LaDainian Tomlinson joined the cast of NFL Network's "Total Access" on Monday and kicked around some predictions for the upcoming season. Training camp is just around the corner, and it's never too early to make some predictions (which you all can use to rub in my face later, though New York Giants fans would never do anything like that).
In fact, I'm brimming with so many prognostications, I'm going to spread them over two posts, one covering the NFC on Tuesday and another covering the AFC on Wednesday. That's 12 times to tell me how wrong I am, question how I even got a job here at NFL.com and help me try to get that job at Entertainment Weekly that you seem to so desperately want me to get.
And without further ado ...
Jay Cutler will have a monster year
Only one Chicago Bears receiver has topped 100 receptions in a season during the club's nearly 100 years of existence. Brandon Marshall did it twice with Cutler in Denver. Now that Mike Martz's failed experiment is safely in the past, the Bears can join the rest of the leaders in the NFC North with a prodigious passing attack. (Sorry, the word "prodigious" has stuck with me after I heard Chris Berman utter it 239 times during the Home Run Derby on Monday night).
The 49ers will start the season 0-2
The San Francisco 49ers have added a lot of aging talent (Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs, et al.), making their roster resemble the cast of one of those Garry Marshall flicks ("New Year's Eve" or "Valentine's Day"), but that won't be enough to prevent San Francisco from starting 0-2 against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. Best-case scenario is 1-1. Let's face it, a plus-28 turnover differential will be nearly impossible to duplicate and the NFC West will be much more competitive. However, the 49ers will still win the division.
There will be no "redeem" in this team
Many figure the Philadelphia Eagles have learned their lesson from the previous season and will finally reveal themselves as a true "Dream Team." Not happening. Just look at the schedule. The Eagles open with the Cleveland Browns (win), but have the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. After that, it's the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. The Eagles should be improved this year, but the brutal schedule could derail their season. But don't worry, Andy Reid's job is safe.
The Panthers will win the NFC South
Division champs just don't repeat in the NFC South, so don't expect the New Orleans Saints (with all of their troubles) to come out on top. This year, it will be the Carolina Panthers (as I told Steve Smith during his visit to the Dave Dameshek Football Program). Scoff all you want right now, but remember me when the Panthers knock off the Giants in Week 3 on NFL Network.
Giants will improve their record, but won't make the playoffs
The New York Giants finished with a 9-7 mark in 2011 but reached the playoffs after winning the NFC East. It was a fitting development, because Giants fans moaned after their 10-6 club missed the playoffs in favor of the 7-9
SaintsSeahawks in 2010. Look for history to repeat itself this year as the Giants improve their win total but just miss the playoffs.
The Cowboys will win the NFC East
The Dallas Cowboys would have won the NFC East last season if Miles Austin and Tony Romo could have connected on a critical third-down play late in the fourth quarter of a Week 14 home loss to the Giants. That game was part of a 1-5 fade down the stretch. This year, though, the team will close with five home games out of the final seven, a favorable set-up that should help propel the Cowboys to the postseason. No wild card for the Giants, though, as three teams from the NFC North will make it.