As with our preview of the AFC, the number of elite teams in the NFC is also very small. Unlike the AFC, however, all four divisions could be closely contested (in the East at least for second place).
The NFC East and South seem to be weak beneath the top, while the North's competitiveness depends on how well Green Bay can get Aaron Rodgers to adjust to his new receivers. The West ought to be a battle at the top between the Rams and 49ers, with the Cardinals a dark horse and Seattle likely rebuilding.
QBs stars of pre-season soap
As ever, QBs are the key. Rodgers refused to be vaccinated for Covid, and lied about it, but revealed that he was drinking the hallucinogen Ayahuasca, which so far, even in his case, is not banned as a performance enhancer. With Drew Brees retired, he and Tom Brady are the Old Boys at QB.
Brady will be 45 this year and was apparently offered a spot as player/part-owner of the Dolphins, has signed a huge (10 year, $375m) contract to do commentary on Fox, and retired in February, then unretired 40 days later. He took 10 days off during preseason, which now is rumoured to be trying to rescue his marriage to supermodel Giselle Blundschen. This is not a typical NFL offseason.
Other NFC QBs made headlines too: Kyler Murray unfollowed the Cardinals from his Twitter feed, and the team extended his contract a year early. Jimmy Garoppolo had (non-throwing) shoulder surgery, was shopped by the Niners with no takers, excluded from active practice with the team as they went with Trey Lance as their starter, and then at the last minute signed a reduced contract for his last season.
The NFL gets more like a Soap Opera every day, and we haven't even mentioned Dallas, the ultimate soap opera, yet.
The Elite - Buccs have questions to answer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bowles must seize big chance
As I said, there are a lot of questions about the Bucs, starting with Brady, but also wondering how the team will play with coach Bruce Arians gone and Todd Bowles moved up to head. Bowles is a great defensive coordinator (especially with Arians) but had a rough time in his first gig as head coach with the NY Jest.
The offense should stay the same, as reportedly Brady and OC Byron Leftwich were doing it mostly by themselves. They had to rebuild their interior O line, first with departures and then with injuries; ex-Pat Shaq Mason and rookie Luke Goedeke will be the guards, while last year's rookie Robert Hainsey is at C.
Brady needs interior protection, as his first move under pressure is always to step forward. If Mike Evans and Chris Godwin stay healthy, the receivers are solid, but Brady plays favourites, and Gronk is gone at TE. Kyle Rudolph is as old and creaky as Gronk, but not as big a threat, so rookie Kyle Otten could see playing time early.
I don't count on Julio Jones making an impact for a full season. Leonard Fournette was having trouble getting going in preseason; rookie Rachad White could play soon too as well.
We concentrate on Brady, but the key to the Bucs really is Bowles' defense. Akiem Hicks replaces Ndamakong Suh on the three man front, where Vita Vea is one of the NFL's best players. White and David are a fine pair of inside backers, but the question is how much rush they get from Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon and newcomer Carl Nassib and maybe Anthony Nelson, who's really a 4-3 end.
They have a good secondary, headed by Antoine Winfield at safety; again health is a big factor. It's hard to place the Bucs because they are a team trying to get over the hump in one year, Brady's perpetual last year, so they have trouble thinking of the future.
Betfair Over/Under Wins: 11.5 go Over at 6/5
Green Bay Packers: Rodgers can pile on points as D holds up
As ever, the Pack's season depends on many rabbits Rodgers pulls out of helmets. The team brought back his favourite QB coach, former CFL great Tom Clements. But his (and everyone's) favourite target Davante Adams is gone, so too are MVS and EStB, which leaves slot guy Randall Cobb, who's a Rodgers favourite and still unproven Allen Lazard, a tall target at 6-5 as returners.
They signed Sammy Watkins, who's always a threat but rarely a star, and drafted Christian Watson, a 6-4 210 4.4 size/speed guy who's very raw out of North Dakota State, and Romeo Doubs, a round 4 pick who could really surprise. He was Carson Strong's favourite target at Nevada. The good news is pass-catching TE Robert Tonyan returns after injury; he's another Rodgers favourite especially in the red area and the one-two punch of Aaron Jones 799 yards rushing) and AJ Dillon (803) return as maybe the best pair in the league.
Jones was the team's second-leading receiver last year and Dillon was fourth; they could both see more balls through the air this year. If left tackle David Bakhtiari plays more than one game this year, the O line should be steady, though Rodgers helps his linemen look good, they played well without Bakhtiari last year.
