Eagles will prey on
By Mark Polishuk
Welcome to the wild, parity-driven NFL, where
literally anyone (well, except Cincinnati and Arizona) could
win the Super Bowl. This week we preview the NFC. Look for the
AFC preview in Tuesday's edition.
Philadelphia thought they had it made with
home-field advantage in the playoffs, but then they were beaten
by Tampa Bay. This might be PhillyÕs last chance to win with
their current nucleus of talent, so itÕs do or die for the Eagles
The New York Giants choked
away a big lead against San Francisco in the playoffs last year
and have to overcome problems on defense and the offensive line.
New York has a potent offense, but they donÕt want to turn every
game into a scoring contest.
Washington once again threw
money at anything that moved in the off season and actually
picked up some young talent like wide receiver Laveranues Coles.
The Redskins will need one of their quarterbacks to step up
to have any chance.
The Dallas Cowboys made the
biggest coaching move, bringing in the legendary Bill Parcells.
Outside of safety Roy Williams, however, Parcells has little
to work with.
San Francisco has yet to learn if it ain't
broke, don't fix it. Coach Steve Mariucci was fired after a
front-office power struggle and replaced with retread Dennis
Erickson. The team itself is basically unchanged, so as long
as Erickson doesn't screw up too badly, the 49ers are still
St. Louis has lost some high-scoring
luster after missing the playoffs last season, but injuries
were a big part of their fall. If Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk
are OK, the Rams might win their second title in five years.
Mike Holmgren is on his ninth life in Seattle,
so if the Seahawks canÕt get it done this year, the coach is
history. Cornerback Shawn Springs breaking his shoulder isn't
going to help the cause.
Arizona added Emmitt Smith,
but this isn't 1993. It'll be another long year for the Cardinals.
The Green Bay Packers have a lot of holes,
but they're the class of the weak NFC North. Any team with Brett
Favre has to be considered a contender, but Favre is getting
older and the defense isn't championship calibre.
A team that could surprise the Packers is
the Minnesota Vikings, if they can get their
act together. The team is too rife with head cases like Randy
Moss and Chris Hovan, but have playoff-calibre talent if they
can just learn to concentrate on football.
The Chicago Bears yo-yoed
from 13-3 in 2001 to 4-12 last year, but they're neither that
good nor that bad. They have the best defender in the division
in linebacker Brian Urlacher, but nothing else.
After leaving the 49ers, Steve Mariucci finds
himself coaching in Detroit, which is like
trading in a Cadillac for a Trabant. Rookie wide receiver Charles
Rogers will help the Lions, but he's only one man.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won it all last year
and a repeat is a strong possibility. Coach Jon Gruden is such
a workaholic he won't let his team rest on their laurels for
Get ready for that exciting Atlanta
quarterback... Doug Johnson? Michael Vick is hurt until October,
so Johnson and the defense have to keep the Falcons from falling
into an early hole.
Carolina improved by six
wins last year, despite having one of the NFL's worst offenses.
Another six game improvement is virtually impossible, but new
running back Stephen Davis might just be enough to push the
Panthers into the playoffs.
The New Orleans Saints beat
the Bucs twice last season and yet missed the playoffs thanks
to their second straight December collapse. No team that blows
a playoff drive with a loss to the Bengals can be called a contender.
WILD CARDS: St. Louis, Atlanta
NFC CHAMPION: Philadelphia