The 2010 NFL Preview
The NFC East and North



Simply a brutal division to call. Even in down years, the worst team in this division regularly has a shot at going 3-3 in division games. And this season is no exception.

And have you seen their rotation? AFC South… so Indy, Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee. In my mind, only the AFC East could be more difficult as far as quality from the best three combined, but whether you consider Jacksonville or Tennessee the fourth best in the AFC South, either club is significantly better than Buffalo. And this division also faces the NFC North… meaning Minnesota and Green Bay.


Just take a moment to reflect on that. We’re getting ready to look over the season, make some predictions, have a discussion, and we casually give a team a 3-3 divisional record in a nod to appreciating the strengths and weaknesses of the other teams in it. Haven’t even picked up the schedule yet. Just saying that sure, Dallas could win or lose against New York, Washington and Philadelphia. The Eagles could beat, or be beaten by, the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins. Let’s start any of them out with a split in six games.

And all four of them still have the Colts, Texans, Jaguars, Titans, Vikings and Packers on their schedule.

Where do you move them from 3-3?

To 6-6?

At best?


Dallas (10 – 6) ~ Basically, this is it for Tony Romo. If he wanted a season where everything was lined up to win or go home… here it is. Philly is transitioning to a younger team, with the official switch at quarterback. New York is coming off of a tough season, where at times they looked downright awful. And Washington… well… Washington is interesting.

The division is winnable. You are the most balanced and complete team in it.

You’ve got a solid defense, no one to cry when you pass the ball more often to Jason Witten, and some potential at wide receiver and running back.

So far, so good.

I’ll tell you what will kill Dallas though… special teams.

The funny thing about that schedule is… especially in the division… many games could come down to a field goal. Several games might come down to a late game punt pinning an opponent, or a great return setting up a field goal opportunity.

I don’t think the Cowboys are that strong on special teams. Romo is going to go nuts hitting Miles Austin in stride in a couple of games. And he’s going to have a couple of bad ones. There will be games they play horribly and win (Washington and Kansas City in 2009) and games they play ok and lose (San Diego in 2009). And oh yeah… the Giants took both games from the Cowboys in 2009.

Special teams. That’s my Dallas critique.

Philadelphia (8 – 8) ~ Philly is a really tough one to predict. If it weren’t for that killer rotation of a schedule and a tough division, I might rank them up there with Atlanta and Green Bay as playoff options with 9 or 10 wins… or at least think of them as I do Carolina, with an ability to play better than they appear.

How will Kevin Kolb handle adversity? Can you answer that one? See… in Philly… for a couple of seasons now… the question was whether or not the Eagles should move on past McNabb. Somehow… amazingly… this is Kolb’s fourth year! And he’s been the quarterback-in-waiting since his draft day.

I think he’ll be fine. I think he’ll play well. I don’t think he’ll be consistent.

David Akers provides one of the steadiest presences in the NFL.

It’s not bad here. I just think it’s a year or two away.

New York (Giants) (8 – 8) ~ Flip a coin. Let me know what you arrive at for a record. (For the Giants, it might land edges more than you think.)

Most people probably couldn’t name a single wide receiver on the roster. And… that doesn’t sound good for Eli Manning. The running game that should have been a plus wasn’t there last season. And the defense was made out of tissue paper during important moments in 2009. (Anyone else remember that late season game against Philly? They lost 45-38 and by halftime you had the feeling the last team with the ball would win.)

I happen to like Tom Coughlin. And, truth be told, this Manning has impressed me at times. So if things go well and the running game is on track, the Giants could be very tough this year. But for now I think I have to hesitate and wonder.

Washington (6 – 10) ~ Yeah… I’m… umm… I’m just not on board with this yet.

I get it. Give the miscreants a hard time. Bring in some veterans. Get the youth excited. Atmosphere… pride… smell the building in progress.

But is Donovan McNabb… already limping… the difference?