Versatile Elgton Jenkins played only eight games; he's back and likely starts at RT, though he can man either G or C. Center Josh Meyers played only six games; rookie Zack Tom could challenge, or holdover Jake Hanson. Jon Runyan is developing at G, Yosh Nijman played well as the swing tackle last year and Royce Newman or Tom will be the RG. They drafted two more linemen, Sean Rhyan and Rasheed Walker, who will play somewhere, sometime.
Defensive Joe Barry's more patient defense was a success in its first season, helped by a breakout year from LB De'Vondre Campbell. First round rookie Tray Walker from Georgia would be an upgrade at the other OLB spot, while Rashaan Gary and Preston Smith are the rushers. With Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and ex Seattle and KC player Jarran Reid are the front three. Another rookie from Georgia, Devonte Wyatt, was drafted as the best available Devonte, and will fill in at either end.
If Jaire Alexander can come back from injury and Rasul Douglas duplicate his best-ever season last year, the corners will be solid; rookie Eric Stokes was outstanding last year; if he hadn't dropped six interceptions, no one would have been talking about Trevon Diggs. Adrian Amos is a smart veteran free safety, but they need strong safety Darnell Savage to become an impact player. I like the Packers because I think this D could be very good, and Rodgers will generate enough points, especially in this division, to pick up wins.
Betfair Over/Under: 10.5 Over at 4/7
Los Angeles Rams: Struggle to repeat last season's heroics
I hestitate to put them in the elite, despite their Super Bowl win; they are a team driven by a few top players, and lots of the things that went right last year, most particularly Jacquiski Tartt's drop of a sitting duck interception that could have clinched the NFC title for San Francisco, are subject to the Pelxiglass Principle, where they bend back to the mean.
Cooper Kupp returns after a phenomenal season, 145 catches 1,947 yards 16 TD: despite everyone knowing he was Matt Stafford's prime target. They've brought in Allen Robinson to be his running mate; we still don't know what Robinson can deliver with a top-flight QB in a top-flight offense. Van Jefferson didn't step up last season; big possession guys like Ben Skowronek and undrafted rookie Lance McCutcheon might help; last year's rookie Tutu Atwell might provide speed. Tyler Higbee should see more passes at TE, and Brycen Hopkins had four grabs in the Super Bowl, but Sean McVay doesn't really concentrate on tight ends.
Joe Noteboom at left tackle is a key; he played well two years ago subbing for now-retired Andrew Whitworth and needs to do the same again. There will be an interesting battle at G with Coleman Shelton and Bobby Evans, while rookie Logan Bruss is on IR. Cam Akers comes back from injury to run and catch the ball.
The offense is different with Akers in the backfield, though Darrell Henderson is a good number two. They do lack a guy to pound out the short yards. Stafford will likely cross 50,000 career passing yards with his first completion this season; he was everything the Rams wanted as the anti-Jared Goff; can he do the same again?
About Aaron Donald. Helmet swinging in practice aside, Donald is the league's best defensive player, and makes everyone else better. They signed Bobby Wagner from Seattle; he's now 31 and maybe half a step slower, but he's still a quality inside backer, and Ernest Jones, who played well as a rookie, will provide the speed.
They lost Von Miller from the OLB pass rush spot; Leonard Floyd is their main threat now. Jaylen Ramsey is one of the top corners in the league until he gets beat (see the playoffs) but with Darious Williams gone they will start promising David Long outside and Troy Hill returns from exile in Cleveland to play nickle.
I like the Rams if they can get good line play, replace Von Miller, and cover deep. But in the tough west, where they also play the AFC West this year, a repeat of last season will be difficult.
Betfair Over/Under: 10.5 Under at 5/6
The Contenders: Niners need to solve QB conundrum
San Francisco 49ers: Players need to gel and stay fit
The Niners with Jimmy G at QB were close to reaching the Super Bowl for the second time in three years, yet they had made a big draft investment in Trey Lance and decided to move on, before discovering there wasn't a market for Garoppolo coming off surgery and carrying the last year of a big contract.
Brining Jimmy G back for less money was a smart move for both sides; Lance has huge potential, but little experience apart from his outstanding freshman year at North Dakota State. He clearly needed more time last year, but his arm and running ability are great; it's a question of putting it together. He'll start, while Jimmy G gets up to speed, and if he still needs seasoning, or gets hurt, I don't think they'll hesitate to make the switch.
