"Last year's NFC playoff teams were the Bears, Saints, Eagles,
Seahawks, Cowboys and Giants. Which team that didn't make the playoffs last year
is the most likely to make it this year ... and at which team's expense?"
That's the question we posed to our Scout
NFL team experts. Twelve of them participated in this roundtable debate, and
while the Giants were the overwhelming favorite to drop out of playoff
contention, you might be surprised by some of the other choices who our experts
think will be in -- and out -- of the NFC playoffs in 2007.
Jon Scott, PatriotsInsider.com
New England Patriots
The new team in the 2007 playoffs has to be the -- I can't believe I'm saying
this -- Arizona Cardinals.
Okay, I can't say it. Make it the Rams.
I thought about the Cardinals, but every time I pick them they fall flat. I
think St. Louis has enough talent and a QB who can shred defenses in a system
that he's capable of thriving in. With their running game and improved defense,
I think the Rams get there.
There are a few teams from last year I can see falling short in 2007. The one
that jumps out immediately is the Giants. With a coach on the hot seat who no
one wants to listen to, a group of players with tongues loose enough to cause
controversy at the drop of a dime and questions at major positions -- QB, RB, OL,
DL -- I'd be very surprised if they break .500.
Doug Farrar, Seahawks.net
I think the Giants are the "gimme" pick here – it’s almost a
question of who else would get booted from that list. I’ve been on the “Eli
is Overrated” soapbox since he was folding under pressure back at Ole Miss,
and now he doesn’t have Tiki for those little halfback dump-offs anymore. Now,
it’s nothing but jump balls to Plax, right? Factor in several other personnel
issues (such as the absence of anything resembling a left tackle) and the true
horribleness of Tom Coughlin, and I think the G-Men could be looking at a very
early draft pick for their next head coach in 2008.
It’s entirely possible that as the Seahawks took advantage of a horrid NFC
West in 2006, the 49ers could do the same in 2007. Of course, San Francisco’s
return to the playoffs would kick Seattle out as well, since there’s no way
that division has two playoff teams. I like what Mike Nolan and the front office
have been doing over the last couple of years, and if their new receiver corps
give Alex Smith a reliable set of targets, that’s a team that could surprise.
Look for improvement on the defensive side, as Nolan finally has the players in
place to run his preferred 3-4 defense on a full-time basis.
Alain Poupart, DolphinDigest.com
It would seem the Giants are the most likely NFC playoff team to be on the
outside looking in unless Eli Manning takes a major leap forward to carry an
offense that no longer has do-it-all back Tiki Barber.
|David Carr and Jake Delhomme|
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Not happening. This is a team actually that might be lucky to win six games.
As for the team most likely to take the Giants' place, I think you have to go
with Carolina because of a defense that has the potential to be among the best
in the league. Jake Delhomme is coming off a brutal year, but the Panthers now
have David Carr to turn to if things go awry on offense and you will see him
pick up his game now that he's out of Houston.
Dan Leberfeld, JetsConfidential.com
New York Jets
I think Seattle is going to miss the playoffs. Their offensive
line has a number of questions marks, and I think they will miss wide receiver
Darrell Jackson. Their tight end position is also a little shaky.
I think the Detroit Lions are going to shock people and make the playoffs this
year. They had a terrific offseason. Their passing game is going to be almost
unstoppable with Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson and Mike Furrey. This offseason
Rod Marinelli got rid of some guys who weren't buying into the program. It looks
like they are poised to do some good things this year.
Ken Palmer, TheGiantInsider.com
New York Giants
Don't laugh. This is going to be the year of the Cardinals. Not
only are the Birds going to rise from the proverbial ashes and win the NFC West,
but they're going to make a little noise in the playoffs as well. Yes, they had
all the offensive weapons in place last season, but this season they'll be able
to jell and put up some impressive numbers.
With Matt Leinart and Edgerrin James behind center and a stud receiving corps
that includes Larry Fitzgerald, Bryant Johnson and Anquan Boldin, all the
Cardinals needed was an offensive line. They went a long way toward solidifying
their offensive front with the selection of former Penn State offensive tackle
Levi Brown with their first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. DT Alan Branch and LB
Buster Davis were drafted to solidify the defense. Having one of the game's best
up-and-coming kickers in Neil Rackers shouldn't hurt any either.
As for which team's spot they're going to take, that one's real easy. The Tiki-
and left tackle-less Giants will be lucky to win six games this season, let
alone contend for a postseason spot.
Tim Yotter, VikingUpdate.com
With Tom Coughlin running point, it’s hard to predict what sort of buy-in
factor the players will have, and the New York Giants seem like a franchise that
is ready to rebuild. It just might take the 2007 season for those in the
organization to see it that way. Eli Manning still has doubters, and the
prediction here is that he won’t be able to overcome the loss of Tiki Barber
at running back. Defenses will feel less compelled to respect the run, and they
might never have to respect Manning’s passing game if he doesn’t emerge this
On the flip side, the candidates to replace the New York Giants in the
playoffs are hardly inspiring or clear-cut, but San Francisco is an organization
that looks to be on the rise. Alex Smith is still developing at quarterback, and
it certainly helps him to have a productive back like Frank Gore to balance the
attack. The big questions will be centered on the emergence of tight end Vernon
Davis and the how effective wide receiver Ashley Lelie can be. Positive answers
on those two fronts should put the 49ers in the playoffs.
