The wait is nearly over and the new NFL season is almost upon us.
The action begins on Thursday, September 10, as the 2020 Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, host the Houston Texans.
So ahead of the first game, here’s a look at each team’s chances in the NFC.
The Cowboys are the favourites to take the NFC East and it’s easy to see why.
They’re spoilt for choice on offence while the arrival of new head coach, Mike McCarthy has sparked hopes he can repeat his Super Bowl success in Green Bay, this time in Dallas.
The question is, can the players finally live up to the hype and deliver on the field after finishing last season 8-8?
New York Giants
This is a team that has only won nine games in the last two seasons and it’s hard to see them challenging for the NFC East title in 2020.
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones signalled the start of a new era for the Giants as they moved on from Eli Manning and has at least given some cause for optimism.
So if they can show improvement this season and find a way to maybe 8-8, that would be viewed as a successful campaign.
The NFC East doesn’t shape up to be one of the tougher divisions to predict and there’s no reason why Philly shouldn’t be pushing for another postseason place.
The Eagles closed out the regular season with six straight wins to clinch a play-off berth and there is little to suggest they can’t maintain that form in 2020.
And if Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson can stay healthy, this is a much more potent offence than we saw for much of last season.
2019 was a dismal year for Washington with only the Cincinnati Bengals finishing with a worse record than their 3-13 effort.
In truth, after a number of well-documented off-field issues, 2020 will be a season that sees the club attempt to put pieces in place for the future.
Not finishing bottom of the NFC East will be seen as a success this season and the return of Alex Smith to fitness will at least give them some badly needed leadership in the locker room.
San Francisco 49ers
This might not quite be as talented a crop as the one that took them all the way to Miami in February, but, with Bill Shanahan at the helm, expect the 49ers to be relevant at the turn of the year once more.
They finished 2019 with a 13-3 record and then drubbings of the Vikings and Packers on their way to Super Bowl LIV only to fall just short of a record-equalling sixth victory.
Understandable then that the Niners are expected to win the NFC East once again in 2020 and few would expect them not to go deep into the play-offs too.
Seattle’s record last year was 11-3 as they secured an eighth trip to the postseason in 10 years under Pete Carroll.
And going into 2020 with Russell Wilson at QB, who regularly won games for Seattle almost single-handedly last season, they will no doubt be competitive once again.
Their lack of pass-rush may be a worry, but expect them still to be San Francisco’s closest challengers.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams missed out on the playoffs altogether last year with a 9-7 record and have since lost a fair amount of talent on their roster.
Devoid of draft picks, with none in this year’s first-round, a lot is expected of Cam Akers, their second-round pick out of Florida State.
Even so, it’s difficult to see them repeating their 13-3 record of 2018 which saw them win the NFC West.
The Cardinals added arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL in four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins.
As a result, it’s easy to make Arizona the “dark horse” pick for 2020.
But, as the Browns proved last year, acquiring a talented roster doesn’t always result in immediate success on the field.
An extremely slow start to last season ultimately cost the Falcons. They began 1-7, before improving to 6-2 over the second half of the year.
They were able to move the ball down the field without much trouble (top five in yards per game with 379.7) but only scored the 13th-most points in the league.
As a result, there’s plenty of pressure on head coach Dan Quinn, who might be out without a postseason visit.
Former Saint Teddy Bridgewater is the new starting quarterback in Carolina after Cam Newton’s departure and much is expected of the new acquisition.
Carolina lost nine of their last 10 in 2019 resulting in head coach Ron Rivera’s firing and Newton’s release, eventually finishing 5-11 for the season.
Under new Head Coach Matt Rhule the rebuild is very much on but the prospects do not look great.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had a fantastic offence last year which provided 28.6 points per game (third in the NFL) on the way to a 13-3 regular-season finish.
They also boasted the best receiver in the league as Michael Thomas was named Offensive Player of the Year on their way to the play-offs before eventually being beaten in the first round by Kyle Rudolph’s overtime touchdown.
But this team still has enough defensive playmakers and talent to shut down opponents and should be considered as one of the NFC favourites.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With his move from New England after 20 outstanding seasons, Tom Brady immediately makes the Bucs surprise contenders.
His presence alone will lift the confidence and belief of the entire organisation.
The question is: can he still produce at his best or, at 43 years old, will age finally catch up to him?
It’s hard to see Chicago being a high-scoring offence this year with the inefficient Mitch Trubisky at starting QB.
The Bears finished 8-8 last season but it could and should have been better as they lost three winnable games on the spin coming out of the bye week.
It’s all going to be about the defence for the Bears in 2020 and if that doesn’t stand-up then a Wild Card place my be the best hope.
Detroit’s defence was easily this division’s worst in 2019 and they have attempted to address that in free agency and the draft with Jeff Okudah taken with the third pick while Jamie Collins arrived from New England.
They finished last season 3-12-1, but there were signs the Lions were not far off until quarterback Matt Stafford was hurt when on course for one of his best seasons ever.
They would go on to lose every remaining game of the season so will need him to remain fit if they are to have any hope of improving this time around.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers finished last season 13-3 to clinch the NFC North champions before losing the NFC Championship game to the San Francisco 49ers, which was a massive improvement on their awful 2018 effort.
However, it’s doubtful if they can repeat last year’s numbers simply because their roster does not appear as strong while any kind of injury to QB Aaron Rodgers injury will see the Packers struggle.
Even so, they probably have enough to win this division once more with Aaron Jones emerging as one of the league’s best running backs to give their offence something they had been lacking previously.
After a 10-6 regular-season record, The Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Round last year having, at one stage, looked like strong challengers for the Packers.
They still have some stars on both sides of the ball but this appears to be something of a rebuild year for Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
They did also receive decent draft grades (15 picks across the three days) and will hope Justin Jefferson and fellow first-round pick cornerback Jeff Gladney can hot the ground running.
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