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Then and Now, NFC Edition

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC was a pretty easy to read NFL group, New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City were all supposed to be good, and Cleveland was guaranteed to be awful. The Colts were to be mediocre, and Jacksonville was not ready yet. So, I'm going to analyze what I predicted right, wrong and everything in between on how the AFC finished, and where I projected them to finish. The structure is where they finished is how they are ordered, and where I had them is in parentheses. Oh, and I had Dallas at number 14 out of 16.

16) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (16)
Well, at least I can tell who is going to be the worst team going into the postseason, as the San Francisco 49ers are the worst team in the NFC. Outside of the Los Angeles Rams, nobody was able to be defeated by the 49ers, at home or on the road, and that includes the Chicago Bears. Everything, and I mean everything, needs to be fixed with this franchise, and realizing Chip Kelly was a mistake was a wise move by the owners.

15) CHICAGO BEARS (11)
I think you give John Fox another chance this season, as he has to deal with Jay Cutler still. If I'm the Bears front office, I get rid of Cutler, add help to that defense, and then see what happens. Remember, John Fox has led two teams to conference championships, so it's not like he is not a capable coach. Yes, I had the Bears a little higher than they ended up being, but I thought that they made some good moves this offseason, and with a few more adjustments and more health, the Bears have a real shot at second place in the NFC North next year.

14) LOS ANGELES RAMS (13)
Remember when the Rams were 3-1 and in first place in the NFC West? Remember when the NFC West was the best division in football? Well, the Rams fired the losingest coach in NFL history this season, barely played Jared Goff, and still have no offense whatsoever. And, star CB Trumaine Johnson is an unrestricted free agent (please come to Green Bay) and the defense might finally have given in. The Rams are awful, and they need a fresh start too, but it will be harder after losing all of those draft picks to Jared Goff.

13) CAROLINA PANTHERS (3)
C'mon, you can't seriously think that anybody outside of Georgia had the Falcons winning the division. You also can't seriously think that anybody in the country had the Panthers getting last place in the NFC South. Luke Kuechly spent a lot of time hurt, but with the offense looking to get better and the defense still having playmakers, it didn't seem like Carolina was poised to fall off. I don't think this drop off is because of Josh Norman, I more feel as if it is a Super Bowl hangover, and not the good kind, the kind where you wake up somewhere you don't wanna be.

12) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (15)
Outside of that 3-0 start, the Eagles were a 4-9 team in Carson Wentz's first season as a pro. The Eagles are going to be pretty good in the future, but right now they need to solve some offensive issues. Coach Doug Pederson is an offensive minded coach, but they need help at receiver. On the positive side, the defense was better than expected, but I would also expect a step back next season, as Jim Schwartz isn't a mastermind by any means.

11) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7)
The Saints overall record makes me look better than this prediction does, with them being 7-9, but I don't know why I had them so high anymore. The defense isn't better, the offense is still way too dominated by the passing game, and they still think the year is 2009. Drew Brees once again led in passing yards, but honestly, who cares anymore? It is about playoff appearances in New Orleans, and since it hasn't happened for years, I don't know how much more leash Sean Payton has.

10) ARIZONA CARDINALS (1)
Look, four out of the six teams in the NFC that made the playoffs last season did not make it, so cut me a bit of slack please. If Carson Palmer had a better season, maybe the Cardinals sneak in over the Lions, but they still were not that good this year. If it wasn't for David Johnson, I think this team could easily be where Carolina is, and that isn't good. I really thought Arizona was a Super Bowl contender, and so did quite a few people, and at this point, I wouldn't sleep on them in 2017.

9) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6)
Now that I think about it, it was all of the division leaders who missed the playoffs from last year, and the Vikings are probably the saddest story of them all. To start off, they lost to Seattle at home on a missed field goal from less than 40 yards. Then, QB Teddy Bridgewater goes down, causing the Vikings to give up a few draft picks for Sam Badford. Next, the Vikings go 5-0, despite losing RB Adrian Peterson, but wind up finishing the season at 8-8. Even as a Packers' fan, I just feel bad for this team.

8) WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8)
Well, I was dead right about the Redskins, but I also thought Kirk Cousins was overrated. I also stand by my statement that signing Cullen Jenkins to a contract that late was a pure desperation move, and with the way their defense played especially after bringing in Josh Norman, Jay Gruden deserved to be let go. With the way that passing game played, this team shouldn't have missed the playoffs, and yet it did.

7) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (12)
Tampa Bay just ran into the wrong teams at the wrong time in the season, and they had a much better year than people thought. Expect them to make the playoffs next year, and all they need is reliable health at running back, another receiver, and another playmaker on defense. When you think about it, that really isn't too much to ask for a young team to have.

6) DETROIT LIONS (10)
The way this team looked the last four games of the season gave the impression that they could have just as easily been 4-12 and a top five draft team. Yes, the defense was beastly yet again, and the offense was sharp, but this team also trailed in the fourth quarter in 15 of their 16 regular season games, and won nine of them. Nobody is ever going to do that again, and the luck ran out for the Lions when they started playing playoff caliber competition. Jim Caldwell should have been fired, but not because he lost to four playoff teams in a row, but because he put his team in desperation mode week after week.

5) NEW YORK GIANTS (5)
Well, I flamed the defense a bit too much in my preseason paragraph, but with how they played in Green Bay, maybe they deserved it a bit? I thought the offense would be what would carry the Giants, but that defense was just phenomenal to end the season. It's really too bad that Odell Beckham Jr. had to get distracted so much in Miami that it caused Aaron Rodgers to throw for 382 yards and four touchdowns. That doesn't make sense? Good, and neither does the theory that going to Florida caused him to drop three passes.

4) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4)
Well, I was right about Seattle.  They are a clear playoff team, they miss Marshawn Lynch, and Thomas Rawls was on again, off again all season.  When he was on, they blew out Detroit, and when he was off they were blown out in the Georgia Dome.  I think the Earl Thomas injury ultimately led to their undoing, and they better hope he doesn't retire if they expect to hold off the rest of the division next year (kidding, half of that division doesn't even play offense).  Seattle is still the NFC West favorite at this point, but they need help to get back to the Super Bowl.

3) DALLAS COWBOYS (14)
This is probably the team I was most wrong about out of everybody.  I said things like "I'm not on the Dak Prescott hype train, since all of what he has done is in the preseason" and "you usually don't get anywhere with rookie or first year quarterbacks".  Now, those statements are true still (look at the other first year starters around the league) but this Dallas machine was built for a QB like Dak.  I think the Cowboy's offense as a whole should win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, because I don't know who to choose from out of Dak and RB Ezekiel Elliott.  This team will be a slightly worse version of itself next year during the regular season, but better in the postseason.

2) GREEN BAY PACKERS (2)
This is going to be an interesting offseason in Green Bay, as there has been a lot of talk about removing general manager Ted Thompson soon and there (better be) talk of removing Dom Capers from his role as a defensive coordinator.  They couldn't cover my 94 1/2 year old grandmother if she was the only receiver on the field.  It was embarrassing to watch an "NFL defense" play that awful, and they have a lot of work to do to make sure that window of contention can stay wide open for the next five years and beyond.

1) ATLANTA FALCONS (9)

I stated that the defense would be better, this team would be more consistent, and Matt Ryan would have a good year.  Then I went on to say Matt Ryan needs more weapons besides Julio Jones, and that was another bad comment on my part.  Then again, if any of you saw Taylor Gabriel and Levine Toilolo being this good, please stand up.  That defense is two pieces away and another year of growth from being in the top five in the NFL, and Matt Ryan, Julio Jones & Co. appear to be around to stay.

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