in the playoff hunt if they can locate a mediocre QB.
After three straight Championship Game loses, the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl. The dice may not roll their way for a change and the division can be wide open.
Both wild card teams could very easily come from the NFC East. They are scheduled to play the NFC West and the AFC West. The NFC West will be a warm-up for these teams due to the lack of creditable talent, although the AFC West will be a very good match-up for the NFC East teams.
The NFC North will be somewhat like the AFC East, no clear winner after you look at the games to be played. Not much separates the Green Bay Packers (picked 1st) to the Chicago Bears (picked 4th). The Detroit Loins and the Minnesota Vikings are now known for their quick starts out of the gate but by November are failing to live up to their hype.
The division is truly up for grabs but the Packers should sneak out a title for one reason: Brett Favre. The NFC North will play the NFC South and the AFC North. Both divisions offer up formidable foes and a luck break could win it for any team. Nine wins could wrap this division up.
The NFC South will be a very exciting division, top to bottom. The Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should all finish within two games of one another. No team stands out, nor does any team seem relatively weaker than the others. Tampa Bay is one of my surprise teams for 2005.
A key injury or QB slump will be a large factor in who visits post-season play. The NFC South will play the NFC North and the AFC East. Look for this division to win a great deal of nail biters between these two opposing divisions.
The NFC West is pound-for-pound the worst division for the 2005 season. An 8-8 record would win it. The Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49'ers, and Seattle Seahawks will get beaten up by the NFC East and the AFC South. The key to winning the division will come down to divisional games. Arizona is my other surprise team pick (just like last year). This year I picked them because I cannot help but to root for Kurt Warner. If he can keep away from the fumble- it is, Arizona may steal the division.
Jacksonville will be the team that finally knocks off the Patriots in the playoffs. The Steelers should return to the Championship Game again but it will probably be at Pittsburgh; which means "Steeler Choke #5".
Philly should make it back to their 5th straight Championship Game if the cards fall their way as they have the last few years. If McNabb gets hurt, the NFC is up for grabs. I can see Favre willing Green Bay to a Championship Game because outside of Philly, I can't see another NFC team that is far superior to the Packers.
16 teams will finish between 7-9 and 9-7 if my predictions were all correct (oků stop laughing). I can never stress enough that a key injury and/or tough luck wins or losses (any game decided in OT or by 7 points or less) can make a predicted 5-11 team a 11-5 playoff bound team or as in Atlanta's case with Michael Vick a couple years ago (injury in pre-season that kept him out of 11 regular season games), a Super Bowl contender into a team trying to keep from losing double-digit games.
The new season format has helped keep rivalries intact and offered new ones, but most of all, it has reached out further to parity (Czar Pete must be smiling down upon us). In the new format, each team plays six divisional games (home and away), four against a rotating AFC and NFC division (Titans play the AFC East every third year, NFC East every fourth year), and two like opponents.
An example is Pittsburgh finished 1st in the AFC North. They play the other two teams that finished first but not in the division they are to play (Pittsburgh will play the AFC South this year, therefore they will already play the top team in this division from 2004. They will play the 1st place team from 2004 in the AFC East (Patriots) and AFC West (San Diego). So much for strength-of-schedule by the previous year's record, as in the old days.