We just recently released our NFL Power Rankings. It's an average of the major entities rankings. But who should know NFL teams better than the local reporters that cover them? Here's a look at what the local papers are saying about each team in the NFC, with the season beginning today. Some of these columnists are more enthusiastic than the national media and some are expecting doom and gloom for their hometown franchise.
Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News:
All you have to do to pick the Cowboys to win the NFC East in 2009 with any degree of confidence is overlook three little factors as they relate to those things that are in the team's way, namely the Giants and Eagles.
One is that the Giants and Eagles had better records and were playoff teams a year ago.
Another is that the Giants and Eagles added more interesting pieces to their team than the Cowboys did during free agency.
The last is that the Giants and Eagles have a 2009 draft to add to their depth.
He predicts the Cowboys will go 8-8, struggle filling the void left by T.O., and will go winless in the playoffs for the decade. Hey, at least you got a new stadium.
John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News:
As always, No. 5 is the linchpin to everything. If this is indeed McNabb's last hurrah in Philadelphia, I think he's prepared to go out in a blaze of glory. I think he's in for a Pro Bowl-caliber season… I don't have the degree of certainty that I've had in the past when I've picked the Eagles. Still, I feel like this team is going to the Super Bowl.
High expectations for McNabb. So, by week 4 will the Philly fans be clamoring for Vick or Kolb?
New York Giants
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post:
11-5 - The Giants will take the NFC East by one game over the Eagles, win one playoff game at Giants Stadium and then lose in the NFC Championship game in Atlanta.
Well that was quite specific. Would you like to predict how much yardage Brandon Jacobs will have before he suffers an injury that keeps him out for five games this year?
David Elfin of the Washington Times:
The Redskins have the misfortune to play in the NFL's toughest division with the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys. They face two of the NFC South's three good teams (Carolina and Atlanta) and the AFC West's lone quality outfit (San Diego) on the road. That's six very tough road games. If they lose them all, which is very possible, the Redskins would have to win their other 10 games to ensure a playoff spot. Considering Washington lost to Cincinnati and St. Louis in 2008 and squeaked by Detroit, Seattle and Cleveland, expecting a sweep of those likely victims is unrealistic. Given that the Redskins have finished within two games of .500 in 13 of the past 14 years, we're looking at another 8-8 finish, which would all but certainly mean a new coach and quarterback in the District in 2010.
At least they're consistent...
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic:
Last year, the idea was that anything was possible. This year, it's more about avoiding a Super Bowl hangover.
The article mentions all the problems they will face and lists the requisite facts of how the losers of the Super Bowl usually do poorly the following year. It's like after their best year in franchise history he's telling the fan base - "Don't forget we're still the Cardinals!"
San Francisco 49ers
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Given his stated goal of having a team tough enough to impose its will on opponents, Singletary opened training camp Aug. 1 with a "nutcracker" drill that pitted similarly-sized players in brief but intense one-on-one battles that had pads a-popping.
He ran the nutcracker two more times in the first week of camp. The price to be paid was injuries that kept linebacker Patrick Willis and guard David Baas out for most of August.
It's weird how much of the attention is heaped on Singletary. His hard-nosed approach will either work or they will have to forfeit games because they won't have enough players to take the field.
St. Louis Rams
Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Dispatch:
For this - I'm not even going to quote the article. All I need to do is quote the headline: "Rams Still Have Plenty of Issues". Now that's certainly an understatement.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times:
Their comeback season comes with no guarantees. Many questions hang as the opener against St. Louis looms. But if they stay relatively healthy — no more injuries the size of Jones or Trufant — the Hawks can win nine games.
They can win the West and continue this city's Season of Recovery.
At first it seems like a disappointment - just nine games? But then you realize it's the NFC West and nine games will almost always win you the division.
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune:
Can a quarterback make that big a difference? Maybe the better question is, Can a quarterback with Cutler's skills make an average Bears team that much better? First off, the guy is not a miracle worker, though there were off-season reports he could change water into beer. If he can keep his head on straight and if just one wide receiver starts playing like an NFL wide receiver, Cutler is worth one more victory this season and perhaps a wild-card berth for a team that went 9-7 last year.
Many in the national media have predicted big things for the Bears (Peter King predicts they will be in the Super Bowl). But in Chicago, the expectations are a bit tempered. Chicago sports fans are used to having their high hopes destroyed.
Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press:
Now the Lions have a new coach, new uniforms and a bold new philosophy: try to win. They also announced Monday that they have a new quarterback, Matthew Stafford. He is a rookie, which means he will make some foolish mistakes, but our philosophy is that interceptions are just completions to the other team.
Stafford will now try to help the Lions break their 17-game losing streak. In that spirit, we at the Free Press are unveiling a new feature: the "Road to I."
We'll do this every week until the Lions win. Last year's motto was "Nothing is Possible." This year: "Just One, Baby."
Now this is what I'm talking about. The expectations are so low they're just looking for one win. How could they not overachieve now?
Green Bay Packers
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
There is a general feeling among the Packers that this has a chance to be a big season. Coming off a 6-10 record, McCarthy made some drastic changes, hiring a new defensive staff and installing a 3-4 scheme. He changed strength coaches and the philosophy with which the team prepares physically.
They've looked great in the preseason and Aaron Rodgers is a potential MVP candidate. But the concerns are with the defense. Will the changes made be enough?
Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
But Childress also will need to maintain enough control so that what has made the Vikings successful -- remember, this team won the NFC North last season -- remains in place. This is a very good running team that simply needs to be more effective through the air, not turn to the pass. Favre might think he can throw it all day because opponents put eight men in the box, but for a guy about to turn 40 -- who has a torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm and underwent surgery in May to repair his biceps tendon -- that wouldn't be recommended.
Translation: Just behave Favre. Fit into the system. Don't turn into that gunslinger we all know you want to. Give it to All Day Adrian Peterson and stay in one piece please.
Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
A year ago at this time, most tabbed Atlanta to finish any where from last place to possibly having a chance to win six games (only if everything went right and Smith didn’t suddenly decide in Week 3 that he wanted to coach Arkansas). We got so much more than that.
Now expectations might be out of balance in the other direction.
A sophomore slump for Matt Ryan? No! Not the prettiest QB in the NFL!
Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer:
Here's how I see '09.
Carolina loses two of its first three. Fragile fans sell their season tickets. Then the Panthers go on a tear before closing with a December schedule that includes New England, Minnesota and the New York Giants. Carolina finishes 9-7 and escapes the logjam atop the NFC South to represent the division in the playoffs.
9-7 winning the NFC South? Not gonna happen.
New Orleans Saints
From The News Star:
Unless LT Jammal Brown misses significant time, the high-tech offense should hum. A stone-age defense looks ready for the 21st century with the arrival of rookie DB Malcolm Jenkins, S Darren Sharper and, most importantly, coordinator Gregg Williams.
As usual, the trepidation is on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints will score - and score a lot. Can the defense pull their weight? That seems to have been the question for the past five years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times:
Are the Bucs ready for the season to come? Probably not. After watching the preseason games, I don't think any of the Cowboys are going to leave the night lights on.
But for goodness' sake, it's time. I don't know if the Bucs can stand any more offseason.
Start the season. Stop the headaches.
Well, here's some sound logic. The preseason has been such a mess so let's start the regular season as soon as possible. I'm sure the Bucs and new offensive coordinator Greg Olson wish the preseason would last another month.