Rich gives us his 2017 NFL Preseason Predictions for the NFC. “Tasty Noodles” are the advantages for the team going into the season; conversely, the “Limp Noodles” are the potential problems the team may face in the season to come. Enjoy and let @RichLiebig know if you agree or disagree with his predictions!
NFC EAST: Which Wide Receiving Core Will Win This Division?
1) New York Giants (Last Year: 11-5, Lost in Wild Card Round)
- Tasty Noodles: Signed WR Brandon Marshall. This is huge. You put him across from Odell Beckham, Jr. and suddenly all defenses will have glaring holes in their coverage schemes. If Eli Manning can’t perform well with this 1-2 WR combo, his time is up in New York. Decent defense should hold up from last season, as well.
- Limp Noodles: Their RB committee doesn’t seem intimidating. Will be hard to control time of possession without the running game, defense gets exhausted and could leave games open to comebacks.
- My Crispy Call: 10-6, Win NFC East in Close Contest. This Giants team has sneakily put themselves back on track to return to the postseason. Plus, they swept the Cowboys last season, so they have their number. They should do well in 2017.
2) Dallas Cowboys (Last Year: 13-3, Won NFC East, Lost Divisional Round)
- Tasty Noodles: Whether or not Ezekiel Elliott gets a slap on the wrist from Goodell, this running game is one of the best in the league. Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant should continue to hook up for TDs against any defense that doesn’t take them seriously.
- Limp Noodles: There’s going to be a Sophomore Slump coming for Dak and Zek. Teams now know their habits after studying their first year in the NFL. Don’t expect the same output from last season. Also, the offensive line will be dealing with two new additions to the group, will they be able to keep the quality of protection consistent?
- My Crispy Call: 10-6, Wild Card Berth. The division’s gotten better and they won’t be as dominant. They could win the division if they scratch up a win during one of the two divisional matchups against the Giants; but until that happens, I’ll pencil in the Cowboys as a wildcard.
3) Philadelphia Eagles (Last Year: 7-9, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Revamped their entire WR core, which was a long time coming and should elevate Carson Wentz’s QB play. LeGarrette Blount should also provide a jolt in their slumping running game. Make no mistake — this offense is going places.
- Limp Noodles: The secondary is frighteningly bad. Holy snikes. They are going to get lit up, especially when guys like Odell, Brandon Marshall, Dez, and Terrelle Pryor come to town. But if the opposing offense has no WRs, then it’s all good, right?
- My Crispy Call: 9-7, No Playoffs. The Eagles have improved and are moving away from the laughingstock they were during the end of the Chip Kelly era. They’re better, but I don’t see them contending with the Giants and the Cowboys… not yet.
4) Washington Redskins (Last Year: 8-7-1; Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Hey! They forced Kurt–er, Kirk Cousins to play for them again! And they signed WR Terrelle Pryor and DT Stacy McGee, too! So look, they made off-season moves, like a real NFL franchise does!
- Limp Noodles: How do you fail to re-sign a franchise QB two consecutive times in back-to-back seasons? Pryor may be a good starting WR, but they’ve also lost WRs DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in Free Agency.
- My Crispy Call: 6-10. No Playoffs. Extended Forecast: Kirk Cameron goes buh-bye next offseason, and this franchise will continue to remain one of the most dysfunctional organizations in sports.
NFC NORTH: Can Aaron Rodgers And The Packers Be Stopped?
1) Green Bay Packers (Last Season: 10-6, Won NFC North, Lost NFC Championship Game)
- Tasty Noodles: Aaron Rodgers is essentially a Football God. He literally chucks balls up there and somehow receivers come down with them: on scrambling plays, on hail mary plays, on everything. If he had a decent defensive squad, he’d be closer to the number of Tom Brady’s rings. Former WR Ty Montgomery is now an “official” RB, but really he’s just a safety valve for Rodgers to use if he’s pressured to throw to someone quickly.
- Limp Noodles: Other than signing Super Bowl champion TE Martellus Bennett this off-season, the Packers never “make a splash” in Free Agency, for better or for worse. So it’s the same squad from last year, which wasn’t dominant. Let be clear on that: They were scrappy and willing to fight until the end to win, but they were not dominant.
