The New York Giants officially ended an era by beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. But I'm not talking about this year's team, I'm talking about the 2007 New York Football Giants that employed David Tyree and Michael Strahan.
That was the team that put an end to the AFC's winning streak in the big game and ushered in our current age. An age where the NFC is one Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes in the closing seconds touchdown away from having won the last five Super Bowls.
Am I saying the NFC is a superior conference like they were in the 80's and much of the 90's? No, this isn't the NBA where Western Conference fields two or three teams with winning records who miss the playoffs each year while the East gets usually gets a few in with losing records. Most of the last few Super Bowls could have been pretty even-matched, which is why I think this is the year the AFC re-claims the title.
Without further ado, here are my pre-draft, pre-free agency playoff predictions.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers - To be honest I have picked these guys to win it all every year over the last five years and I was right once (which is a helluva lot more often than Sports Illustrated ever is, am I right? am I right?) Secretly I'm picking them again this year, but not in public. In order to avoid bias I'll pick someone else, and it's not like the Pack will be a consensus pick this year anyway. That defense sure needs some fixing before Mr. Rodgers can hoist his second trophy.
NFC East: New York Giants - SuperBowl hangover? Fuggetaboutit! With tons of confidence and momentum, the Giants will win more regular season games than they did last year. Come playoff time coaches are being doing plenty of not sleeping thinking of how they can beat New York, and unlike this year, someone will succeed.
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons - Let me be the first to say I love the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees may be my favorite player in the league. Here's the thing, I know that not all the same teams will win their division that did last year. It just doesn't happen. The Saints lose Carl Nicks and Marques Colston in free agency. Jimmy Graham still plays well but Brees gets sacked a little more and throws a few more picks and New Orleans wins 9 games this year making Atlanta's 10 wins enough to clinch.
NFC West: San Franciso 49ers - These guys had a new head coach and no off-season and I don't think anyone outside of their locker room believed they could win 13 games last year. The defense is impregnable and having a full training camp will do wonders for their offense. Alex Smith having the same offensive coordinator for two years in a row for the first time in his career won't hurt either.
Wildcard: Philadelphia Eagles - They need to draft some nasty linebackers and need an adequate backup for when (not if) Michael Vick goes down with injury. That being said these guys had a nice little run at the end of last season, LeSean McCoy is the man and I think the extra time together will benefit all the free agents they brought in last year and have the Eagles playing like a team again.
Wildcard: Arizona Cardinals - I should've picked the Chicago Bears here. They were 7-3 before Cutler went down last year, but while their defense has done a great job of taking on the attitude of leader Brian Urlacher, they're getting old and have holes. The young and nasty Cardinals defense really seemed to hit it's stride mid-season last year under a new coordinator. The offensive line needs work (as always) but Larry Fitzgerald alone makes that side of the ball viable. If we see a little improvement from Kevin Kolb and/or John Skelton this team could win 9 or 10 games. If Peyton Manning and possibly Reggie Wayne come to town? It could be Kurt Warner-esque! Am I being a homer? Absolutely. This spot could just as easily go to Detroit, Seattle, Dallas, New Orleans, or any junk team from last year that becomes "this year's 49ers" and goes from terrible to great in one season, just probably not the Redskins. . . . or the Vikings.
NFC Champion: San Francisco 49ers - Yep, I'm picking a Harbaugh bowl rematch. I'm a little embarrassed to do so, but I feel good about both of these teams, especially after I saw Alex Smith and Vernon Davis come up so big in their first playoff starts ever. That being said I am an oldest son, and in the words of George Orwell's classic novel 1984, "Big Brother is Winning."
SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: BALTIMORE RAVENS
There you have it. My playoff picks for the upcoming season. I reserve the rights to change every one of these picks after the draft, and again after pre-season, and again once the playoffs start, and again on Super Bowl Sunday.