Todd Korth, PackerReport.com
Green Bay Packers
Look for the Green Bay Packers to return to the NFC playoffs for the first
time since 2004. Under second-year head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers are
coming off a four-game winning streak to end the 2006 season. Brett Favre has
returned to lead an offense that has a solid line and Pro Bowl receiver Donald
The Packers' defense made big improvement over the second half of last season,
and GM Ted Thompson bolstered the line by selecting DT Justin Harrell with the
team's top pick in the recent NFL draft.
Dallas is the team that will not return to the NFC playoffs. The Cowboys will
have to adapt to new coach Wade Phillips' schemes on offense and defense before
they perform at a playoff level.
Charlie Bernstein, JagNation.com
The obvious choice for which team won't be returning to the playoffs in 2007
is the New York Giants. The Giants lost what was arguably their best player in
Tiki Barber and they have major question marks on both the offensive and
defensive lines. The Giants secondary is a question mark, and their linebackers
are unimpressive. The jury is still out on whether or not Eli Manning will take
his game up to the next level. The Giants could be picking in the top five in
next year's NFL Draft.
(AP Photo/Matt York)
The team that will most likely replace them in the playoffs is a little more
questionable. I've been fooled before with these guys, but I like them enough to
get fooled again. My choice is the Arizona Cardinals. They have a fantastic set
of skill players on offense in Leinart, Fitzgerald, Boldin, and James, and they
used a first round pick on Levi Brown to shore up the offensive line. The Cards
have a very underrated defense led by one of the best safeties that most people
don't know -- Adrian Wilson. The stench of losing will no longer exist in
Glendale as the Cards have hired Ken Whisenhunt as their new head coach -- a
proven winner at the coordinator level.
Brad Keller, CardinalInsider.com
While I feel that the NFC playoff picture will look significantly different
in 2007, the team most likely to drop out is the New York Giants. With the
retirement of Tiki Barber, the offense loses its anchor and Eli Manning's
security blanket. Add in an aging defense, a lame duck staff, and a division
that continues to improve, and you've got the Giants on the outside looking.
Since I refuse to get stuck on the Cardinals bandwagon once again this year,
I am going to stay in the division and say that the Rams will be the most likely
newcomer out of several new entrants to the postseason tournament from the NFC.
Scott Linehan is building something special in St. Louis and should see real
results in year two with a number of playmaking receivers, a workhorse back, a
young and improving defense, and a green offensive line that started to get its
sea legs towards the end of last season. The Seahawks will take a step back and
the Cardinals and 49ers are still a year away. This is the year for the Rams.
Craig Massei, SFIllustrated.com
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers will be back in the NFC playoffs after a four-year
hiatus, and this isn't a homer selection from someone who has covered the team
for two decades. In year three of the Mike Nolan reclamation project, the shrewd moves and calculated patience of the Nolan regime is building a winner, and the Niners -- after another offseason talent upgrade that has
brought in as many as eight new starters -- will creep to the top in a
tightly-packed NFC West. The 49ers were a bad, then mediocre team that
overachieved in the win column during Nolan's first two seasons, but this year
their record will reflect a good young team that is arriving on schedule.
In a three-way tie of 9-7 teams atop the NFC West, the 49ers and Seahawks
advance to the postseason ahead of the Cardinals based on tie-breakers, with one
of them bumping the free-falling New York Giants from the NFC's playoff derby.
The Giants had a nice little window of opportunity the past few seasons with
Tiki Barber’s career-finishing flourish, but they weren’t really a
playoff-worthy team when the postseason rolled around last year. Life without a franchise back will stagnate
their offense while their aging defense that was barely hanging on at the end
last season sets the stage for a 2007 unraveling.
Matthew Postins, BucsBlitz.com
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The team that will drop out is an easy choice -- the New York Giants. This
team has such a small margin for error with the retirement of running back Tiki
Barber. And there are questions galore. Can Eli Manning take the heat? Will Tom
Coughlin be a distraction? Can Brandon Jacobs carry the rushing load? Can Amani
Toomer, at 33, still be effective? Is Michael Strahan on the downhill slide?
There are three good candidates to take their spot, but I give the nod to St.
Louis. The Rams have a future MVP in Steven Jackson, one of the league's most
accurate quarterbacks in Marc Bulger and a still-solid receiving tandem of Torry
Holt and Isaac Bruce. They added Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael in the
offseason and the line is young and emerging. The selection of Adam Carriker
should help defensive coordinator Jim Haslett solve the Rams' inefficiency in
run defense last year.
Denis Savage, SilverandBlack.com
The New York Giants didn't deserve to make the playoffs last year, and they
won't come close to sniffing the postseason in 2007. The indecisiveness of Eli
Manning and his desire to throw jump balls to Plaxico Burress are a detriment,
but not having the locker room leadership of Tiki Barber to calm the likes of
Jeremy Shockey and the other vocal members of the squad will be the ultimate
reason for their demise.
A new coach and a new attitude makes the Arizona Cardinals a team to fear. It
has been the popular choice for years, producing zero "told you so"
comments from the writing world.
While everyone else jumps off this bandwagon, I am hopping on. Ken Whisenhunt
and Russ Grim will be a formidable tandem atop the coaching ranks, and there was
finally an emphasis placed on the offensive line. They have some great young
players, and this is the season that everything comes together for their run to