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Old 07-28-2004, 02:06 PM   #1
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Default Who Will Reign Supreme in the NFC for 2004?

Let's take a brief look at each team. I believe the NFC East will be the toughest division in 2004 with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins fighting for top spot. Which division do you think is the toughest?

Philadelphia seems poised to win their division again, but can they advance to the Super Bowl? If not, this could be head coach Andy Reid's last chance.

QB Donovan McNabb will lead the offense after having a pretty good season in 2003. McNabb threw for 3,273 yards and 17 TD's last season, while throwing 11 INT's. The good news this season is that he has a very special target to throw to. His name is Terrell Owens, who they acquired from San Francisco. Owens caught 80 passes last season, but you should see his numbers go up while playing for Philly. He's not shy about asking for the ball.

The main problem I see for the Eagles is the loss of RB Duce Staley. The Eagles need a balanced-attack big time. I just don't know if Correll Buckhalter or Brian Westbrook can do the job. Also, Philly may have two rookies starting on the offensive line. One is OT Shawn Andrews(6-4-373) out of Arkansas and OG Trey Darilek out of UTEP.

The defense looks in good shape with the acquistion of DE Jevon Kearse from Tennessee. Kearse had 9.5 sacks in 2003. DT Corey Simon led the Eagles with 7.5 sacks. Last year's top draft pick Jerome McDougle had no sacks. So he needs to improve his pass rushing skills. My main concern for the Eagles could be an inferior running attack.

Head coach Bill Parcells will be entering his second year with the Dallas Cowboys in 2004, after leading his team to the playoffs in his first season. The biggest question for him this season will be who will start at quarterback? Will it be Quincy Carter who played most of last season or veteran Vinny Testaverde who was acquired from the New York Jets? Carter had a decent year in 2003 throwing for 3,302 yards and 17 TD's, but he threw 21 INT's.

A key acquisition for Dallas this season was WR Keyshawn Johnson from Tampa Bay. I believe Parcells will get Johnson to give his maximum effort in each game.

Dallas signed released running back Eddie George from Tennessee so the running game looks solid. Rookie RB Julius Jones out of Notre Dame should see plenty of playing time.

Dallas led the NFC in rush defense(89.1) per game, pass defense(164.4) and in total defense(253.5) for 2003. LB Dat Nguyen seems to be the emotional leader of the defense.

If Dallas has a solid performance from their QB's and a good running game they should go deep into the playoffs.

Yes Joe Gibbs is back as head coach of the Washington Redskins. Good news all the way around. First thing he did was acquire veteran QB Mark Brunell from Jacksonville. Good move. Patrick Ramsey will be called upon if Brunell falters. Either QB has some good receivers to throw to.

James Thrash was acquired from Philly and Laveranues Coles returns. Coles caught 82 passes for 1,204 yards and six TD's in 2003. WR Rod Gardner is an able receiver too. The best news for the Redskins this season was their acquisition of RB Clinton Portis from Denver. This guy can run. Portis rushed for 1,591 yards and 14 TD's last season for Denver.

If OT Chris Samuels plays to his potential a lot of holes will be opened for Portis. Trung Canidate will share some of the carries.

LB LaVar Arrington could be the star of the defense. He needs to learn some better moves for getting to the quarterback.

Washington has a new defensive coordinator in Greg Williams. Williams was successful under Jeff Fisher at Tennessee.

Fred Smoot will be the key man in the secondary. The defense must improve dramatically for this team and Gibbs to succeed.

The New Yorks Giants fired head coach Jim Fassel after last season, and got rid of QB Kerry Collins. New head coach Tom Coughlin is known for his toughness. Some compare him to General Patton. That is tough.

The Giants signed veteran QB Kurt Warner to play until rookie QB Eli Manning is ready. Warner is not very mobile and is injury prone, so Manning may see some action before he is ready.

RB Tiki Barber rushed for 1,216 yards last season, but must learn how to hold onto the ball better. The Giants have some good receivers in Amani Toomer, Ike Hillard and TE Jeremy Shockey.

On defense DE Michael Strahan led the NFL in sacks with 18.5. This team may win six games in 2004, but I've been wrong before.

The NFC North should be between two teams only. That being the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The Detroit Lions should be a lot better, but not good enough to win their division.

The Vikings led the NFL in total offense in 2003, but still missed the playoffs by losing to Arizona in their final game of the regular season.

QB Duante Culpepper threw for 3,479 yards and 25 TD's last season. Talented WR Randy Moss caught 111 passes for 1,632 yards and 17 TD's in 2003.

