Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) tips a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) that is intercepted by Seahawks outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (not pictured) in the fourth quarter of the 2013 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Danyluk's 2014 Forecast - THE NFC

The offseason belonged to social change agents and the TMZ crowd. “Redskins” suddenly offensive after 100 years. Who will draft Michael Sam? Punish Ray Rice harder! Johnny Football vomits in Shaker Heights!

Packers kick it off for real in Seattle tonight. Time to put all the nonsense away.

NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – Offense smashed team records for touchdowns and yardage last season, but just two INTs from QB Foles was the real gem. Need mega-year from WR Jeremy Maclin to maintain scoring pace. Darren Sproles imported to take pressure off star RB McCoy, who’s being worked to death. Chip Kelly’s frantic system also means defense on the field a ton – nearly 34 minutes/game. Of course, that’s why you employ an ex-Navy SEAL to be your conditioning coach. 11-5

DALLAS COWBOYS –Defense the ruins of Babel. Surrendered 30+ points seven times last season; this year probably more. Yeah, yeah…injuries, etc. Romo entering late stages of flashy but undecorated career. Owner handed Jason Garrett vote of confidence last winter. That’s the cigarette before the blindfold. Jerry J’s an aging vet himself. His next hire will surely be a mega-coach (e.g., Jimmy Johnson, Switzer, Parcells), the only formula that’s ever worked for him. 8-8

NEW YORK GIANTS – GM Jerry Reese gets laurels for pair of titles under his watch; massive talent erosion that’s occurred is also his baby. Giants once drowning in WRs and pass rushers now starving for them. Sudden retirement of top RB David Wilson also a shocker. QB Manning coming off career high in INTs (27) – an overburdened Eli, or a sign of things to come? O-Line and linebacking a mystery, but secondary in top shape. I recently had a dream that the Giants will destroy the Bengals in the upcoming Super Bowl. I’ve also dreamt about Roy the Knitting Aardvark, who explained to me that only rubberheads throw fish. 7-9

WASHINGTON REDSKINS – RG3 miserable in exhibitions. He’s lost without the green light to run. A thoroughbred in a bull ring. Repaired knees never coming back anyway. Owner Dan Snyder on eighth coach since 1999. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that’s one every 684 days. Abe Lincoln said it best; Snyder wishes he did – “I can make a general in five minutes, but a good horse is hard to replace.” 6-10

NFC NORTH

DETROIT LIONS – In his prior life, Jim Caldwell coached a team (Indy) to the Super Bowl then went 2-14. A man of excesses. First-time coordinator Teryl Austin takes over a gifted defense that’s maturing inches at a time. Top draft Eric Ebron (TE) offers QB Stafford his first money threat over the middle. WRs primo, as well. Woefully thin at running back, with nine-year man Reggie Bush the only breakaway option. Still, a club ripe for seizing the division, a tune we’ve whistled many times before. 10-6

GREEN BAY PACKERS – Aaron Rodgers dealt thinnest receiving corps since coming to G.B. – Nelson and Cobb and ?? OL functional. Loss of NT Raji a big downer, as Packer D already spongy up the middle. Linebacking unreliable. Haven’t seen a full season of Clay Matthews since 2011. Free agent Julius Peppers a waste of time. A middling roster which goes only as far as Rodgers can drive it. 9-7

MINNESOTA VIKINGS – Club has featured 16 different starting QBs over past 15 seasons. Journeyman Matt Cassell now gets his chance to prove he still belongs in league. If not, rookie Teddy Bridgewater gets his. Adrian Peterson says he’d like to be a Cowboy someday, but he’s still in purple this year. UCLA linebacker Barr may be the impact defender they’ve been looking for. Vikes an outdoors team for first time since 1981, back when they were out there blocking kicks and chipping ice and snowplowing people under. They finished 7-9 that year. We’ll grade ‘em the same, a courteous nod to history. 7-9

CHICAGO BEARS – This pick will raise hell all over Chicagoland, where expectations are up pretty high. Offense in great shape, with Cutler back there flinging and that gang of power forwards (Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett) running routes. Ground game and O=line real steady. But defense could be worse than last year’s, when it needed one final stop to grab the division, on the final drive of the year, and couldn’t get it. Cutler needs to go 14+ games for Bears to hang on. If not, the ball goes to Jimmy Clausen, who’s been on ice since 2010. 7-9

