NFC preview for 2014 NFL season

08/28/2014 2:00 PM

08/28/2014 2:32 PM

NFC EAST

DALLAS COWBOYS

Coach: Jason Garrett, 5th season.

Key additions: OG Zach Martin (first round, Notre Dame); QB Brandon Weeden (Cleveland); DL Henry Melton (Chicago).

Key losses: DE DeMarcus Ware (Denver); WR Miles Austin (Cleveland); DL Jason Hatcher (Washington).

Outlook: The Cowboys have finished 8-8 the past three seasons and haven’t had a winning record since 2009. With this defense, don’t expect one this year.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Coach: Tom Coughlin, 11th season.

Key additions: WR Odell Beckham (first round, LSU); RB Rashad Jennings (Oakland); WR Mario Manningham (San Francisco).

Key losses: DE Justin Tuck (Oakland); WR Hakeem Nicks (Indianapolis); DT Linval Joseph (Minnesota).

Outlook: The Giants need a bounce-back year from QB Eli Manning after he led the league with 27 interceptions last year or another losing season could be in store.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Coach: Chip Kelly, 2nd season.

Key additions: RB Darren Sproles (New Orleans); QB Mark Sanchez (Jets); S Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans).

Key losses: QB Michael Vick (Jets); WR DeSean Jackson (Washington); S Patrick Chung (New England).

Outlook: The Eagles definitely look like the strongest team in a soft division, but will QB Nick Foles miss Jackson? Still, Philadelphia will not have trouble scoring points again this year.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Coach: Jay Gruden, 1st season.

Key additions: WR DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia); WR Andre Roberts (Arizona); S Ryan Clark (Pittsburgh).

Key losses: LB London Fletcher (retired).

Outlook: With Mike Shanahan gone, the Redskins hope a lot of the drama is as well. Washington slumped to 3-13 last year as QB Robert Griffin III was benched to end the season. Washington could be in the postseason hunt this year.

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO BEARS

Coach: Marc Trestman, 2nd season.

Key additions: DB Kyle Fuller (first round, Virginia Tech); DE Jared Allen (Minnesota); DE Willie Young (Detroit); DL Lamarr Houston (Oakland).

Key losses: WR/RS Devin Hester (Atlanta); QB Josh McCown (Tampa Bay); DT Henry Melton (Dallas).

Outlook: The Bears’ problem last year was on the defensive side, something they addressed during the offseason. If Trestman’s offense keeps putting up numbers, the Bears should contend for the playoffs.

DETROIT LIONS

Coach: Jim Caldwell, 1st season.

Key additions: TE Eric Ebron (first round, North Carolina); WR Golden Tate (Seattle); FB Jed Collins (New Orleans); S James Ihedigbo (Baltimore).

Key losses: S Louis Delmas (Miami); WR Nate Burleson (Cleveland); DE Willie Young (Chicago).

Outlook: After two consecutive losing seasons, the Lions fired Jim Schwartz and brought in the offensive-minded Caldwell. Detroit has plenty of firepower but is soft on defense. Bad division for that.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Coach: Mike McCarthy, 9th season

Key additions: DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (first round, Alabama); LB/DL Julius Peppers (Chicago); DL Letroy Guion (Minnesota).

Key losses: WR James Jones (Oakland); OT Marshall Newhouse (Cincinnati).

Outlook: The Packers struggled last season with QB Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone, but with Rodgers back, they rallied to beat the Bears and win the division. With a stronger defense, the Packers could be one of the NFC’s best.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Coach: Mike Zimmer, 1st season.

Key additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater (first round, Louisville); DT Linval Joseph (Giants); LB Jasper Brinkley (Arizona).

Key losses: DE Jared Allen (Chicago); RB Toby Gerhart (Jacksonville); TE John Carlson (Arizona).

Outlook: The Vikings are back outdoors as they play at the University of Minnesota while their new stadium is built on the Metrodome site. Norv Turner takes over QB Matt Cassel and the offense, although Bridgewater could move in.

