NFC South (2014 Finish: Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa Bay)
Overall: I did pretty good here, and was exactly correct when you look at Pythagorean record. Of course, when 0.4 separates the top 3 in a division, you know it’s a dogfight.
Unfortunately for NFL fans, the dogs in the fight are old and generally toothless. None of the teams finished in the top half of the NFL in DVOA and the top 3 teams are 3 of the oldest 4 teams in the NFL.
Last year’s train wreck is likely to happen again. The worst thing from my perspective is that I have no idea how this division will fall out. I think they’ll all be around 6-10 to 8-8, just like last year, except the Buccaneers will be markedly better.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2014 Record: 2-14 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.4)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 23rd
2015 Age Rank: 11th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 30th (32nd / 18th / 17th)
Yeah, that’s right. I’m picking the Buccaneers to win this division. I said last year that this team was a QB away from being a good team. Then they went and drafted Winston and 2 OLinemen to protect him.
Their defense and special teams were average, and I think this team will be average on offense. That’s an 8-8 team. That will win this division.
And frankly there are other reasons to like this team. People are saying Doug Martin looks full speed again. If this is true, and if Mike Evans can come back to health, then Winston will have targets.
Plus, this is the only team on the rising side of the age curve in this division. None of the other teams will run away with this division and I think the other 3 will fade as the season goes on.
2014 Record: 6-10 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.1)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 25th
2015 Age Rank: 30th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 20th (11th / 32nd / 9th)
I guess I’ll pick the Falcons next. They addressed their defense in the draft and it will be better. Probably something like 24th or so. Probably be a 7-9 team again, which is what they were last year in terms of Pythagorean wins.
They’ll score some with Matt Ryan at QB and Julio Jones at WR. Tevin Coleman will fit in nicely.
However, this is not a team to hang your hat on.
New Orleans Saints
2014 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.4)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 9th
2015 Age Rank: 29th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 17th (8th / 31st / 11th)
The Saints traded Jimmy Graham for Max Unger and drafted an OT to help the OLine. They needed to. This line, once one of the best, has gotten old but these two will help.
That means the offense will continue to be productive. They’ll still be one of the top 10.
Unfortunately, I don’t see any hope for the defense. There’s no real reason in my mind to be optimistic here.
So, yet again, we’re looking at a 7-9ish team.
2014 Record: 7-8-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.0)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 6th
2015 Age Rank: 31st
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 25th (20th / 15th / 30th)
Could they have been better in 2015 than in 2016? Sure. In fact, I think that Cam Newton will be better this year than last. However, their best offensive player, Kelvin Benjamin, is gone for the season.
Luke Kuechly is an amazing player, possibly the best ILB in the NFL. I really like Star Lotulelei. This defense could be better. But I doubt it will be because of age. They’ll be average again.
Sorry, Tola, this is not a good team right now and needs a major overhaul. Still, they’ll win 6-7 games.