NFC SOUTH

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Big arsenal offense, with no signs of Brees slowing down. Jimmy Graham contract finally settled, so pouting done there. Not sure why club couldn’t find room for scatback Darren Sproles, who fit in beautifully. Minor miracle on defense, where coordinator Rob Ryan lifted club from 32nd to 4th in the rankings. No instant impact people from the draft, but watch for late-round safety Vin Sunseri to start lighting rockets in the secondary. 11-5

ATLANTA FALCONS – Another club with offensive line trauma; yet position coach Mike Tice bangs his fist and roars, “They won’t be punked over by anybody.” Defense in splinters a year ago – just 32 sacks and 4.8 yds/carry allowed. Free agents Paul Solaia and Tyson Jackson signed to stabilize defensive line. Still don’t know who their sackers are going to be. Osi Umenyiora the top candidate, but his on-off switch always haywire. RB Stephen Jackson a big letdown (3.5 yds/carry) in ’13. Offense will rebound if he does. 8-8

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – Vincent Jackson/Mike Evans duo gives Bucs instant cred in pass-catch game. Don’t’ understand urgency to ink Josh McCown, a career erratic, for QB duty. Real upside lies with Mike Glennon, whose 19/9 TD-to-INT ratio was admirable as a rookie last season. He can also deliver the bomb. Defense nothing special, played from behind a lot. But new coach Lovie Smith has record of fixing those problems. 7-9

CAROLINA PANTHERS – Defense carried club to first-place finish last season, particularly pass rush and tough linebacking. Just as DE Greg Hardy makes a name for himself, a thick suspension now looms for his off-season misbehavior. QB Newton handed entirely new set of receivers for 2014. That’s okay; former group (including aged Steve Smith) didn’t thrill you anyway. WR easiest spot to fill…when you have a QB who can deliver. RBs in good shape on paper; in training room a different story. Hunch says Panthers spend season coming back to earth. 7-9

NFC WEST

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – Thick contract for QB Kaepernnick means Niners can’t stack other positions like they used to. Depth already eroded at WR, RB. O-Line, once a strength, also teetering. Defense stinging from Aldon Smith, Bowman absence – and maybe Ray McDonald – but still plenty of killers around. Secondary completely rebuilt. Harbaugh a tip-top leader who’ll have it all figured out by December. 11-5

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Defense returns intact, a dragon that allowed just 14.4 pts/game last season then squashed Manning in the Super Bowl. A faceless group which feeds on superior coaching more than big-profile talent. Run-based offense that loves to wring the clock. RB Lynch moaning about contract – will he shift down a gear in protest? Free agent exit of WR Golden Tate no biggie. QB Wilson a gem, a Fran Tarkenton who can win the big ones. 10-6

ST. LOUIS RAMS – Sam Bradford experiment now kaput in St. Looey. Too many corporal breakdowns. Club now stuck with old-timer Shaun Hill at QB, a poor man’s Billy Kilmer, wobbly ball included. Formula could work, though, as Rams will play ball control and let that big defense run the show. Inexperienced secondary could hamper that plan, however. 9-7

ARIZONA CARDINALS – Bruce Arians insisted he could resurrect QB Palmer – and he did. Palmer’s high INTs high hurt team badly in key divisional losses. Defense rose up strong, including top numbers against the run. LB’s could use an upgrade. Sacker Abraham at his best when no one’s looking. At a glance, 2014 draft crop looks fair. Free agent haul same. 7-9

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP – New Orleans over Seattle

 

Tom Danyluk joins NFL Spin Zone after nine years as a columnist with Pro Football Weekly. He is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Super ‘70s,” which you can purchase on Amazon.com. Questions or gripes? Please contact Tom at [email protected]

Tags: 2014 NFL Predictions Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Carolina Panthers Chicago Bears Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions Green Bay Packers Minnesota Vikings New Orleans Saints New York Giants Philadelphia Eagles San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams Tampa Bay Buccaneers Washington Redskins

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