by Robert Ferringo - 08/23/2005
The year was 1995. Matthew Perry was skinny, Madonna was still American, Clinton wasn't having sexual relations, investors were wiping themselves with $100 bills, and Dallas and San Francisco were involved in epic games in the NFC Championship Game (which, in the early to mid-90's was the real Super Bowl).
Of all of those issues, the one I probably have the most difficulty with is, what happened to the NFC?
As of right now, I think that Minnesota and Carolina are the two best teams in the NFC. Unfortunately, I don't think that either of those teams would be in the top 5 in the AFC. Honestly, would you put either the Panthers or Vikings ahead of Pittsburgh, New England, Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, Buffalo, Denver and/or New York? It's doubtful. Furthermore, up-and-coming teams like Houston, Cincinnati, and Jacksonville may not make the playoffs in the AFC, but I think they would be division winners in the NFC.
So where did they go wrong? There are several reasons why the AFC has lapped the NFC as far as depth and talent, but the simple answers is that football, like life, runs in cycles. All of those weaker AFC teams were stockpiling the top draft picks, and the free-spending NFC teams had their legs cut out from underneath them when salary cap loopholes were closed. The result is the 2005 NFL, where the AFC will continue to avenge their embarrassments from a decade ago.
Training camp is about three-quarters finished, and the preseason schedule has reached the halfway mark. With the start of the regular season just three weeks away, the picture is becoming much clearer as far as who is going to make a roster and who is going to be starting for squads throughout the league. Here's a little bit of dirt on the teams in the NFC:
NFC News and NotesNFC East
New York Giants - Giants fans can exhale. Eli Manning had an X-ray on his throwing elbow, and it was just a sprained. He's going to sit out their next exhibition game against the Jets, but should be fine. David Tyree has been outstanding in his role as a third receiver this preseason, and should win the position outright. Look for mammoth rookie running back Brandon Jacobs (266 pounds) as a short-yardage and goal line back.
Washington Redskins - Sean Taylor still faces a count of felony aggravated assault and a misdemeanor simple battery charge stemming from an incident in Miami in June. Allegedly he pointed a gun at three men who he thought stole his ATV. If convicted, Taylor faces a minimum of three years in prison, with a maximum of 16. Taylor has a trial date of Sept. 12, just one day after their Week One game at home against Chicago.
Dallas Cowboys - Right tackle Jacob Rogers opted for season-ending surgery to repair his right knee, which infuriated Cowboys management. A second-round pick in 2004, Rogers strained his MCL and was ripped by owner Jerry Jones for not trying to play through the pain. Also, Jason Ferguson and Marcus Spears continue to be beat up in Big D. Ferguson's ankle has been acting up since Aug. 9, and Spears has missing practice and games over the last two weeks due to a mid-grade MCL sprain, a high-ankle sprain and a strained calf muscle.
Philadelphia Eagles - There have been rumors about a possible trade of Corey Simon to Green Bay for wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Also, rumor has it the Eagles are reopening negotiations with Brian Westbrook now instead of letting him hit the unrestricted free agent market in 2006.
Chicago Bears - The Bears signed Jeff Blake to fill in for the injured Rex Grossman. Grossman had successful surgery, but will still miss 3-4 months. It's unknown whether or not the Bears are going to put Grossman on injured reserve, which would end his season. One rumor that has been printed in both Chicago and San Francisco papers involves the Bears trading for Tim Rattay. The Bears have made their "final offer" to holdout rookie Cedric Benson.
Detroit Lions - Joey Harrington has looked outstanding in his two exhibition games. Besides just his gaudy 93 percent completion ratio (14-for-15) he's looked very confident and commanding running the Lions offense. Kevin Johnson is ahead of Mike Williams on the depth chart as the No. 3 receiver. Fullback Cory Schlessinger will miss 6-8 weeks.
Green Bay Packers - Brett Favre has looked outstanding in his first two starts. While he's a staple, the Pack hasn't named its starting guards yet. Adrian Klemm, Matt O'Dwyer, Scott Wells and Will Whittaker are the competitors, but no one in the organization is sure who has the edge at the moment. Coach Mike Sherman is rumored to be receiving a two-year contract extension to coach Green Bay.
Minnesota Vikings - Minnesota's running back depth is being tested early. Michael Bennett has tweaked his neck, and Ciatrick Faison has a high-ankle sprain, which will both limit their practice availability. E.J. Henderson played well enough to earn starting weak-side linebacker. It also looks as if center Matt Birk may not be ready for Week One. He's had several surgeries in the offseason due to sports related hernias and a gimpy hip.
Atlanta Falcons - Peerless Price suffered bruised ribs and a mild concussion in Atlanta's game against Tennessee over the weekend. Despite getting jacked up, it looks like he will not only make the final roster for the Falcons, but he will be a starter.
New Orleans Saints - People in the Bayou were again shaking their head at head coach Jim Haslett - who this writer contests is the worst coach in football (yes, worse than Mike Martz). Haslett's camp has been pretty quiet and uneventful, but he tempted fate by running Deuce McAllister 20 times in a preseason game against New England.
Carolina Panthers - Tight end Fred Jones, acquired from Arizona in the offseason, retired a couple of weeks ago, leaving a void at that slot. Starting safety Colin Branch blew out his knee versus the Giants, and is done for the year. Idrees Bashir, formerly of the Colts, will most likely take Branch's place. There has been talk about moving rookie Thomas Davis back to safety - which he played in college - just a week after announcing his switch to linebacker.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Offensive lineman Derrick Deese's left ankle is still bothering him. Deese missed all of the preseason last fall, but started all 16 games. Brian Griese's offseason deal (5 years for $32 million) has not only secured Griese as Tampa's quarterback but has put Chris Simms on the market for teams looking for a QB.
San Francisco 49ers - 23-year-old offensive lineman Thomas Herrion collapsed and died after the 49ers game in Denver this weekend. It will be 3-6 weeks before toxicology tests are complete and a cause is pinpointed. Arnez Battle will be starting in the Z-position (No. 1 receiver) for the 49ers this season. Tim Rattay has looked much better than Alex Smith so far in training camp, but it appears Smith will start.
St. Louis Rams - Richie Incognito, the Rams third-round pick and lineman from Nebraska, is still unsigned. Corner Jerametrius Butler tore a ligament in his right knee and will miss the entire season. The Rams line is beat up. Alex Barron signed late and is still playing catch-up, Orlando Pace was held out against the Chargers with a quad injury, and Adam Timmerman had offseason shoulder and foot surgery and still isn't up to snuff. Timmerman may be available for St. Louis' last preseason game.
Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks could end up with seven new starters on defense, and they still don't know who will start opposite Jamie Sharper at outside linebacker. Also, defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes has been experimenting with calling plays from the sidelines as opposed to from a coaching booth. Also, Seattle missed out on a chance to get Andra Davis from Cleveland. The former Browns receiver was signed by New England on Monday.
Arizona Cardinals - The Arizona line is becoming decimated by injuries. Tackle Oliver Ross should be back from sprained knee this week, but Alex Stepanovich had hand surgery and there's no timetable for his return. This weekend against Kansas City J.J. Arrington fumbled for the second time in two games. Starting cornerback David Macklin was flagged for three pass interference calls in the first quarter against the Chiefs.
If you enjoyed Doc's NFC News and Notes article, check back throughout the week for more college football and NFL previews.
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