Last year, the Niners were injury riddled, which seems an almost annual event; the big losses so far are Jimmy Ward and Jason Verrett, whose career has been a series of injuries. They signed ex-Chief Charvarius Ward as the best available Ward to play corner and rookie Samuel Womack could man the nickel spot.
Nick Bosa's pass rush is the threat up front; Fred Warner was the best ILB in the division whenever Bobby Wagner wasn't; in Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair they have two backers who can run which allows them to play base defense against multiple fronts. The O line is still a work in progress outside the tackles, where Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey are a solid veteran pair; at 34, Williams remains steady because he's so big and his movement is so solid.
You know their offense; zone blocking, cut back one-hole running, slant patterns for yards-after-the-catch for Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Elijah Mitchell was a sixth-round rookie steal, but besides Jeff Wilson the top backup is R3 rookie Tyrion Davis-Price along with undrafted rookie Jordan Mason who beat out last year's round three pick Trey Sermon.
There is a similar question about depth at WR; they need Brandon Aiyuk to continue his rise, as a deep threat as well as horizontal receiver; Juan Jennings and rookie Danny Gray are possession guys; Gray does not have top speed but runs precise routes and has great hands. The Niners are similar to the Rams, but have a few more question marks, especially at QB, which is never a good thing when you're predicting.
Betfair Over/Under: 9.5 Over at 4/7
Philadelphia Eagles: Potential division winners
The Eagles may not look as good as some teams on this list, but they may have the best shot at a division title, unless ex-Eagle Jason Peters can come in at age 40, stay healthy, and settle their problem at left tackle with Tyron Smith out all season.
How you rate their chances depends a lot on how you rate Jalen Hurts' ability to take them there; they have built a good team around him; the trade for AJ Brown along with last year's draft pick DaVonta Smith reversed an Eagle tradition of wasting time on mediocre receivers.
Their O line is big and good: Jordan Mailata, the Aussie rugby league player, Lane Johnson and C Jason Kelce are all pro-bowl worthy; they drafted Cam Jurgens as Kelce's eventual replacement, but I wonder if he might move into the line at G first. Dallas Goedert is a good TE, Miles Sanders a very good RB when healthy, and they even have Gardner Minshew to work magic if Hurts gets hurt.
They traded with the Saints for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson just before the season started; he could add a Malcolm Jenkins (another ex Saint) element to their play. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are a fine pair of tackles, but first-round rookie Jordan Davis from Georgia is a pile-pushing phenomeon; 6-6 341 with both straight line speed and agility.
They added former Temple star Haason Reddick from Carolina to rush the passer, and another Georgia rookie Nakobe Dean, who's an undersized linebacker and very quick to the ball. The Eagles should fly in their division, one of the safer bets of the season, absent a meltdown from Hurts, and once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen. Just ask Nick Foles.
Betfair Over/Under: 9.4 Over at 8/13
New Orleans Saints: Allen must get them firing fast
It's hard to put a handle on the Saints; not that Jameis Winston can't deliver decent quarterbacking, which he did for the half the season last year before he got hurt, but can he do it without coach Sean Payton? Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen takes over as head coach, a mirror image of Tampa's situation, and basically everyone stays in place. But Payton was the play caller and now that is likely to be Pete Carmichael.
The good news is that with Michael Thomas is back, and rookie Chris Olave in place, Winston should have better targets, and with Alvin Kamara, who started only 10 games last year, back, they should have the benefit of the league's best two-way back.
A lot depends on whether veteran swing tackle James Hurst can replace Terron Armstead at LT; otherwise the very good O line returns intact. Rookie Trevor Penning was drafted for that purpose and started lots of fights in preseason, but he starts the year on IR.
Allen has been a very good defensive coordinator most of this career; Chandler Jones is the anchor; he can rush the passer or hold out against the run, and MLB Demario Davis has very quietly been one of the league's best for two seasons. They paid big bucks for Tyrann Mathieu from KC to replace Malcolm Jenkins in the versatile S/CB/LB role: with Marcus Maye at strong safety, however, they may need deep cover, which is why they also signed Daniel Sorensen from KC.
