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NFL Division Predictions
by ASA - 09/03/2008
NFC East Champs - Play on Dallas (+125)
Back-to-back playoff disappointments in Dallas wonâ€™t deter us from taking the Cowboys to win the very tough NFC East. And while the Giants beat Dallas en route to the Super Bowl last year, we still feel the Cowboys are the cream of the crop.
The Dallas offense was second in the NFL with 28.4 points per game last year and should remain among the league leaders. Terrell Owens and MarÂion Barber are both happy with their new contracts and Arkansas-product Felix Jones was added to give Tony Romo even more weapons.
The lone issue on the Cowboys defense was in the secondary. That was addressed with the acquisition of cornerbacks Pacman Jones and Mike Jenkins. These two should combine with Terence Newman to give Dallas a potent defensive backfield. The Cowboys won this division by three games last year and could do the same this year.
NFC South Champs - Play on New Orleans (+130)
The Saints took a step back from their breakout 2006 season last year but will return to their previÂous form this year. The NFC South was mediocre last year with Tampa Bayâ€™s 9-7 record winning the division. The Bucs should take a step back this year while New Orleans takes a step forward.
Easily forgotten was the injury to running back Deuce McAllister last year. McAllister played in just three games last year and that really hurt the Saints. Reggie Bush is much more effective as a situational back while McAllister pounds on the defense with 20 carries per game.
The New Orleans defense was atrocious last year but it should be better this season. Numerous acÂquisitions along the defensive line will provide an improved pass rush, taking pressure off a so-so secÂondary. With the offense enjoying more success, thatâ€™s all the Saints need to win the division.
NFC North Champs - Play on Minnesota (+165)
Every team in this division has questions at the quarterback position. But only one team has the running game to take the pressure off the signal-caller: Minnesota. Adrian Peterson joins veteran Chester Taylor to form the best backfield in footÂball, which will be the edge they need to win the division title this year.
The ability to run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense are often two of best determiners of a quality football team. Minnesota did both better than any other team last year. The Minnesota stop unit allowed just 73.8 rushing yards per game last season.
Reports out of Minnesota are that quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has made big strides this offseaÂson. Jacksonâ€™s confidence was already building last year so expect that confidence to be the difference in giving the Vikings the NFC North crown.
NFC West Champs - Play on Arizona (+275)
The Cardinals have been a breakthrough candiÂdate for the last three years but have failed to meet those expectations. We expect this to be the year that they finally exceed expectations and wrestle the NFC West crown away from Seattle.
Arizona was a very good home team last year, goÂing 6-2 and picking up wins over very good Seattle, Pittsburgh and Cleveland teams. As is the case with most young teams, the Cardinals struggled on the road with a 2-6 record. That will improve with more experience and an improved defense.
The Cardinals drafted defensive players DomiÂnique Rodgers-Cromartie and Calais Campbell and signed free agents Clark Haggans and Travis LaBoy to bolster the defense. A full season from quarterÂback Matt Leinart and an improving running game centered on Edgerrin James should improve the ofÂfense. Take Arizona to win the NFC West.