- My Crispy Call: 11-5, Win NFC North in Close Contest. Until one of the NFC North teams takes the title away from Lord Rodgers, I’m leaving them at the top of the division.
2) Minnesota Vikings (Last Season: 8-8, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Don’t look now, but the Vikings quietly had the 3rd best defense last year, and they re-signed shutdown CB Xavier Rhodes. Bradford made it through a season in one piece (only missed 1 game). They rid themselves of ageing RB Adrian Peterson and drafted much-hyped RB Dalvin Cook.
- Limp Noodles: Passing attack doesn’t seem explosive enough. The defense could buckle when the going gets tough, especially if Bradford and company don’t produce on their side of the ball. Their big Free Agent signing, RB Latavius Murray, is already injured going into the season.
- My Crispy Call: 10-6, Wild Card Berth. The Vikings could have a decent 2017 outing that results in a postseason appearance. They’ll have to play smart, keep Bradford healthy and productive, and get the defense to shut down the rest of the division. It’s a challenge, but they could do it… (and then lose in the opening wildcard game).
3) Detroit Lions (Last Season: 9-7, Lost in Wild Card Round)
- Tasty Noodles: Added some depth on the offensive line during Free Agency. Matthew Stafford is still a solid Franchise QB for the Lions. And they somehow made the playoffs last year, so what’s to stop them from doing it again?
- Limp Noodles: They finished last season losing 4 consecutive games. Not ideally how you want to build for the future. Their supposed star RB of the future, Ameer Abdullah, has been on the Injury Reserve list for as long as I can remember. Is he even a real player?
- My Crispy Call: 8-8, No Playoffs. In a division with the Packers and the Vikings, it’s tough to stand out. Maybe Abdullah actually returns and gets the offensive engine going behind the improved offensive line. Until then, I think it’s too much for Stafford to handle.
4) Chicago Bears (Last Season: 3-13, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: At least they know who the future franchise QB is going to be. And that’s pretty much it.
- Limp Noodles: Everything is so wrong with this once legendary franchise. Why did you sign a $45 million contract to Mike Glennon? Why did they trade so much away just to move only one spot up in the draft to get another QB, Mitchell Trubisky? How does Mark Sanchez keep finding jobs?
- My Crispy Call: 4-12, No Playoffs. They’ll win a few games at Soldier Field, but it’s going to be a big bust of a season this year. Just go back to the 1980s when “Da Bears!” were good.
NFC SOUTH: Will The Falcons Recover After The Worst Half of Super Bowl History Ever?
1) Atlanta Falcons (Last Year: 11-5, Won NFC South, Lost Super Bowl)
- Tasty Noodles: Similar to Patriots, Falcons haven’t really lost any key players from last year’s squad. Julio Jones and the combo of Devonta Freeman / Tevin Coleman always provide headaches for opposing defenses. Should be at the top of the NFC again.
- Limp Noodles: Super Bowl Loser’s Hangover could happen, and what a hangover they have to deal with… No lead will ever be truly “safe” ever again after that Super Bowl.
- My Crispy Call It: 12-4, win NFC South. They have a tough couple of away games (@NE & @SEA jumps to mind) and are in a competitive division. But they should have enough talent to return to the NFC Championship game. It’s either that or Atlanta will suffer the infamous legacy of the 28-3 collapse forever and ever until the end of time.
2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Year: 9-7, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Picking up WR DeSean Jackson really makes this offense interesting. Jameis Winston could elevate his game this season with Jackson and Mike Evans as his 1-2 WR combo. Package that with a decent running game from Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers, and this Tampa Bay offense could take off in 2017.
- Limp Noodles: I know this is minor, but come on… Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk — Why do you guys need two kickers? I’m not sure how this works, but this bothers me. Defense is middling; can they step it up?
- My Crispy Call It: 9-7, No Playoffs, But Hopeful. It’s going to be a tight race for the wild card. I don’t think the Bucs earn a postseason berth. But they are on the right track. They need one more dynamic piece and then they can overtake the Falcons for the division.
3) New Orleans Saints (Last Year: 7-9, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Adrian Peterson signing gives them a running game. Drew Brees still threw for 5,200 yards last season. They are an offensive machine.