Green Bay (11 – 5) ~ Almost 20 years ago, Green Bay was rising, and yet teams like San Francisco and Dallas… and it sure seems like memory says it was really Dallas… stood in the way. Eventually, they broke through, made it to the Super Bowl twice, and won a championship.

Suddenly, the Packers have Minnesota (and the old Packer legend) along with defending champion New Orleans standing in the way.

Can they defeat them? Can their new quarterback chase off the ghost and lead them?

I say it sure seems like the fates want it to happen.

For such a young team, the Vikings got old very quick. We’ll get to them… but I don’t think Favre and company are quite the threat they were last year.

And that quarterback… well… the Packer faithful have accepted him. He’s not the man replacing the legend… he’s their quarterback.

What we need to see from Green Bay is some success stories. Last year beating the teams they should beat and losing against tougher opponents got them into the playoffs. Good for them. This year… they need to play like the better team. For instance… beat the Vikings.

The Packers are going to the playoffs. Balanced team… good quarterback… solid in every area. The questions become who do they play and how do they play once they get there.

Minnesota (10 – 6) ~ And I’m afraid this is too high for Minnesota. Watch. Let’s just run an easy question and answer.

Can Brett Favre play better than he did last year? No. Not in any way that you can feel comfortable believing.

Well, then can the youngsters step it up, improve, and while he declines a bit they fill in the void? You’d like to say yes, but Sidney Rice is out for what sounds like a minimum of 6 games. The division race could be over by then (at least out of reach for the Vikings), and with a strong and combative NFC East and feisty teams in the NFC South a wild card could be in trouble as well.

Yeah, but don’t they have Percy Harvin to lean on for some production while Rice is out? Yeah… umm… actually, that would be one of those uncomfortable to believe scenarios. See, Harvin has medical issues. Usually involving migraines. And his problems have been worse this training camp than at any point last season, and if you check out his status week to week last season… see… you get the picture.

Ok. So Favre may not play as well and the offense may not be as potent. The wide receivers are questionable each week. The most dangerous running back in the NFC hasn’t proven he’s over his fumbling problem and may not be the best late game, ball control option. Maybe they don’t win games like last year’s victory over San Francisco.

Still, they should make the playoffs.


Great defense. Right?

And now we’ve arrived at the true hope. The defense. And I say no, they can’t play any better than they did last season. And that means this club drops off in 2010. For exactly the sentence I just said… they likely won’t win games like they did over San Francisco.

9 wins or less is so much more realistic.

Chicago (8 – 8) ~ I still don’t like Jay Cutler.

And there’s the issue.

Will he make me eat my words?

I don’t think so. I honestly think he’s the worst quarterback in this division.

After opening the season against Detroit (at home), Chicago travels to Dallas and then hosts Green Bay.

Are you ready for this one? (Sit down, it’s a good one.) The Bears end the season with the following string… Patriots, at Vikings, Jets, at Packers. I don’t see a single win there.

Cutler looked awful on the road last season. And… despite what many people are saying… most of the roster is back. It’s the same darn team… with Lovie Smith still the head coach… and, well… that’s it. I’m done.

Detroit (5 – 11) ~ Stafford impressed me last year. Well… yeah… sure, he wasn’t great. But he played with some passion and emotion that has been missing in Detroit.

The biggest question is the running game. Of the serious ball carriers, we’ve got no one that played in all 16 games in 2009… no one that even sniffed 800 rushing yards… and, think about this because we’re talking about running backs, no one that scored 5 touchdowns. Young quarterback, and our Detroit running game is based on potential and high hopes.

Sure… that’s just a basic overview. But it screams to me that teams are going to approach them trying to shut down Calvin Johnson at all costs and take their chances every place else on the field.

And then there’s the defense. In half of their games last year the opposition crossed the 30-point mark. And… well… this hurts, but it’s the truth… in 16 games, only St. Louis and Washington failed to score 20.

But hey… St. Louis and Washington are both on their schedule for this season… so they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at