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Each team’s biggest question mark heading into the 2013 season: NFC Edition

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It’s that time of year again in the NFL.

All 32 teams have now returned for training camp and with preseason games fast approaching, it won’t be long until the new season kicks off.

Let’s see how things are shaping up in 2013.

*NFC only

East

Dallas Cowboys

Is Tony Romo maturing as a leader in Dallas?

It seems like every summer is the same old story when it comes to Tony Romo and the Cowboys. Scratch golfer Romo spends his summer playing in Pro-am tournaments and attempting to qualify for PGA Tour events. In the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend!”

It appears as though Romo has decided to focus on football this summer instead. All reports coming out of Dallas are that he has been busy preparing for the new season and showed up for training camp in great shape. Perhaps his new six-year contract extension worth over $100 million has something to do with it?

Whatever the reason for this new turnaround, it is time for the 33-year-old to become a leader in Dallas.

If Romo can continue his recent success with wide receiver Dez Bryant, the Cowboys will be a dangerous team in the NFC this season.

New York Giants

What are the Giants going to do at running back?

It looks as though the Giants are going to use a running back by committee strategy this season on offense. The last time they tried this was back in 2008 when the team had a highly productive trio of Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. They combined for almost 2,500 rushing yards that season and it seems like Tom Coughlin and co. are looking to reproduce that production this year.

The only problem is that the running backs on the Giants roster in 2013 are nowhere near as good as the ones they had five years ago. Their current depth chart sees David Wilson as their starter with Andre Brown and Ryan Torain providing backup.

None of those players have shown any signs that they are capable of being an every-down back in the NFL.

If their running game fails to impress in the preseason, don’t be surprised to see the Giants dive into the free agent market and add a veteran running back like Michael Turner or Willis McGahee.

Philadelphia Eagles

Can head coach Chip Kelly translate his collegiate success into the pros?

New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has had an interesting few months. After drawing interest from numerous NFL teams this offseason, Kelly decided to decline all offers and return to Oregon. A week later, he changed his mind and signed a five-year $32.5 million contract with the Eagles.

Already one of the league’s highest paid coaches and with no experience of coaching in the NFL, the pressure is on the former head coach of the Oregon Ducks to produce in the pros. He was very successful during his four years at Oregon with a 46-7 record whilst running his infamous “blur offense.”

Kelly is now looking to implement this offense with the Eagles and although he has some terrific players at his disposal like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, he still needs to pick a quarterback to lead the team forward.

His former Pac 10 rival Pete Carroll has done a great job with the Seahawks, but question marks surrounding the Eagles quarterback situation may make it a tougher transition for Kelly in Philadelphia.

Washington Redskins

How healthy is RG3?

Robert Griffin III should never have continued to play in the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. Despite not being cleared to play by team doctors after sustaining an injury early on in the game, RG3 carried on playing and ended up re-injuring his right knee.

Seven months on from surgery on both his ACL and LCL, the Redskins quarterback is still recovering from injury and isn’t expected to play any part in the Redskins preseason games. He is back at practice but head coach Mike Shanahan is taking every precaution to ensure that he makes a full recovery.

This should serve as a warning to all NFL teams and in future when in a decision needs to be made regarding injury to your best player during a wildcard game, perhaps a different decision will be taken.

Despite the daily updates from Redskins training camp regarding the health of RG3, only time will tell if he will be ready for the season opener vs the Eagles on September 9th.

Tony Romo

Tony Romo

North

Chicago Bears

Can a former CFL head coach succeed in the NFL?

The Bears have moved on. After nine seasons and 150 games, Lovie Smith was fired and Marc Trestman was hired as the new head coach.

Trestman is a two-time championship winner and a former coach of the year so why was it a shock when he was hired by the Bears? Well that’s because those achievements didn’t come in the NFL or in college football and instead occurred when he was coaching the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.

The CFL isn’t a common place to go when searching for a new coach but that’s exactly where the Bears went. How this experiment works out is anybody’s guess. It could go well (see Bud Grant) or else it could go horribly wrong (see almost every other coach hired from the CFL).

Change has been a common theme for the Bears this offseason and although the decision to hire Trestman came as a surprise, a head coaching change was definitely needed in Chicago.

Detroit Lions

Will Matthew Stafford put an end to his awful record against teams with a winning record?

The polite way of putting it is that Matthew Stafford does not have a good record against winning teams. In 25 games against teams with winning records, Stafford has won just once. That’s not exactly the type of record you want from your franchise quarterback.