RB Michael Bennett should be healthy for this season. That is a big plus for the Vikings. If not Onterrio Smith could see a lot of playing time.

The Vikings must improve their defense to win their division. They have a new defensive coordinator in Ted Cottrell. Rookie DE Kenechi Udeze(6-3-283) out of USC could start. Also, LB Dontarrious Thomas out of Auburn could see some playing time. He is a good tackler.

Head coach Mike Tice must instill a killer instinct in this team for them to advance into the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers will be tough as long as QB Brett Favre sticks around. Favre led the NFL in touchdown passes with 32 last season. Tim Couch was picked up from Cleveland as his backup.

Favre's favorite RB Ahmad Green must repeat his numbers of 2003 or get close for this team to win regularly. Green rushed for 1,883 yards and 15 TD's in 2003.

The receivers on this team or good, but not great. Donald Driver caught only 50 passes last season. Javon Walker has good size and does a good job of making plays on fade routes.

As for their defense, Green Bay will be led by LB Nick Barnett. Rookie CB Ahmad Carroll out of Arkansas should see plenty of playing time.

As for the Detroit Lions a lot will depend upon QB Joey Harrington. He's in his third year in the NFL and he should have this offense down pat. If the offense sputters a lot backup QB Mike McMahon is available.

Head coach Steve Mariucci must get this offense going for this team to move up to the next level.

Rookie RB Kevin Jones out of Virginia Tech could be the best back taken in the draft. Artose Pinner missed most of his rookie year with a bad foot.

The Lions should be strong in the receiver department. Charles Rogers should be healthy in his second year after missing 11 games in 2003. Rookie Roy Williams out of Texas could find himself starting right away. Both receivers have great potential.

Linebacker Boss Bailey needs to have a very productive season. Rookie LB Teddy Lehman out of Oklahoma was a good pick for them in the 2004 NFL draft. He is very quick.

A lot must go right for this team to compete in 2004. A balanced offense and a very aggressive defense is needed.

The Chicago Bears will be led by QB Rex Grossman. Grossman can throw the ball well, but will the offensive line give him time to throw? Rookie QB Craig Krenzel out of Ohio St was one of their draft picks of 2004.

RB Anthony Thomas ran for 1,024 yards last season. Thomas Jones was acquired from Tampa Bay to help him out.

WR Marty Booker will be Grossman's main target.

The Bears got them a great rookie in DT Tommie Harris(6-2-289) out of Oklahoma. Rookie DT Terry Johnson from Washington could see some playing time. Chicago will have a tough time competing in the NFC North. Maybe next year.

Do the Carolina Panthers have what it takes in 2004 to return to the Super Bowl? They did lose five starters from the Super Bowl team of last season.

Can QB Jake Delhomme led his team to eight comeback victories in 2003, including one in the playoffs. Can he be that lucky again or skilled?

His favorite target is Steve Smith who caught 88 passes for 1,110 yards and seven TD's in 2003. WR Muhsin Muhammad is a threat to go deep.

One thing that helped the Panthers offense last season was the running ability of Stephen Davis who rushed for 1,444 yards. He's a power runner without a doubt.

The Panthers defense ranked eighth overall in the NFL last season. They must perform at the same level or better to win their division and advance in the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons are my pick to win the NFC South. If QB Michael Vick is healthy all season this team should be very dangerous and cause havoc for most defenses. Vick is difficult to contain.

New head coach Jim Mora Jr. will create enthusiam in this team.

The Falcons drafted rookie QB Matt Schuab out of Virginia. Schuab is a big man(6-5-237) with a strong arm. Also, if RB Warrick Dunn remains healthy in 2004 this team will gain a lot of yards on a regular basis. T.J. Duckett is a good runner in his own right.

The Falcons have one of the best tight ends in the NFL with Alge Crumpler. W

WR Peerless Price is a deep threat and a potential gamebreaker. Brian Finneran makes a good target with his height at 6-5.

The key for this team's success is their defense, which ranked 32nd in the NFL in 2003. Not good.

DE Patrick Kearney should be a lot better this season and play in the Pro Bowl. LB Keith Brooking is a playmaker. The rest of the guys must really step up their play for the Falcons to be a threat in the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saint are just unpredictable. They look awful in games that they shouldn't and look good in games when they shouldn't.

This could be head coach Jim Haslett's last season if this team doesn't make it to the playoffs this season.

QB Aaron Brooks has great potential, but just can't seem to beat the teams they should beat. Brooks had good numbers in 2003. Throwing for 3,546 yards and 24 TD's while throwing only eight INT's. His offensive line must play better for this offense to really take off.