If Allen, who will continue to coordinate the D with veteran Pete Giunta for help, can make these pieces work, the Saints should be able to generate enough points, and Allen's D always gives Tom Brady fits
Betfair Over/Under: 8.5 Under at 11/10
The Pretenders - Cards must solve Murray problem
Arizona Cardinals: Unlikely to dominate
Kyler Murray is happy, Koach Kliff Kingsbury (with his own new contract) is happy, and GM Steve Keim is happy. The Cards have improved every year with Murray at QB, but they have tended to fade. They started off last year 7-0, then were 8-1 and 10-2 before finishing 1-4 (11-6) and then losing to the Rams 34-11 in the wild card.
Is Murray's problem simply that, if you trap him in the passing pocket, he has trouble reading downfield? Or is it that the team relies too much on his scrambling heroics to win games? The team tried to improve his happiness quotient by trading for Hollywood Brown from the Ravens; Brown was his favourite target in college. With DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the season's first six games, Brown will need to show more than he did in Baltimore, because apart from Rondale Moore, they will be depending on AJ Green to stay healthy, which is not a good bet.
Rookie Trey McBride joins Zack Ertz in a good TE group, but Kinsbury doesn't use his TE as much as he probably should. James Connor rushed for 15 TD last year; ex Chief Darrell Williams is the likely backup; a dependable runner and pass catcher.
Defensively, JJ Watt is the star, but he's really a rotational player and Zach Allen is really due for a breakthrough year. Isaiah Simmons is the best player on the D, a versatile threat who could be used in ways like Micah Parsons. The safeties are the strong point of the secondary: Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson are a classic strong/free pair, only Baker can also cover and Thompson can also hit. The Cards are, as Kliff Kingsbury might say, a Kwestion mark, and with their schedule I don't see them dominating the top half of the season.
Betfair Over/Under: 8.5 Under at 5/6
Dallas Cowboys: Another season of boom or bust
I mentioned the injury problem with Tyron Smith; they also drafted Tyler Smith, their LT of the future in round one this year, but he's not ready to play tackle in the NFL and will start at guard, probably as a backup. Peters is likely a short-term solution. Rookie Jalen Tolbert replaces Amari Cooper alongside CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup at WR; Cedrick Wilson is also gone.
The core of this offense is still Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard running, and Dak Prescott keeping things alive. Prescott threw for 37 TD with only 10 picks but doesn't get a lot of credit; Elliott ran for 1,002 yards and 10 TD but averaged only 4.2 per carry - Pollard averaged 5.5, but plays less because he can't block. The Cowboys' best team in the Dak era was built around a dominant O line; this line is anything but.
Coordinator Kellen Moore may have a hard time keeping himself in line for Mike McCarthy's job when McCarthy is fired (he'd been my bet for second coach fired after Matt Rhule) but they're probably still lobbying around whose call the QB draw to Prescott was, down six with 14 seconds left and no timeouts, in their playoff game against the Niners last year. They never got another play off.
Defensively, Dan Quinn can stay out of that blame game. He has Parsons, maybe the league's best defender, outside Aaron Donald and certainly the most versatile. He's the weapon, and for the most part the others are parts to help him rush and cover the secondary. Rookie Sam Williams has exceptional pass rush talent; he fell to round two because of discipline issues in college, but in preseason his talent has stood out.
Trevon Diggs had 11 interceptions last year, but also allowed more than 1,000 yards to receivers he covered; like the Cowboys, he tends to be boom or bust. Like the returning star of pre-season, KaVonte Turpin, who starred in the springtime USFL MVP and previously played in the Spring League and the Polish League (for the Wroclaw Panthers).
Betfair Over/Under: 9.5 Under at 5/4
Seattle Seahawks: Shadow of their former selves
Right. Legion of Boom. Deep passes to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Twelfth Man in the stands. Pete Carroll pacing the sidelines. That's your Seahawks, only this year there's no Russell Wilson to throw the ball deep to DK and TL, and the question is no longer can the legion keep the game close so Russ can scramble around and win it in the fourth quarter, but can the offense with Geno Smith at QB (he beat out Drew Lock in preseason) keep them in games even recognising this isn't your grandma's Legion of Boom; it's more like a Foreign Legion of Doom.
