they allowed 349 yards per game, and will need to shore up to make a run in the NFC West. That’s another thing to remember, the NFC West is a winnable division, as the Hawks are a team that can be reached at the top. The Cards will fly and make a serious run at the playoffs in 2007.
San Francisco – Staying in the NFC West, the 49’ers are a team that has gained a lot of steam, and while the bandwagon in growing, I think they are going to live up to the hype. They have a stud running back in Frank Gore, who will go over 2,000 combined yards again, and Alex Smith is getting better and better. The question now will be how much will the loss of offensive coordinator Norv Turner hurt? Smith threw for 16 TD’s and 16 picks last year, and those numbers have to improve for the 9’ers to compete. While this team is very young, if they get off to a good start, look out. The defense under coach Mike Nolan is going to get better as the year goes along, and if the offense is consistent, this team could win 9-10 games.
Green Bay – The Packers with QB Brett Favre round out my three “sleeper” teams in the NFC. This team played on guts more than talent in 2006, and if they can get any sort of production out of the running game, they should be a solid team all around. Favre is being asked to tweak his game, and not to make too many mistakes. Donald Driver needs to stay healthy, and if he does, he and Brett can become a even better 1-2 punch. The defense needs a repeat year from A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett, who both were all over the field last season. They play 3 of their first 5 at home, and a fast start could go a long way in making them a sleeper team in 2007.