Photo: Getty Images/Tom Pennington
The 2012 NFL season is set to kick off in less than three weeks.All the offseason hoopla has settled down with training camps coming to a close and the preseason in full swing.
As a preview for the upcoming year we’ve set out to present the best and worst case scenarios for each NFL team.
We already shared our thoughts on the AFC.
Next up, the NFC.
Note: These aren’t meant as straight up predictions. They are realistic best- and worst-case scenarios for each team. What do we mean by realistic? Yes, the best case scenario for RGIII and the Redskins is winning the Super Bowl but that’s not happening. And no, the Packers aren’t missing the playoffs.
Best case: All the talent accumulated in 2011 finally meshes together. DeMeco Ryan solidifies a run defence that had its issues a year ago (7 games of 130+ yards allowed). Michael Vick continues to improve as a passer and Andy Reid gets his first Super Bowl win.
Worst case: A full season and offseason with the supposed 'Dream Team' roster turns into a playoff trip, but Philly gets ousted in the first round.
Best case: Eli Manning continues to build upon an incredible career. Terrell Thomas returns from injury to help a Giants pass defence that was dreadful last year. Another late-season run makes the Giants repeat champs.
Worst case: defence gets shredded once again and a similar 9-7 campaign isn't enough this time around as they fall short of the playoffs.
Best case: Signing Brandon Carr and drafting Morris Claiborne pay huge dividends for a 23rd-ranked pass defence from 2011. Tony Romo comes up with another great season. Cowboys win a game in the postseason for only the second time since 1996.
Worst case: Romo loses playing time to injuries. Kyle Orton can't replace his production. The run game becomes worse than average. Cowboys go into a dogfight with Redskins to avoid last place in the division.
Best case: Robert Griffin III goes through growing pains, but shows obvious signs of NFL stardom. The defence still performs at a high enough level. Washington wins seven or eight games and looks primed for a playoff run in 2013.
Worst case: RGIII has serious issues adjusting to the NFL and Rex Grossman sees some playing time. The run game never materialises. 'Skins only win four games.
Best case: Aaron Rodgers and his long list of pass catchers mask any issues Green Bay's defence may have. Packers do more than just go 14-2 or 15-1, they win another Super Bowl.
Worst case: An NFC north title is all for naught as a late-blossoming team beats them in the playoffs again. Rodgers' gaudy numbers get lost in the shuffle with no ring.
Best case: Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall (pictured) reunite and reignite a lackluster passing game from 2011 (26th in NFL) to lighten the load on Matt Forte and Michael Bush in the backfield. Great run-D makes up for woeful passing-D. Bears get a wild card spot and win a playoff game.
Worst case: Not making any upgrades in the secondary results in getting destroyed in games versus big passing teams (Packers, Lions, Texans, Cowboys, etc.). Bears falter to another disappointing 8-8 year.
Best case: The Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection continues to be one of the best in the league and a below average defence improves enough to make another playoff run, winning a game this time around.
Worst case: A young Lions squad can't find lightning in a bottle again as their lack of a consistent running game and poor defence only get worse and worse. Detroit wins six or seven games and misses the playoffs.
Best case: Adrian Peterson comes back to full health and production. Christian Ponder makes significant strides at QB. Minnesota wins five games.
Worst case: AP doesn't come all the way back. Ponder continues to underwhelm. Bad defence doesn't improve at all. Vikings challenge for No. 1 overall pick in 2013 NFL Draft.
Best case: Matt Ryan and Michael Turner continue to be one of the best QB-RB tandems in the league. Asante Samuel is exactly the kind of defensive secondary addition the Falcons needed. Falcons' balance on both sides of the ball leads to a division crown and Super Bowl trip.
Worst case: Samuel begins to show his age. Ryan's numbers go down a bit as he succumbs to the pressure of becoming a bigger focal point of the offence as Turner's touches are cut. Worrying about changing coordinators instead of players proves to be the wrong approach. Falcons barely make playoffs as wild card, losing in first round.
Best case: Drew Brees and Co. put the Bountygate stuff behind them and rally to a division crown and NFC title game appearance.
Worst case: No Jonathan Vilma or Sean Payton hurts New Orleans way more than expected. Saints pass defence becomes worse than it was in 2011 and they end up with an 8-8, 9-7-type record.
Best case: Cam Newton blows up in year two making up for a bad defence and leading Carolina to the playoffs.
Worst case: As much as drafting linebacker Luke Kuechly helps in the middle of their defence, no upgrades elsewhere seriously hampers the juggernaut offence. Panthers go 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
Best case: Josh Freeman cuts down his interceptions and falls in love with new target Vincent Jackson. LeGarrette Blount rushes for more than 1,200 yards. Safety Mark Barron and cornerback Eric Wright improve a bad defensive backfield from 2011. Bucs surprise many, going 9-7 and making the playoffs.
Worst case: Greg Schiano's way of doing things doesn't work well in the NFL. Freeman and the defence continue to have their issues. Tampa Bay wins a few more games (only 4 in 2011), but they don't get anywhere near contention.
Best case: 49ers ride top-notch run offence/defence to another deep playoff run after easily winning the weakest division in the league. San Francisco wins its sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.
Worst case: Alex Smith goes from effective game manager to OK QB who tries to do too much. 49ers still win the division, but are quickly eliminated in the NFC wild card round.
Best case: Sam Bradford improves. Defensive additions like Cortland Finnegan help a woeful squad from 2011 (22nd in total D). Jeff Fisher starts to turn things around and the Rams improve to five or six wins.
Worst case: Bradford only gets worse. For as much as Fisher's defensive additions and new coaching style begin to start changing the culture in St. Louis the Rams don't make a noticeable improvement in the win column.
Best case: Rookie QB Russell Wilson becomes the clear cut starter. Marshawn Lynch goes for 1,500 yards and takes a big load off Wilson's shoulders. The defence continues to play well (9th in total defence in 2011). Seahawks sneak into the playoffs at 9-7.
Worst case: Neither Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson, or Wilson assert themselves as the offensive leader. The defence sputters and Seattle ends up 6-10.
Best case: QB carousel doesn't completely derail this team. Larry Fitzgerald doesn't get too annoyed. Cardinals win eight games once again.
Worst case: No legitimate quarterback throwing at Fitzgerald becomes a huge problem early on. The defence continues to be no better than average with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett on the defensive line having to make up for the rest of the unit's problems. Cardinals look like roughly the same team from 2011 but only have six wins to show for it.
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