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA FALCONS

Coach: Mike Smith, 7th season.

Key additions: OT Jake Matthews (first round, Texas A&M); KS/WR Devin Hester (Chicago); DT Paul Soliai (Miami).

Key losses: TE Tony Gonzalez (retired); S Asante Samuel (free agent).

Outlook: After three seasons in a row of making the playoffs, the Falcons were a 4-12 mess last year. The Falcons addressed improving their defense in the offseason and should challenge for a playoff spot.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Coach: Ron Rivera, 4th season.

Key additions: WR Kelvin Benjamin (first round, FSU); S Roman Harper (New Orleans); WR Jason Avant (Philadelphia); CB Antoine Cason (Arizona).

Key losses: WR Steve Smith (Baltimore); LT Jordan Gross (retired); S Mike Mitchell (Pittsburgh).

Outlook: Led by QB Cam Newton and a tough defense, the Panthers won 12 games and hit the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Carolina wants more this time around.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Coach: Sean Payton, 8th season.

Key additions: WR Brandin Cooks (first round, Oregon); CB Champ Bailey (Denver); S Jairus Byrd (Buffalo).

Key losses: RB Darren Sproles (Philadelphia); S Roman Harper (Carolina).

Outlook: New Orleans bolstered its defense during the offseason, but its success still hinges around what QB Drew Brees does on the other side of the ball. The Saints won 11 games last year and are expected to win this division.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Coach: Lovie Smith, 1st season.

Key additions: WR Mike Evans (first round, Texas A&M); QB Josh McCown (Chicago); RB Michael Johnson (Cincinnati); CB Alterraun Verner (Tennessee).

Key losses: G Davin Joseph (St. Louis); CB Darrelle Revis (New England); WR Mike Williams (Buffalo).

Outlook: Former Bears coach Lovie Smith has been brought in after three consecutive disappointing seasons in Hillsborough County. Greg Schiano’s team won four of five after an 0-8 start, but it wasn’t enough to save his job.

NFC WEST

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Coach: Bruce Arians, 2nd season.

Key additions: CB Antonio Cromartie (Jets); LT Jared Veldheer (Oakland).

Key losses: OL Daryn Colledge (Miami); LB Karlos Dansby (Cleveland); WR Andre Roberts (Washington).

Outlook: Despite winning 10 games last year in Arians’ first season, the Cardinals couldn’t escape a tough division and missed the playoffs for a fourth year in a row. This will probably be No. 5.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Coach: Jeff Fisher, 3rd season.

Key additions: OT Greg Robinson (first round, Auburn); G Davin Joseph (Tampa Bay); WR Kenny Britt (Tennessee).

Key losses: CB Cortland Finnegan (Miami); G Chris Williams (Buffalo); QB Brady Quinn (Miami); QB Kellen Clemens (San Diego).

Outlook: The Rams are finally trending upward, but escaping this division and making the playoffs for the first time since 2004 seems too much, especially with QB Sam Bradford coming back from injury.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ers

Coach: Jim Harbaugh, 4th season.

Key additions: CB Chris Cook (Minnesota); QB Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville); S Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis).

Key losses: CB Carlos Rogers (Oakland); S Donte Whitner (Cleveland); CB Tarell Brown (Oakland).

Outlook: The Niners finally open their new stadium and hope to continue their recent run of success. In Harbaugh’s three seasons, San Francisco has reached the NFC title game each time and made it to the Super Bowl two years ago.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Coach: Pete Carroll, 5th season.

Key additions: QB Terrelle Pryor (Oakland); CB Phillip Adams (Oakland); OL Stephen Schilling (San Diego).

Key losses: WR Golden Tate (Detroit); DL Red Bryant (Jacksonville); DL Chris Clemons (Jacksonville).

Outlook: The defending Super Bowl champions’ road to a repeat won’t come easy after the Seahawks got hit during free agency. Seattle still has a solid nucleus and is the favorite to win it all again.

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