September 5, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 5  

Front Page >> Sports > Eagles will prey on NFC competition


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Eagles will prey on NFC competition

By Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

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 in 2003.

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 a power.

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 a moment.

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



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