It’s also not the type of return you would like to see from someone who was recently given a three-year $53 million contract extension. If Stafford doesn’t improve his record against winning teams, Donovan McNabb’s criticism could turn out to be correct.

The Lions are counting on Stafford to return to his 2011 form and lead them back to the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers

How will the Packers offense perform in 2013?

The offense is going to look a little different this year in Green Bay without wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Driver has now retired from the NFL after fourteen seasons with the Packers. Jennings on the other hand has decided to do his best Brett Favre impression and join up with the Minnesota Vikings.

There are more than capable replacements in place with wide receivers Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb all set to contribute along with tight end Jermichael Finley. It’s the running game that should worry Packers fans.

There are several candidates at running back with veterans James Starks and Alex Green likely to compete with rookies Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin for carries this season. Running the football has been a struggle in recent years at Lambeau Field and that looks likely to be the case again this season.

Aaron Rodgers may be an elite quarterback but the Packers running game needs to start offering some assistance on offense.

Minnesota Vikings

Why can’t the Vikings ever be consistent?

It’s usually very tough to predict what’s going to happen in Minnesota. The Vikings typically tend to finish either in last place in the division or else in the playoffs.

After winning just three games in his first full season in charge of the team in 2011, Leslie Frazier led them to the playoffs last year where they were defeated in the wildcard round by the Green Bay Packers. Now entering his third season as head coach and with a new stadium on the way, making the postseason will be the aim again for Frazier and the Vikings.

With the league’s best running back in the backfield and one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks passing the ball, anything can happen.

Minnesota fans won’t like this, but the Vikings are looking like hot favorites to finish in last place in the division once again.

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

South

Atlanta Falcons

How competitive will the NFC South be for the Falcons this year?

Matt Ryan won his first playoff game last season and the Falcons are willing to bet $100 million he will do so again this year. After signing that huge contract extension last week,  the expectations are high in Atlanta for Ryan and the Falcons.

With Sean Payton back coaching in New Orleans, the NFC South should be a much tougher division this season and the Falcons will need to be at their best to defend their title. With Matt Ryan at quarterback, another playoff berth will the very least they will expect.

Much like Andy Dalton with the Bengals, Matt Ryan seems to struggle when it comes to postseason play and the Falcons will be hoping that doesn’t continue in 2013. 

Carolina Panthers

Can Cam Newton and the Panthers make the playoffs?

It’s a been a slow transition in Carolina with Cam Newton and head coach Ron Rivera. Now entering year three and still without a winning season to show for their progress, it would be difficult to blame Panthers fans for getting impatient.

The Panthers had the tenth best defense last year in the NFL and with the addition of rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, that defense will be even better this year. On offense, they have one of the best rushing attacks in the league with the likes of Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart all capable of carrying the football.

The Panthers are on the right path to becoming a successful team and after winning five of their final six games in 2012, they will be looking to carry that form into 2013.

Cam Newton is still developing and although he is showing signs of improvement, the Panthers may have to settle for one final season of progress before they can call themselves a playoff team.

New Orleans Saints

Is the magic going to return to New Orleans now that Sean Payton is back?

Now that the bounty scandal is behind them, the Saints are back to business with head coach Sean Payton. Without question one of the best coaches in the league, Payton returns after missing the entire 2012 season due to suspension.

There aren’t many quarterbacks out there who have been as productive as Drew Brees has been in the last few seasons. The record-setting Brees has thrown for over 10,000 yards in his last 32 regular season games along with 89 touchdowns.

With Brees and Payton back together, the Saints will be back to normal in 2013.

Sean Payton didn’t forget how to coach during his year off and the Saints offense looks set to benefit from a re-energized and fully motivated head coach.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What kind of season will the Bucs have with Josh Freeman at quarterback?

With 88 total turnovers in 57 career games, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is a turnover machine. He is coming off career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns but that didn’t stop the Bucs bringing in quarterback NC State quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round of this year’s draft.

Freeman is a former first-round pick but just like his fellow 2009 draftee Mark Sanchez, he is facing a make or break season this year. With back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC South, the Bucs may not be willing to wait much longer for the 25-year-old to produce.

Unless the Bucs want to finish in last place again, they need to seriously reconsider their quarterback situation.

If Josh Freeman lasts the entire year as the starter, it will be a football miracle in Tampa Bay.

