NFL Predictions: 2009 NFC Division Winners Futures
by Matt Severance - 8/11/2009
Do you realize that the NFC has won just two of the past nine Super Bowls? But I think it’s safe to say that this conference is starting to gain on the AFC in terms of championship-caliber teams. The beauty of the NFC is that each division is probably up for grabs this year, whereas the AFC seems to have clear betting favorites in each division. So let’s look at the NFC and try to gauge the best value of teams winning their division. All odds are courtesy of Bodog.
NFC East: Is there a division more wide open than the NFC East? All four teams could win it, and all four are playoff-caliber. It wouldn’t surprise me if three East teams reach the playoffs as happened in the 2007-08 season, capped by the Giants’ colossal upset of the unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl. Oddsmakers like the G-Men at 33/20 to repeat as division champs this season as well. I am not as big of a fan. I think Derrick Ward will be missed, and it’s probably not realistic to think Brandon Jacobs can stay healthy all season with his punishing running style. After Plaxico Burress was suspended last year, New York lost four of its final six games, including the home playoff loss to the Eagles. The Giants still really haven’t replaced Burress, and now Eli Manning has the pressure of living up to that ridiculous contract.
I believe Dallas is the best value here at 11/4. The Cowboys will be better by subtracting Terrell Owens, although they could use help at receiver – sorry, I’m not a big Roy Williams or Patrick Crayton guy. But Dallas is stellar in the backfield with Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and Felix Jones, with Jones probably being used in various ways. Philly is actually the second-favorite at 19/10, but I’d be concerned over Brian Westbrook’s health this year after offseason surgery. Plus the defense will miss injured linebacker Stewart Bradley. The Redskins (23/4) are the odd team out.
NFC North: Three of the four teams in the North certainly could win this division. Minnesota is the slight favorite over Chicago at 8/5. Other books, however, shifted the Vikings behind the Bears (37/20) when Brett Favre decided to stay retired. Keep an eye on the case of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, with it looking more and more likely they won’t have to serve that four-game suspension. That’s big, as those two are the anchors of the NFL’s best run defense. As long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy, this team is a playoff threat. But it probably all comes down to quarterback play. Assuming Tarvaris Jackson beats out Sage Rosenfels, will the Jackson who threw seven TDs and just one pick in the final three regular-season games last year show up, or will it be the guy who stunk in the playoff loss?
I actually like the Bears to win the division, with tight end Greg Olsen turning into an All-Pro this year and making up for an average at best receiving corps. QB Aaron Rodgers was pretty good in his first season as a starter for Packers (2/1) last year, but the Pack seemed to always lose the close games – they dropped seven games by four points or less. If that can change, Green Bay will be in the mix as well. I won’t even bother with Detroit (15/1).
NFC South: The South was the only NFC division last year to have two teams with double-digit wins, yet the team that finished last at 8-8 is the co-favorite at 2/1: the Saints. There’s little doubt New Orleans will put up points again behind Drew Brees, but the team didn’t really fix its problems at running back. Can you count on a full season from Reggie Bush, and is Pierre Thomas really a No. 1 RB? Plus the defense remains a major question mark.
The Falcons are the co-favorites with New Orleans at 2/1. Assuming Matt Ryan wasn’t a one-year wonder, Atlanta should be the team to beat. Plus, the Falcons were able to get Roddy White in camp by giving him his new deal. The loss of receiver Harry Douglas for the season hurts a bit, however. Carolina, the reigning division champ, is at 9/4 and probably the best value. I would take the Panthers’ top two running backs of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams over any in the NFL. I would be a bit concerned about QB Jake Delhomme, who seemed to regress late last year and was historically bad in the playoff loss. Tampa Bay (21/4) will be in the cellar of the South this season.
NFC West: If the AFC West isn’t the worst division in football, then the NFC version is. The NFC champion Cardinals lead the pack at 27/20. But how much will the loss of offensive coordinator Todd Haley affect Kurt Warner, who credited Haley with reviving his career? And can the 38-year-old Warner make it through an entire season?
I believe Seattle has a nice bounce-back year, and the Seahawks are 21/10. Injuries, particularly at receiver, seemed to cause a perfect storm of negative karma around this team last year, so maybe T.J. Houshmandzadeh will fix all that. Look for linebacker Aaron Curry to be the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year. But the best value out West is the 49ers at 5/2. This team found itself under Mike Singletary and QB Shaun Hill last season, winning four of its final five games. Hill should have an excellent group of weapons led by Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree – assuming the rookie Crabtree doesn’t stick to his threat of sitting out the season over money. As for St. Louis (10/1), don’t waste your money.
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