Top NFC teams have plenty to prove

They were called the Dream Team last year, having hauled in Pro Bowl players at a few positions and becoming the odds-on favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

But a funny thing happened to the Philadelphia Eagles. They didn’t mesh. After winning the opener, Philly lost four straight, then split the next four. The Eagles were toast after Week 10.

So why will it be different this year? Tragedy often forces egos to the sideline and creates a rallying point. Andy Reid is a players’ coach whose son Garrett tragically died during training camp after a long battle with drugs.

Eagles players know their coach needs them more than ever, so Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Nnamdi Asomugha and the rest of the big names will be even more motivated to put last year’s disaster behind them. It won’t be easy.

The Eagles play in the same division as the Super Bowl champs (the New York Giants), not to mention a team that never lives up to its expectations in Dallas and one with the new phenomenon Robert Griffin III in Washington.

The nearly perfect Green Bay Packers return virtually intact and drafted to patch up a woeful defense, but the lack of a running game will eventually be the downfall of Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North. In the South, the New Orleans Saints grabbed offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons and the value of a coach may actually be seen as Sean Payton serves his seasonlong suspension.

The Niners surprised everyone last season by winning the West and coming a win shy of the Super Bowl. The West is theirs to lose, especially with the added weapons Alex Smith now has on offense.

sdrumwright@sfexaminer.com

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