Sean Payton

Sean Payton

West

Arizona Cardinals

Can a new head coach and a new quarterback work in Arizona?

With Ken Whisenhunt now gone, there’s a new era in Arizona with Bruce Arians taking over as head coach. Arians spend most of last season as the Indianapolis Colts interim head coach in the absence of Chuck Pagano due to his cancer treatment. The Colts had an impressive 9-3 record under Arians and he was even named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.

Now starting his new job with the Cardinals, Arians takes over a team who have failed to make the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. His first major move came when he decided to release quarterback Kevin Kolb and bring in veteran Carson Palmer to replace him.

Palmer arrived in a trade with the Oakland Raiders for a sixth round draft pick this year and a conditional pick in the 2014 draft. It will be Arian’s job to help Palmer improve his consistency and become a leader for the Cardinals.

Palmer threw for over 4,000 yards last season but he is still a question mark moving forward for the franchise.

St. Louis Rams

Are the Rams about to be this year’s surprise team?

It seems to occur almost every year in the NFL with one team coming from nowhere to make the playoffs. The 2008 Arizona Cardinals even made it all the way to the super bowl despite having a 9-7 regular season record. Now if there is one team who can be a surprise in the league this year, it’s the St. Louis Rams.

The Rams have a healthy balance of youth and experience with veteran head coach Jeff Fisher and one of the youngest rosters football. With an impressive draft class this year including Tavon Austin and T.J. McDonald along with key free agent signings like Jake Long and Jared Cook, they are starting to look more and more like a potential playoff team.

If Sam Bradford can stay healthy and get some help from his teammates, the sky is the limit for this team.

You heard it here first, the Rams will make the playoffs this season.

San Francisco 49ers

Is wide receiver the only weakness in San Francisco?

The 49ers are the most talented team in football. Everywhere you look on this roster there are stars and with nine of their players voted to the All-Pro team last season, seven of those to the 1st team, another trip to the super bowl is what’s expected in San Francisco.

The standout question mark for this team is at the wide receiver position. With last year’s leading receiver Michael Crabtree expected to be on the sidelines for most of the season through injury, head coach Jim Harbaugh will be looking elsewhere for others to step up in Crabtree’s absence.

Looking at the current depth chart and with both Crabtree and Mario Manningham sidelined with injuries, the starting duo appears to be veteran Anquan Boldin and second-year player A.J. Jenkins. If former first-round pick Jenkins fails deliver or if free agent Boldin cannot adjust to a new system, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the offense could be in trouble.

There are plenty of options for the 49ers already but it couldn’t hurt them to add another piece to the puzzle with a free agent signing such as Brandon Llyod or Steve Breaston.

Seattle Seahawks

Will the Seahawks continue to dominate with their rushing attack?

The Seahawks rushing attack can take a lot of the credit for the team’s recent success. They were the 3rd best team in the NFL running the football last season and they have added some pieces this offseason to improve on that this year.

Despite already having an All-Pro running back in Marshawn Lynch along with a reliable backup with Robert Turbin, the Seahawks used their first pick in this year’s draft to select Texas A&M’s Christian Michael. With Lynch as the starter and Turbin filling in on 3rd downs and short yardage situations, Michael will serve as a change of pace back with his mix of speed and power.

With all these running backs plus a quarterback who isn’t afraid to run the football, the Seahawks rushing attack could rank even higher in 2013.

Quarterback Russell Wilson is certain to face the sophomore slump this season and so it’s a good thing he has a rushing attack like this one to help him out when it does.

Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford

So that was my breakdown of the NFC.

My AFC breakdown is available here https://mrnfl.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/each-teams-biggest-question-mark-heading-into-the-2013-season-afc-edition/

For more NFL updates, follow me on twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

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Week 1 Scores- Late Games

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Josh Freeman

The late games from Week 1 have just finished and so here are the scores.

Seattle Seahawks 16 Arizona Cardinals 20

San Francisco 49ers 30 Green Bay Packers 22

Carolina Panthers 10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Aaron Rodgers

Remember there is one more live game on tv tonight with the Denver Broncos taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1:10 a.m. on Channel 4.

There are two Monday Night Football games tomorrow with the Cincinnati Bengals against the Baltimore Ravens and the San Diego Chargers vs the the Oakland Raiders.

A full preview of the Chargers game is available here https://mrnfl.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/monday-night-football-chargers-vs-raiders-preview/

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

September 9, 2012 at 11:58 pm