Carroll has always wanted to be a run-first team; it worked when he had Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch (and Wilson) but it hasn't really worked afterwards. Rashaad Penny was drafted first in 2018 and finally delivered in 10 games and six starts; he and rookie Ken Walker will carry the load, and it will be a load. The O line could start two rookies: LT Charles Cross for sure, and watch him for the No Stats Rookie of The Year Award, and round five pick Abraham Lucas who should start at RT sooner rather than later. Ex-Ram and Chief Austin Blythe should help inside. Marquise Goodwin or Dee Eskridge will be the third receiver, while they hope Noah Fant will be a better receiving weapon at TE than Gerald Everett.
Defensively they got Shelby Harris in the Wilson trade along with Lock and Fant: he may have been the key guy as he has the kind of versatility Carroll craves. In the secondary Jamal Adams is a fifth LB, which isn't quite what they need, and two rookies, Coby Bryant and size/speed prospect Tariq Wooten from Texas/San Antonio could be starting. The highest cap hit on the team is energetic defensive tackle Poona Ford, which may be good for the bottom line but not necessarily the standings line. Hence, pretenders.
Betfair Over/Under 5.5 Over at 4/6
The Dark Horses - Offense key to Vikes' charge
Minnesota Vikings: Could sneak into play-offs
The Mike Zimmer era is over, and yet another young ex-Ram assistant, Kevin O'Connell is the new head coach, with veteran Ed Donatell as DC and Mike Pettine as assistant HC; both guys are ex-Packers. They've adjusted their D to a 3-4 front; you can guess they may be as aggressive as Zimmer was with blitzes, and they added Za'Darius Smith from the Packers, a Pettine favourite to rush from the outside. But the key is up front; they signed Harrison Phillips from Buffalo to play the nose, and Ross Blacklock and Jonathan Bullard to help at end with Dalvin Tomlinson.
Jordan Hicks joins Eric Kendricks at ILB but the real key will be whether Danielle Hunter comes back from injury able to adjust to the 3-4 OLB rush role. They added another ex-Packer, Chandon Sullivan at CB, and first-round rookie Lewis Cine as the long term replacement for Harrison Smith, but he could wind up starting alongside Smith.
The question is the offense: if Dalvin Cook stays healthy he and Alexander Mattison could thrive in a Ram style attack; so too could third back Kene Nwangu, primarily a kick returner till now. It ought to suit Kirk Cousins, and of course the receiving one-two punch of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen is first rate. The third spot is a problem: KJ Osborn is the starter, but rookie Jalen Nailor and Philly cast-off Jalen Reagor are the others. Rookie Ed Ingram from LSU grabbed the starting RG job, but C Garrett Bradbury didn't have his contract option renewed.
RT Brian O'Neil made the Pro Bowl and on the left side Christian Darrisaw and Ezra Cleveland were high draft picks who appear to be paying off. If that group can ignite Cousins, much maligned despite putting up good numbers, who will be playing in an offense that may make his reads easier, the Vikes could sneak into a playoff spot.
Betfair Over/Under: 9.5 Under at 5/6
Carolina Panthers: Potential surprise package
Yes, the Panthers. And this is a dark horse because a lot of things need to go right, the most important being Christian McCaffrey finally playing a whole season. It's hard to figure out what Matt Rhule is doing sometimes, even when you cut him slack for McCaffrey's absences. I mean, Joe Brady got fired last year, but was it Brady or Rhule who thought Sam Darnold was the answer? In any event, the Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield, and again, with McCaffrey, he will be better at running Ben McAdoo's offense.
Some thought they would turn to rookie Matt Corrall, but Mayfield is clearly the better option. They signed D'Onta Foreman as insurance for McCaffrey; he played well in Tennessee after Derrick Henry went down. They traded for LaViska Shenault, a washout in Jacksonville, to add some speed, but DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, along with Mayfield's ex Cleveland target Rashad Higgins, are a decent bunch of targets.
The other real key for the offense is whether rookie LT Iken Ekwonu can adjust to the NFL; Austin Corbett and Brad Bozeman were both signed to bolster the interior: the Panthers made themselves a lot better on offense.
Their D has kept them in games for two seasons; Phil Snow ought to be getting more attention as a coordinator. It will be better: Matt Ioannidis, who played for Rhule at Temple, signed from Washington, MLB Damien Wilson from Jacksonville, third backer Corey Littleton from Vegas and safety Xavier Woods from Minnesota. I like all those adds to a solid if not spectacular D, where Brian Burns is an emerging pass-rush star and Shaq Thompson a much underrated veteran LB. If they can get their act together the Panthers could surprise.