- Limp Noodles: The Saints are wasting away Brees’ last good seasons with a poor defense. It’s ridiculous how Brees could be so good, but they still lose plenty of games because the Saints defense allows scores to get ridiculously high.
- My Crispy Call It: 8-8, No Playoffs. It’s looks like the end for Brees & Peterson, but we’ll see if these ageing legends can reclaim glory in New Orleans. (Spoiler: Probably not.)
4) Carolina Panthers (Last Year: 6-10, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Hey, they brought back LB Julius Peppers! Cool. Oh, and they also drafted a top RB in the first round, Christian McCaffrey. Does Cam Newton still do the dab?
- Limp Noodles: Atrocious 1-5 record against their own division in 2016. Did they upgrade any position besides RB substantially? Not really. Stop doing the dab, you’re only making it worse on yourself.
- My Crispy Call It: 7-9 No Playoffs. I think head coach Ron Rivera is just hoping people remember they were in the Super Bowl a couple of seasons ago. They’ve remained too idle since the Super Bowl run they had, and they’ve fallen fast because of it.
NFC WEST: Anybody Want To Contend With The Seahawks?
1) Seattle Seahawks (Last Year: 10-5-1, Won NFC West, Lost Divisional Round)
- Tasty Noodles: The Legion of Boom is still going strong, and they re-signed safety Kam Chancellor. A weak division from top to bottom should mean smooth sailing for the Seahawks to win the NFC West.
- Limp Noodles: Richard Sherman apparently keeps criticizing Russell Wilson about *that* Super Bowl play. Maybe it’s fuel for the fire to win another Super Bowl, or maybe it just hinders Wilson from moving on about the past. It doesn’t sound healthy for the team, in my opinion. Will the offense click and return to Super Bowl form?
- My Crispy Call It: 11-5, Easily Win NFC West. They’ll win the division this year because it’s so bad, but a sense of urgency needs to be apparent. The window is soon closing on the Legion of Boom to win one more Super Bowl ring.
2) Los Angeles Rams (Last Year: 4-12, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: It looks likes they’re ready for the training wheels to come off of last year’s number one overall draft pick Jared Goff. We’ll see if he’s the franchise QB they’ve been waiting for. Defense is still surprising competent.
- Limp Noodles: 31-year-old Sean McVay is the youngest head coach in NFL history. Is this whiz kid really the right person to lead the franchise? Other than stud RB Todd Gurley, this roster seems average at best.
- My Crispy Call It: 6-10, No Playoffs. A young QB and head coach starting for the first time doesn’t sound like a team ready for the playoffs this year. But if they perform well, then the Rams could build towards knocking off the Seahawks once and for all.
3) Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 7-8-1, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Got rid of that kicker, Chandler Catanzaro, that missed two FGs in a game with Seattle that caused a damn tie to occur. (Fun Fact: He’s now on the Jets!) Star RB David Johnson should continue to provide substantial fantasy points.
- Limp Noodles: Carson Palmer is 37 going on 50, and only threw 26 TDs in 15 games played in 2016. This has to be his last season. Chances are it’s not going to end well. WR Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 when the season starts. How old is this damn team?
- My Crispy Call It: 4-12, No Playoffs, Everybody Dies or Retires. Unless Palmer and Fitzgerald drink from the Fountain of Youth, this season probably isn’t going anywhere. This is a team that needs to go through a rebirth and start rebuilding.
4) San Francisco 49ers (Last Year: 2-14, Did Not Make Playoffs)
- Tasty Noodles: Booted Chip Kelly out of town. Actually fleeced the Bears out of a couple more draft picks just by moving down one spot in the Draft. DE Solomon Thomas should become a staple of building their defense in seasons to come. WR Pierre Garcon is a good pickup.
- Limp Noodles: Out of all the QBs to pick, the 49ers decide their starting QB is Brian Hoyer. He threw 4 Interceptions in a playoff game. I give up trying to understand this decision.
- My Crispy Call It: 2-14, No Playoffs, HOW DOES BRIAN HOYER HAVE A STARTING JOB? This team has hit the reset button and is in the process of rebuilding. They got some good draft picks and should be on the right course… other than Brian Hoyer, dear God, what is wrong with you, John Lynch?!
Thanks for reading Rich’s NFC Preseason Predictions. To see his AFC Preseason Predictions, click here!