WR Joe Horn is always a threat when he touches the ball. Horn is capable of improving his numbers. He caught 78 passes last season. Look for Donte Stallworth to improve more and more.

RB Deuce McAllister is the key to this offense. He ran for 1,641 yards and eight TD's in 2003. McAllister had a franchise record 2,157 yards from scrimmage last season. This guy is capable of setting all kinds of records.

Return man Michael Lewis is a definite threat each time he returns a punt or kickoff.

The Saints defense has great potential if they hit on all cylinders this season. Will Smith, Charles Grant and Darren Howard are good pass rushers. Grant had 10 sacks in 2003.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a threat to challenge for the NFC South title. QB Brad Johnson completed at least 60 percent of his passes in eight straight seasons, tying Joe Montana and Steve Young for the NFL all-time best streak. Johnson threw for 3,811 yards and 26 TD's in 2003.

Head coach Jon Gruden acquired RB Charlie Garner from his old team the Oakland Raiders. Garner needs to regain his 2002 form.

Hopefully new arrival WR Joey Galloway will perform better than he did at Dallas. Rookie Michael Clayton out of LSU is a very good receiver. Kennan McCardell played well in 2003, catching 84 passes for 1,174 yards and eight TD's. Warren Sapp is gone from the defense, being dealt to Oakland. Anthony McFarland will try and replace him. DT Simeon Rice led the defense with 15 sacks.

This team could return to their 2002 form, but a lot of things will have to happen before that happens. Such as a balanced offensive attack and a stingy defense and a little luck.

The NFC West could be a very exciting race with the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks fighting for top spot. The key to Seattle's success will be the performances of QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander. Both had a very good season in 2003. Hasselbeck threw for 3,841 yards and 26 TD's and Alexander ran for 1,435 yards.

Believe it or not, both have the capability to play better. If they do Seattle will win their division and possibly advance to the Super Bowl.

Seattle has good receivers in Koren Robinson and Darell Jackson. TE Itula Mili could play a larger role in the offense this season.

The Seahawks drafted a good defensive end in Marcus Tubbs from Texas. Also DE Grant Wistrom was acquired from St. Louis.

Seattle's defense in 2003 held their final four opponents to an average of 75 rushing yards. Also Seattle has beat St. Louis in Seattle the past two seasons.

The St. Louis Rams won't have a QB controversy this season with Kurt Warner gone. Marc Bulger is the man. Bulger is 17-3 in his first 20 NFL starts. Chris Chandler will be his backup.

For this team to succeed RB Marshall Faulk must be healthy and play a big role in this offense. Faulk rushed for only 818 yards in 2003. He hasn't started 16 games since 1999.

WR Torry Holt led the NFL in receptions with 117 in 2003. Issac Bruce will be his partner again this season. Bruce had 69 catches in 2003. You have to like this offensive line with Orlando Pace and Kyle Turley in the mix.

With DE Grant Wistrom gone rookie DE Tony Hargrove(6-4-274) out of Georgia Tech may get educated quickly. DE Leonard Little had 12.5 sacks in 2003. I'm a little concerned about the offense, especially if the running attack doesn't materialize in 2004.

The San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals will try very hard to stay out of the cellar in 2004.

I really like Arizona's chances of climbing out of the cellar with the additon of new head coach Dennis Green and the drafting of WR Larry Fitzgerald out of Pittsburgh. Remember last year's rookie sensation Anquan Boldin is back. He caught 101 passes for 1,377 yards in 2003, winning Rookie of the Year honors. These two guys could cause extreme havoc in the defenses they face this season.

Arizona's offense will be guided by Josh McCowan. He has good size and range. Rookie QB John Navarre from Michigan will have a lot to learn under Green.

A concern for the Cardinals is who will be their premier running back. Has Emmitt Smith seen his better days? Will Marcel Shipp be the runner the team thinks he can be? A lot of ifs on this team.

The defense was fortunate to draft DE Darnell Dockett from Florida St. He should be a good one.

Can Dennis Green turn this team around? If he can't nobody can. Green will motivate his troops one way or the other.

The 49ers are really facing an uphill battle with QB Jeff Garcia gone. Tim Rattay will be their man. Not the best choice in my opinion. But he did lead his team to victories over St. Louis and Pittsburgh last season. Cody Pickett out of Washington could see a lot of playing time if Rattay can't produce. Also, this team will be hurting with the loss of WR Terrell Owens.

Don't be surprised if this team doesn't win over four or five games in 2004. I sure won't be. Head coach Dennis Erickson has his hands full.
Keith "baseball nut" Thronson
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