Betfair Over/Under: 6.5 Over at 5/6
Detroit Lions: Potent if D can hold opponents in check
Yes, the knee-biting Lions of Dan Campbell showed a lot of heart going 3-13-1 last year, and are also much improved in the off-season. Much of it is addition by subtraction from the Matt Patricia error, and a lot of the improvement occurred when Campbell took over the play-calling from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, with TE coach Ben Johnson, who is now the offensive coordinator, as Lynn was fired.
The results were obvious: they went 3-3 in December/January, and Jared Goff, who missed two starts, was 3-2 in those games.We forget that while Goff isn't anyone's idea of a come-from-behind playmaker/leader, he went to a Super Bowl executing Seam McVay's game plans, until New England messed with McVay as much as Goff. Give him things to do and he will can make a success. He's also got one of the league's best offensive lines, from tackle to tackle, a fine two-way runner in D'Andre Swift and valuable backup in ex-Packer Jamaal Williams and a group of receivers who could be excellent.
Last year the surprise was Amon-Ra St Brown, who actually led the league in catches the last month of the season. Now a lot of that was underneath stuff, slants and crosses, and some of his 10.1 yards per catch was YAC, but that's OK. Especially because they added ex-Ram Josh Reynolds, whom Goff likes, at midseason, then in the offseason signed Jags' speedster DJ Chark and drafted Alabama star Jameson Williams, the only NFL player named after an Irish whiskey.
Williams is still recovering from a torn ACL, but absent the injury you could argue he was the best receiver in the draft: this group looks a lot like McVay's group in the Rams' first Super Bowl run. Add TJ Hockenson at TE and Khalif Raymond returning kicks, and it could be a potent offense.
The D added Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the draft's first pick; in the secondary they hope former first round pick Jeff Okudah can come back from a torn Achilles to solidify the back seven. Coordinator Aaron Glenn likes to use multiple fronts and looks to confuse defenses, but the real test will be whether they can hold teams in check long enough to let the offense build leads, because the Jared jury is still out on Goff having to play from behind.
Betfair Over/Under: 6.5 Under at Evs
The No Hopers - Falcons
Atlanta Falcons: Unlikely to take off this season
In Arthur Smith's second season he will be without QB Matt Ryan. Marcus Mariota, whom he coached in Tennessee will be the starter, but rookie Desmond Ridder, a bargain in round 3, could be starting sooner rather than later. Like Mariota his mobility fits Smith's system (think Ryan Tannehill in Tenn) but of course he doesn't have a Derrick Henry. Rookie Tyler Allgeier is a big, tough runner with good hands who will get a shot, as will ex-Chief Damien Williams, signed from the Bears, but the number one runner is combo WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, whose unique style of upright vision merged with surprising power worked well last year, when he ran for 618 yards and had another 548 receiving.
In an ideal offense he might fill a Deebo Samuel role. Last year they drafted TE Kyle Pitts, who had a 1,000 yard season, but he's really more a wide receiver. This year's first round pick was USC's Drake London a big WR (6-4 220) who could be used in slots like a TE. As could Patterson (6-2 227). What Smith does will be interesting to see, as his other tight ends are a blocker (Parker Hesse) and a converted QB (Felipe Franks). Look for Anthony Firkser off the practice squad.
Defensively, Dean Pees is solid, and this year he has a solid nose tackle in ex-Eagle Anthony Rush (6-4 361 Celsius) who's a space-eater. His job will be to try to reduce the double teams on Grady Jarrett. They signed Rashaan Evans to play ILB alongside Deion Jones, though Jones is on IR right now; the pass rush is a work in progress. AJ Terrell is one of the league's best corners, veteran Casey Hayward is good in the slot and Richie Grant gives them coverage ability at safety.
Betfair Over/Under: 4.5 over at 8/11
Washington Commanders: Wentz to wilt under pressure
If I tell you Ron Rivera is number three on my coaches to be fired list, you may understand I don't hold out lots of hope for the Commies. Not with Carson Wentz at QB, nor with their highly-drafted but under-performing defensive front. Not that Rivera isn't a decent coach, but he will turn in one of those teasing seasons where they may stay in contention for a while before throwing it away.
