We are into the heart of the off-season now, with the preseason juuuuust around the corner. Every fanbase outside of Houston, Texas has optimism about this season. Some of it’s justified (like the teams you’ll read about today) and some of it isn’t (like those who support a Green Bay Packers team without Aaron Rodgers). So today, I’ll take my best shot in the dark at predicting the four NFC Division Champions.
Predicting the NFL Division Champions: NFC Edition (2021)
North- Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings aren’t going to win the Super Bowl this year. I just don’t believe in them. Kirk Cousins isn’t good enough, I don’t trust Dalvin Cook to stay healthy, and even when Mike Zimmer’s defense does play well, they seem to disappear in the big moments. Having said that, the alternatives are a Bears team that intends to start Andy Dalton, a Packers team that won’t have Aaron Rodgers, and the Detroit Lions, who bare a striking resembles to the Detroit Lions the last 50 years, desolate and inept.
That’s not to say Kirk Cousins can’t play well, especially with great receivers, a productive run game, and some protection up front.
Dark Horse- Chicago Bears
I want to love this year’s Bears team so badly. Justin Fields is arguably already the best quarterback in Bears history, and he probably won’t even start week one. They’ve got some really interesting pieces, and there’s no reason why they can’t make a real run at it this year… I just don’t trust Matt Nagy. To me, he’s just another chapter in the endless book that is “Andy Reid’s disappointing disciples.”
Of course, the Packers are the favorites if Rodgers decides to come back but… do we really think that’s going to happen?
South- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl and bring back all 22 starters. One of those starters is this guy named Tom Brady, who put up monster numbers and won the Super Bowl at age 43 with a torn MCL.
You remember the rebel troops from the beginning of Star Wars that were positioned the door to stop Darth Vader? That’s the NFC South. I’m not wasting any more time with this explanation.
Dark Horse- Carolina Panthers
I think the Carolina Panthers are fascinating. In my AFC piece, I said I believed the Indianapolis hopes relied on whether or not they could revive the career of Carson Wentz (wait, did I pick the Colts to win the AFC South? Better go read and find out). In the NFC, I feel the same is true for Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers. Darnold was trapped with the absolutely inept coaching of Adam Gase for most of his career, on Jets teams that didn’t have a ton of talent.
Now, he’s playing for Joe Brady and Matt Rhule, both of whom are considered offensive geniuses, with an old friend, Robbie Williams, a decent number two, D.J. Moore, and perhaps the most versatile option in football, Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers have a young, speedy defense, and if they can get some real production out of Darnold? They could make some noise as a wildcard contender.
East- Washington Football Team
I think the Washington Football Team are going to be kinda fun to watch this year. They play great defense, they brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and they’ve got some options on the offensive side of the ball. People forget that they actually gave Tampa a pretty hard time in the playoffs. If this pass rush keeps developing the way I think it will, and Ryan can give us some Fitzmagic, I think they could win 10 or 11 games.
Dark Horse- Dallas Cowboys
If the Dallas Cowboys aren’t competitive this year, it’ll be impressive. I don’t expect the defense to be elite, but it should at least be top 15, and the Cowboys are built like a Madden team on offense. Mike McCarthy isn’t the guy that’s going to revive “Dem Boys,” but I have faith in Dak Prescott to make the Boys competitive, assuming everyone stays healthy.
It’s easy to forget that this offense still features Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and a decent offensive line. It’s hard to imagine the defense is anywhere near as bad as it was last season. The rest of the NFC East just doesn’t fill me with confidence. The Giants are desperately hoping Daniel Jones takes a huge step forward, and the Eagles are hoping Jalen Hurts turns into a starting quarterback in year two.
West- Los Angeles Rams
I am a founding member of the “Matt Stafford is good-not-great” fan club. I will ramble for hours and hours about his life post-Calvin Johnson, and nobody can stop me. Having said that, he’s so, so, so much better than Jared Goff. He’s going to absolutely devour defenses in Sean McVay’s offense. Throw in the fact that the Rams still have the likes of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, and at least fans in Los Angeles will have one fun football team to watch.
Dark Horse- San Francisco 49ers
I wanted to put all three of the teams up as the Dark Horse. The NFC West is going to be crazy this year. The only team in the division that would surprise me as the NFC Champions from this division are the Arizona Cardinals, and that’s just because I don’t believe in Kliff Kingsbury. But Russell Wilson is still a top five quarterback, McVay finally has a quarterback in Stafford, and presumably, the 49ers are going to be healthy.
And that’s why I made them my dark horse. Because while the Seahawks have the best quarterback in the division, the 49ers are probably the best team, pound for pound, with the best offensive scheme. If everyone recovers from their injuries in time, and plays up to the level they’re expected, the 49ers could make a real push for the division title. And between you and me, I don’t think it would hurt them to get Trey Lance on the field sooner rather than later.
If you liked this article, check out the AFC version. If you didn’t like this article, check out the AFC version anyway. And feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!