The excitement is building as we are just 10 days away from the first game of the 2012-13 NFL season. Normally going into the season there is a clear Superbowl favorite. Not this season. The league is deeper then it’s been in years, and you make a case for most teams in the NFL that they will win the Superbowl. Because of that, when I asked our writers to debate who the best team in the NFL is, they all had a different answer. So instead of a 1 on 1 debate, this is a 4 on 4 debate. Please read the arguments below, and decide who you agree with.
Once you’ve done that, vote on the poll at the bottom of the article. Make sure you vote wisely, because the winner of the debate gets $5.
[one_half] By: Matt Smith
Last year, the Green Bay Packers saw their Super Bowl hopes come to an end in the divisional round of the playoffs despite posting a league-best 15-1 record.
They can do better in the playoffs though. Why? Well there are five main reasons.
An Abundance of Young Talent:
After final cuts last year, the Packers owned the second-youngest team in the entire NFL. This is due to the draft and develop strategy of GM Ted Thompson, who annually lets older players on the decline leave in free agency in order to fit the young players the Packers draft and develop so well.
The constant influx of talented youth means that the Packers won’t have to go through the rebuilding process other teams have to go through, and thus they should be in contention every year.
Fixed Holes on Defense:
The Achilles Heel for Green Bay’s squad last year was their defense. They allowed a historic amount of yardage – partly because other teams had to pass so much to play catch up.
This year, though, the defense should be much improved. Green Bay used their first six picks of the draft on defense, including three picks in the first two rounds.
As rookies, OLB Nick Perry and CB Casey Hayward have chances to start immediately while Jerel Worthy will attempt to take pressure off of B.J. Raji in the trenches. Even fourth-round DT Mike Daniels has looked good in training camp.
The NFL’s Best Passing Attack:
This should come as no surprise. Not only do the Packers have the best QB in the game, but also the best receiving core. They’re so deep at receiver that they’re almost certainly going to keep a sixth one.
Aaron Rodgers’ top two receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, are now both in the rank of elite receivers and the Packers boast admiral depth in electrifying second-year man Randall Cobb, James Jones and Donald Driver.
Jermichael Finley is a mismatch at tight end, and creates opportunities for others by commanding attention.
The passing attack is the league’s best no matter which way you cut it.
The Signing of Cedric Benson:
With James Starks’ turf toe injury and Alex Green still recovering from a torn ACL, the strength of Green Bay’s ground game was even more questionable than it previously was.
Then, the Packers went out and grabbed a low-cost free agent in Cedric Benson who could easily become their feature back come Week 1.
Benson is a durable back capable of a heavy workload. He’s not an explosive player, but is still an effective back who’ll pick up the yards there and occasionally make a big play. He adds another dimension to Green Bay’s offense.
Green Bay won’t need Benson much, but it’s reassuring to know he’s there if they do.
Confusion in the NFC:
The Packers and 49ers, both clearly a top their respective divisions, are virtual locks to make the playoffs. However, the other divisions aren’t so clear.
Any one of the Giants, Eagles or Cowboys could easily win the NFC East, while the losers figure to miss out on a wild card spot.
The Falcons and Saints are in a battle for the NFC South’s best with the Panthers looking to play spoiler.
The wild card spots are up for grabs.
Besides the two elite, things aren’t so clear in the NFC.
The Packers added talent without losing it. There isn’t a much better recipe for a Super Bowl victory.
By: Garrett Baker
Mike Vick is the most dynamic player in the NFL. Cam Newton is big, fast and athletic, but no other quarterback is anywhere near as agile as Vick. Combine that with a strong arm, years of experience, and a hunger to win, and the Eagles have themselves the perfect player to lead such a talented group. The big question with Vick is if he can stay healthy, but rookie Nick Foles has looked great so far in preseason, which means that if Vick goes down, the offense may not take a big step back.
DeSean Jackson did not give it his all last year. Just a few days ago, he admitted that he was protecting himself because he did not want to get hurt and risk losing a big contract. But the Eagles gave him his money this offseason, and DeSean should go back to being the best downfield threat in the NFL.
Opposite him, Jeremy Maclin looks to bounce back from a strange 2011 season. Maclin has had a number of strange, undisclosed injuries, but if he is fully healthy heading into 2011, he will be a reliable pass-catcher for Vick. Brent Celek, the starting tight end, will be the other reliable receiver for Vick.
In the backfield, LeSean McCoy will look to cement himself as a top-three NFL running back. His explosive cuts and strong upfield running style compliments his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and evade defenders. He had a remarkable 20 total touchdowns last season, but don’t be surprised if he reaches that total again.
Last year, the Eagles had a lot of question marks on the defensive side of the ball. They had average linebackers, were weak up the middle, and their star-studded secondary was not playing up to expectations.
But this year, everything will change. The Eagles traded for veteran Demeco Ryans and drafted DT Fletcher Cox, which will do wonders to sure up the middle of the field. On top of trading for Ryans, Philly drafted OLB Mychal Kendricks, which will provide a huge boost to the linebacker corps.
Asante Samuel is gone, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha will get to play a man-cover scheme, which they are more suited for, so opposing quarterbacks will have a hard time throwing the ball.
Demeco Ryans will be a great leader for the defense. Vick, along with Todd Herremans, will lead the offense. And as usual, head coach Andy Reid will oversee this incredibly talented team. Reid has had a ton of success, but that Super Bowl ring has proved too elusive in the past. But this year, the pieces will fall together for Philadelphia to win it all. [/one_half]
[one_half_last] By: Jacob Frankel
The team with the best chance to win the Super Bowl next season is the Houston Texans. Ever since their inception in 2002, this team has been getting better. For the first time in this franchise’s history, the team has a legitimate shot at winning it all. Houston has great players across the board and with execution, health, and a smidgen of luck; we could be looking at a championship parade in Houston next year.
We all know the old mantra, defense wins championships. Throughout the offensive explosion of the past five years, many have called the saying untrue, but again and again it is proved correct. Lets take a look at the past five champions in regards to defense. The 2007-08 Giants were ranked seventh in total defense during the regular season and the defense turned it up a notch in the Playoffs, eventually shutting down Tom Brady in the biggest game of the season. In 2008-09, the Steelers were number one in almost every statistical category on defense. The defense also made the biggest play of the Super Bowl. The Cardinals were on the goal line and ready to take good-sized lead and all the momentum into halftime. Instead, James Harrison picked of Kurt Warner in the end zone and ran it back 100 yards for six. The 2009-10 Saints were by no means a good defensive team in terms of giving up points and yardage, but they made up for it in other ways. They were second in the league forcing turnovers and they forced a key interception in the NFC championship game and in the Super Bowl. Two seasons ago, the Packers were fifth in total defense and fourth in turnovers forced. The defense forced a key Rashard Mendenhall fumble late in the Super Bowl. And finally, last year. The Giants were awful during the regular season but ratcheted it up in the playoffs and Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul coming off the edge flustered almost every quarterback they faced. As you can see, defense has played a huge roll for the last five champions.
How does this pertain to the Texans? Houston has a mean defense. The two defensive ends combined for 12 sacks last year and along with Shaun Cody in between them provided excellent run stopping. The Texans have a nasty three-man rotation at outside linebacker with Connor Barwin (11.5 sacks), Brooks Reed (6 sacks), and incoming first round draft choice and former All-American, Whitney Mercilus. A horrible secondary has long been the nemesis of the Texans, but this year that will not be the case.
They have a true number one corner in Jonathan Joseph. Lastly, there is middle line backer and the unquestioned leader of the defense, Brian Cushing. Despite losing Mario Williams, Houston will have a better defense than last year. Now you may be thinking: “If we are just going by defense it has to be the 49ers.” Here is the part people are forgetting; when healthy the Texans have one of the best offenses in the NFL. They use a zone blocking scheme and pound Arian Foster and Ben Tate on the ground. When the defense is sucked into Houston’s top ranked rushing offense is when Matt Shaub rolls out on a naked bootleg and hits Andre Johnson deep. With a great talent and strategy on both sides of the ball, it is inevitable that Houston will be one of the top teams in the NFL. Actually, check that. Not one of the top teams, the top team.
By: Phil Watson
With the New York and national media going pretty much all-Tim Tebow, all the time, this offseason, it is sort of easy to forget that it is that other New York team that is the defending Super Bowl champions. Yes, it is the New York Giants who ruled the NFL world in 2011 and there are a lot of reasons to believe they will be even better than last year’s inconsistent 9-7 regular season.
For starters, the Giants were dead last in the NFL in rushing offense a year ago. Big Blue mustered just 89.2 yards per game on the ground in the regular season, due in part a lingering foot problem for Ahmad Bradshaw and the general ineffectiveness of his then-running mate, Brandon Jacobs.
Jacobs is now in San Francisco after signing a free-agent deal with the 49ers this spring but the Giants should have an upgrade this season after taking Virginia Tech running back David Wilson in the first round of the draft.
Coach Tom Coughlin has tried to tamp down expectations for Wilson, though he did get some reps with the first-team offense on Tuesday, according to ESPNNewYork.com.
“Just the fact that he hasn’t had those reps with the first group, and we want to take a look at that,” Coughlin told ESPNNewYork.com to explain why Wilson, and not D.J. Ware, got the bulk of the snaps on Wednesday. “This was scheduled. David’s going to move up, and get some plays with the ones.” However, Wilson has impressed in the first two games in the preseason, leading the Giants with 69 yards on 15 carries, a solid 4.6 per tote average.
The offensive line does have some concerns, with left tackle Will Beatty struggling with back problems in training camp, per The Associated Press. But it was a line that held up well enough to allow Eli Manning to pass for a career-high and franchise-record 4,933 yards last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants almost can’t help but be healthier. The defense was without Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas for large chunks, if not all, of last season. While the defensive line has taken some hits early in camp, the unit was still good enough to stymie the New York Jets last week, holding their in-stadium rivals to just three points and a paltry 148 yards of total offense.
The departure of Mario Manningham to free agency means some of the Giants younger receivers, such as Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle need to step up. Victor Cruz has looked good this preseason after his breakout year in 2011 and Hakeem Nicks is working his way back into game shape after missing much of the offseason workouts with a broken foot.
But there are two primary reasons the Giants will be prepared to repeat in 2012 and those reasons are Coughlin and Manning.
Coughlin, who turns 66 at the end of this month, appears to still have a fully-charged battery in a profession that tends to burn out coaches a decade his junior. His work with the Giants since 2004 has made Coughlin a borderline Hall of Fame candidate who still has time to polish his resume a bit more. Manning, meanwhile, is no longer just Peyton’s little brother. He has completely emerged from the shadow of his older sibling and now leads him in Super Bowl rings, two to one. He is the unquestioned leader of the franchise and a calming influence in the huddle.