Rookie RB Brian Robinson was looking like he might start, then got shot in a carjacking, not too seriously, which is a blessing, but it is another set-back. You know all about Wentz: plays really well and makes inexplicable mistakes in pressure situations. Almost what Then-Skins fans thought about Kirk Cousins. They get TE back from injury and WR Terry McLaurin back from contract negotiations, so that's good; the O line still looks like someone's practice squad.
Defensively Chase Young is PUP with an ACL; Phidarian Mathis looks like a good draft pick but he plays inside; the next man up at end could be True Brit Efe Obada. Montez Sweat is fighting to see which of the Sweat Brothers in the NFC East is better (he and Philadelphia's Josh aren't actually related). I note they signed Rashard Wildgoose after the Jets cut him this week, at some point in the season you can bet on a Wildgoose and Chase Young joke.
Betfair Over/Under: 8.5 Under at 8/15
New York Giants: Unpredictable outfit are work in progress
Bills' offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is the new head coach the Giants, a job which has a half life of one year; importantly he brought Joe Schoen with him as GM, and the churn on the NY roster has been positive. But the idea was Daboll could use his special sauce on Daniel Jones and get the same kind of result he got with Josh Allen in Buffalo, and if preseason were any indication, that sauce has lost.
Now he could be keeping the all-new Daniel Jones under wraps, but the bad news was that backup Tyrod Taylor, an actual ex-Bill, like third guy Davis Webb, didn't star in rehearsals either. A makeshift O line where Andrew Thomas is really the only solid number, though R1 draft pick Evan Neal ought to become a fixture at RT.
Is Saquon Barkley really still a weapon? Is Kenny Goladay? Wink Martindale, ex of the Ravens, is the new DC: his line has Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and ex-Raven Justin Ellis; another R1 pick, Kayvon Thibodeaux, will lead the rush from OLB, but he was hurt in camp, though he should be ready for the season.
Azeez Olujari was decent in his rookie season last year; Micah McFadden, a R5 choice this year could surprise at ILB, but that secondary is going to be under pressure, and a lot will depend on the versatility of safeties Xavier McKinney and Julian Love.
Betfair Over/Under: 7.5 Under at 8/13
Chicago Bears: Still treading water
The Bears have a new head coach named Matt (Eberflus) just like the old head coach Matt (Nagy) and new GM named Ryan too (Poles for Pace) but they still are at best treading water. The big question is can new offensive coord, Luke Getsy transform Justin Fields into a starter? It is a question of fitting his unique skill set into a system that allows him to make the most of it: strong if sometimes wild arm, running ability but antsy in the pocket).
They brought in WR Equanimous St Brown and C Patrick Lucas from the Packers; Byron Pringle from the Chiefs, TE Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wasco from the Jets, draft bust Alex Leatherwood from the Raiders. Some of these guys could make a difference, some might not.
Darnell Mooney had a breakout year at WR, David Montgomery is a talented two-way back, but they're going to start a fifth round draft pick, Braxton Jones, at LT; he was a steal with that pick, but faces a stiff learning curve.
Defensively rookie safety Jacquan Brisker is a rookie of the year candidate and Kyler Gordon will start immediately at corner. Eberflus plays a containing, speed-oriented 4-2-5 defense, so ex-Raider Nick Morrow was a good pickup to play alongside Roquan Smith. The Bears may give up fewer points this year, but it may be a challenge for Fields to win games by improvising.
Betfair Over/Under 5.5 Under at 6/5
Mike's outright bets and predictions for 2022/23
Division Winners: Eagles, Bucs, Packers, 49ers
NFC Champions: Green Bay Packers
AFC Champions: Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl Match-up: Back Chiefs v Packers @ 26.025/1
Super Bowl Winners: Back Kansas City Chiefs @ 10.09/1
NFL MVP - Back Patrick Mahomes @ 10.09/1 & Aaron Rodgers @ 13.012/1
Coach of the Year: Back Matt LaFleur @ 18.017/1 & Andy Reid @ 36.035/1
Offensive Player of the Year: Back Jonathan Taylor 10.09/1 & @ Davante Adams 18.017/1
Defensive Player of the Year: Back Aaron Donald 9.08/1 & Joey Bosa 23.022/1
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Back George Pickens @ 10.09/1, Chris Olave @ 12.011/1 & Romeo Doubs @ 15.014/1
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Back Travon Walker 13.012/1, Jordan Davis 17.016/1, George Karlaftis @ 21.020/1 & Jaquan Brisker @ 26.025/1