With the NFL season less than a week away, we take a look at a few teams from the NFC that have, in this writers opinion, the best chances at reaching at least the conference championship game, and quite possibly the Super Bowl.
New York Giants: Eli Manning already has 2 Super Bowl rings on his hand. He’s been there and defeated Tom Brady and the Patriots…twice. Eli Manning will go down as one of the better QB’s the NFL has ever seen, not because of his career stats, but because of these 2 Super Bowl wins and how nobody can explain how they were able to make it through the playoffs and defeat the Patriots in 2 different Super Bowls. Last year, the Giants boasted an improved defense from a huge free agency class, and this year have added veteran Brandon Marshall to their receiving corp to play alongside Odell Beckham Jr, one of the best in the league, and young up-and-comer Sterling Shepard, who had some flashes last season as a rookie, but ultimately could not get it all together to be as helpful to Odell as the Giants needed him to be. Now with Marshall in the fold, as well as the development of Tight End Evan Engram, and the hopes of Running Back Paul Perkins taking the next step in his game to help improve the Giants running attack, which has been extremely weak since Brandon Jacobs fell off, and the Giants look to be one of the best teams in the NFC and have a legit chance at not only the NFC Championship game, but making it all the way to the Super Bowl again.
Dallas Cowboys: Everyone knows about the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. It is by far the best in the business, and can help any running back with at least some sort of talent, make an impact for the Cowboys offense (see Joseph Randle/Darren McFadden 2015). But last year, the rookie duo of RB Ezekiel Elliot and QB Dak Prescott took this team over the top and cemented Dallas as one of the best teams in the league with the looks of going nowhere but up. Dak showed his true potential as both a quarterback and a leader in helping the Cowboys to a 13-3 season and another playoff appearance. Elliott dominated the run game, amassing 1631 yards on the ground to go along with 15 td’s. The Cowboys ended up losing in their first playoff game last season against the Green Bay Packers, but the season was a success in showing what this Cowboys team can do in the near future. With the aforementioned 2nd year duo, as well as one of the best WR’s in the league in Dez Bryant now fully healthy, and one of the most consistent TE’s the league has ever seen in Jason Witten, this Cowboys team really does have what it takes to take that next step and make it to the NFC championship game, quite possibly to play against their division rivals in the New York Giants.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: You can label this pick however you like, the shocker special, upset supreme, surprise of the season, but it won’t change my opinion on this up and coming team. QB Jameis Winston has been improving in each of his first two seasons in the league. The numbers may not show a huge jump from year 1 to year 2, but the tape does. Winston has shown immense leadership qualities as the QB for this team that has struggled to find a consistent signal caller for some time now. They also employ one of the best young WR’s in the league in Mike Evans, who is a matchup nightmare for any defensive back you can throw at him. The only problem has been the lack of other receiving options for the Bucs, as they haven’t had a consistent TE or a 2nd receiver opposite Evans to take some pressure off of him. That changes this season, as the Bucs went out and signed deep ball specialist Desean Jackson to help take the pressure off Evans, and the team also has a lot of faith in 3rd year TE Cameron Brate, who made a huge jump from year 1 to year 2. He beat out athletic phenom Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had a lot of pre-draft hype, to become the starting TE in Tampa, and essentially had the Bucs send ASJ out of town because they didn’t need him. Also, take into account that Doug Martin is one of the better running backs in the league, and doesn’t play in a committee, and this offense looks to be as explosive as any in the league this year. The defense has also greatly improved over the last two years, with one of the best linebackers in the league in Lavonte David, and just yesterday, signing veteran Safety T.J. Ward to boost the secondary. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons, reigning NFC champions, are in the same division as the Buccaneers, but this writer feels that the Bucs have made a lot of the necessary improvements to take that next step, and the Falcons have basically stood pat with their roster after their big Super Bowl collapse. These two teams could play each other in the playoffs also, which would be an exciting, 3rd matchup between the two teams in the season, but my pick between the two teams would be Tampa Bay.
Obvious 4th and 5th choices: Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons