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Mostly NFL Notes: NFC Season Preview

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Can Aaron Rodgers replicate last season? (USP)

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New York Giants
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Washington Redskins

Comments/predictions: As one of the bigger health risks with No. 1 overall upside, Mike Vick is fantasy's biggest boom-or-bust pick…LeSean McCoy sees a drop in TD production but has a better fantasy season than Ray Rice regardless…DeSean Jackson eclipses 1,250 receiving yards while Jeremy Maclin scores double-digit touchdowns…I wish I had a strong opinion, but I really have no clue who will have a better fantasy season between Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Nicks is injury prone but has a much better pedigree and track record. But while a few of Cruz's big plays last year felt fluky, if you prorate his numbers from his seven starts over a full season, you get 1,890 receiving yards, which would easily be the most in NFL history…Eli Manning had just 15 yards on 35 rushing attempts last year, which is pretty mind boggling…I would much rather David Wilson at his ADP than I would Ahmad Bradshaw at his.

This "Moment of Truth" clip was funny/cringe worthy enough to begin with, but the ending puts it over the top.

Using a grenade to catch fish isn't the best idea.

DeMarco Murray finishes as a top-five fantasy back, while DeMarcus Ware breaks the NFL sack record. However, as only linebacker eligible, he's still not all that valuable in most IDP leagues…Miles Austin, who had 233 yards and four touchdowns over the first two games last season before suffering a hamstring injury that affected the rest of his year, appears to be falling in most drafts and is a sneaky fantasy pick thanks to him once again dealing with the same injury. His upside remains high, but in 2012, he takes a backseat to Dez Bryant, who matures, realizes his potential and enters next year as a consensus top-20 fantasy pick…Andrew Luck has a better fantasy season than Robert Griffin, although the latter is plenty useful as well…The Redskins' backfield remains a headache, but Evan Royster finishes with the most fantasy points among the group…Pierre Garcon is a top-20 fantasy receiver.

This division is extremely difficult to handicap. The Giants have a very difficult schedule but just won the Super Bowl. The Eagles posted a highly impressive point differential with Vick missing nearly a quarter of the season and with an unhealthy Jeremy Maclin and a disengaged DeSean Jackson. Moreover, the Cowboys have the potential to make a Super Bowl run if things break right. I can see the argument for any order regarding the top three teams. Ultimately for me, it came down to schedule.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers
2. Chicago Bears (wild card)
3. Detroit Lions (wild card)

4. Minnesota Vikings

While calling Aaron Rodgers' 48:6 TD:turnover ratio and 9.2 YPA from last year unsustainable isn't exactly controversial, at this point it's pretty tough to argue against him being the best player in the league. His 122.5 QB rating last season was the highest in NFL history…Jordy Nelson has more fantasy points than Greg Jennings, while Cedric Benson ends the year as a top-15 fantasy back…Matt Forte doesn't score double-digit touchdowns, but he's among the league leaders in yards from scrimmage and is a monster in PPR formats…Brandon Marshall (nice longread about him here) leads the NFL in receptions and finishes as a top-five fantasy receiver, while Jay Cutler remains as handsome as ever (for those who haven't heard me tell this story, I was once mistaken for him and asked for an autograph the day after the Pro Bowl at the Honolulu airport. To this day I still regret not obliging)…Don't forget just how good this Bears team looked before injuries struck last season.

Here's bizarre footage of a hit-and-run driver this news team is reporting on passing by in the background. Turn around!

I present this Nickelback music video featuring Jason Alexander with no commentary. That's because I'm speechless.

Kevin Smith puts up per-game numbers equal to a first round fantasy back but once again succumbs to injury. Jahvid Best retires by season's end. Keiland Williams becomes fantasy relevant at some point…Titus Young doesn't disappoint, but Calvin Johnson finishes as the No. 1 overall fantasy player. Over his last four games last season (including the playoffs), he had 36 catches for 771 yards and six touchdowns. That's pretty good…He's not exactly a secret, but I'm fully onboard with targeting Kyle Rudolph later in drafts if you didn't grab a top tight end. He should be the No. 2 target on a team often playing from behind with an intriguing QB who should improve this year…Minnesota went 1-5 when leading at halftime last year. Moreover, the Vikings' secondary somehow allowed an NFL-worst 107.6 QB rating (8.1 YPA, 34:8 TD:INT ratio) despite tying for the NFL lead with 50 sacks. And this wasn't an opportunity issue, as they faced a league average 538 pass attempts (tied for 16th). Jared Allen had one fewer sack himself (22) than the entire Buccaneers defense.

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Drew Brees had a 30:6 TD:turnover ratio over eight games at home last season. While that's decent, after you factor in his 72.0 completion percentage with an 8.7 YPA you may even have to upgrade it to good. He had one fumble all season long and went into San Francisco and threw for 462 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs. Brees threw for 928 yards over two postseason games…For some reason, I seemingly always refuse to draft Marques Colston, but I'm sure it will be to my detriment this year…With Robert Meachem gone, Lance Moore is one of my favorite mid-late round fliers…With no Sean Payton and the "bountygate" issue lingering, there's obviously some concern, but realize this: despite seeing the third-most pass attempts in football last season, the Saints recorded just nine interceptions, so it's safe to expect that number to jump in 2012, as regression works both ways…Only Calvin Johnson finishes with more fantasy points than Julio Jones at the WR position, and while Michael Turner finishes outside the top-20 among backs, Jacquizz Rodgers is a sleeper who doesn't deliver.

Teenager using fake ID with "Bobby Hill" cartoon character as picture buys alcohol at six stores.

Man accused of breaking into home, stripping down to underwear while cooking a chicken potpie.

Cam Newton rushes for 10+ touchdowns and improves as a passer, throwing for 25+ scores, as he finishes as a top-10 fantasy player…Greg Olsen is a top-12 fantasy tight end, while Mike Tolbert has no impact. DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart are weekly top-five options if one or the other goes down with an injury…I wouldn't be shocked if Carolina was a serious threat to win this division…Doug Martin doesn't disappoint while Vincent Jackson does. The Bucs improve, but they have a long way to go, as they recorded just 23 sacks last year, by far the lowest in the NFL, also allowing a league-high 30.9 points per game. Here are Josh Freeman's INT percentages over the past three years: 6.2%, 1.3%, 4.0%. It pretty much doesn't get as drastic as that. Your guess is as good as mine moving forward.

NFC West

1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. St. Louis Rams

I'm a Niners fan, but a much tougher schedule along with regression when it comes to injuries and turnover ratio (although it's worth noting they recovered less than 50 percent of their fumbles on defense last year) could most certainly lead to a disappointing season. They have a whopping five primetime games, so the expectations are sky-high, which is a recipe for disaster, especially for a team that came out of nowhere the previous year and has a serious question mark at the most important position on the field…According to Pro Football Focus last year, in a 3-4 alignment, San Francisco had the No. 1 (Justin Smith) and No. 3 (Ray McDonald) ranked defensive ends and No. 2 ranked OLB (Aldon Smith), despite him playing so few snaps (506). As far as ILBs, they ranked No. 1 (Navarro Bowman) and No. 3 (Patrick Willis, who missed 5+ games). They also had a top-10 ranked CB (Carlos Rogers) and safety (Donte Whitner). That's pretty crazy…Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss all disappoint, but Vernon Davis, who had 410 yards and four touchdowns over the final three games last year (including the playoffs) after he finally grasped a new offensive scheme, has a big year.

Stuck accelerator takes woman on crazy 110 mph ride.

Longread of the week: Fascinating read about life as a gambler in Las Vegas.

Sidney Rice is as big of an injury risk as it gets, but his upside is worth the current price tag…Robert Turbin is one of the better late round RB fliers…At the risk of overrating the preseason, there are only 17 fantasy quarterbacks I'd rather own than Russell Wilson right now…This Seattle team is sneakily dangerous…I've been a full-blown Beanie Wells backer to this point, but as of now, I'd give him vs. Ryan Williams a 50/50 proposition…I have zero clue who to pick finishes higher in the division, the Cardinals or Rams…I wasn't a big fan of Arizona using a first round pick on Michael Floyd, as this team has serious question marks both at offensive line and quarterback…Danny Amendola will be a PPR asset, but I just can't foresee drafting Steven Jackson at his second round price. He faces two run defenses (SF and SEA) that ranked top-four in YPC against last year in 25 percent of his games, has averaged just 5.3 touchdowns over the previous three years and most importantly, he's now up to 2,138 career rushing attempts. I'd rather Cedric Benson.

The AFC Preview will be up Friday.

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