Tag Archives: NFL

2017 NFC West

2016 Finish: Seattle, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Overall Notes: Seattle is a great team. Then there’s the rest.

Seattle Seahawks
2016 Record: 10-5-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.8)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 5th
2017 Age Rank: 13th
2016 DVOA Overall 11th (O/D/ST):  (16th / 5th / 15th)

Russell Wilson is a very good QB.He has a number of good targets like Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. There are questions at RB and on the line, though. I think they’ll stay in the about the same range on offensive DVOA.

The defense is very good and the addition of Sheldon Richardson shouldn’t hurt. My big concern here is that their defensive backfield is getting up there in age. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman get dinged up, and that could be a major problem.

However, they are the class of the division. Even if they get hit by injuries, which I expect, they will still be 11-5 and win the division and fight for the first seed.

Los Angeles Rams
2016 Record: 4-12 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.3)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 1st
2017 Age Rank: 2nd
2016 DVOA Overall 30th (O/D/ST):  (32nd / 15th / 3rd)

Two players shape this season for the Rams, Jared Goff and Aaron Donald.

This team was awful on offense last year, but there’s a chance they’ll be much better this year simply because Jeff Fisher, one of the worst coaches ever, has finally gotten the pink slip he has deserved for years. Without Fisher, Goff has a chance to develop. If he does, then this offense could be pretty good, actually. Todd Gurley is a very good RB. I really like what they did with their WRs this year, especially adding Sammy Watkins. He’ll be hampered by a mediocre offensive line, though.

The defense was average last year, and that was in part because of how good Aaron Donald was. Take him out of the equation and there are problems, and he’s holding out. The good news is that the defense is young and might improve enough without him to stay about the same.

I think Goff takes a step forward and makes this team average on offense. Being one of the youngest teams in the league I think they steal a victory or two from older teams late in the year. If Donald comes back and plays well, they could even do a little better.

Still, this team has a long way to go. I think they show great improvement and end up 7-9.

Arizona Cardinals
2016 Record: 7-8-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.4)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 19th
2017 Age Rank: 32nd
2016 DVOA Overall 16th (O/D/ST):  (21st / 3rd / 30th)

Arizona has been a real popular pick. I don’t see it. Carson Palmer has to stay healthy for them to be great. He wasn’t all that good last year, though, and he’s 37. I think he’ll be mediocre at best, which is basically what he was last year even though he amassed 4233 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are weapons on this offense. David Johnson is fantastic. Larry Fitzgerald is a first ballot hall-of-famer and while he’s not at his peak he’s still very good. But even with all of that and a healthy Palmer, they were only 21st on offensive DVOA. They’ll be worse this year, and if Palmer goes down they’ll be really bad.

The defense is very good, as can easily be seen with the DVOA rank of 3rd. However, it’s old. *If* everyone stays healthy, this team will continue to have a good defense. If they get hit hard or if the veterans regress? They’ll step back. Combined with that offense, that’s a bad thing.

I’m really down on this team. I think 7-9 is their ceiling, and frankly I expect 5-11. Injuries will happen, and they have a razor thin margin.

San Francisco 49ers
2016 Record: 2-14 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.9)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 24th
2017 Age Rank: 10th
2016 DVOA Overall 28th (O/D/ST):  (23rd / 28th / 17th)

Neither Brian Hoyer nor C.J. Beathard strike fear in anyone, except of course fans of their teams. The rest of the offense has a few good players, though Joe Staley is not as good as he once was. However, this will be one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

The defense will dramatically improve, though. DeForest Buckner was already turning into something. Add Arik Armstead, Ron Blair, and Solomon Thomas and you have a young and good defensive line. If Reuben Foster is healthy, they’ll be pretty good at linebacker. They’ve got some interesting backs too. I think this defense will be at least average, trending towards really good.

I don’t think the 49ers will improve much overall, though I think they’ll match this past year’s Pythagorean record and go 4-12. However, if they can make some improvements on the offense in future years, this defense can be impressive.

2017 NFC East

2016 Finish: Dallas, New York, Washington, Philadelphia

Overall Notes: This is the best division in football and it’s no contest. Look at their DVOAs, with the highest being 9th. And I think all the teams might have gotten better. Sheesh. They’ll beat each other up and might prevent the others from getting into the wildcard, though I think at least one of the wildcards will come from here.

Dallas Cowboys
2016 Record: 13-3 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.0)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 16th
2017 Age Rank: 17th
2016 DVOA Overall 2nd (O/D/ST):  (3rd / 18th / 9th)

This was a great team last year. It was one of the best offenses around, had an average defense, and played good special teams. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but this team could be even better if things break right.

The biggest question mark is the status of Ezekiel Elliott. I won’t comment on the case, other than to say I expect there to be an injunction tomorrow and the case taking all year. He may serve the suspension, but not until next year.

The offense is loaded. One of the question marks is whether Dak Prescott will have a sophomore slump. This is wishful thinking. People have tried to suggest that last year was a fluke, but there’s nothing in the statistics that suggests that to be true. He was not a dink and dunk QB, as shown by the length of his passes. He was one of the best at limiting interceptable passes. He made good decisions and attacked the defense successfully. That will continue.

The WRs are fantastic and deep. The RBs other than Elliott are pretty good. The TEs are solid. The offensive line has a couple of question marks but I think it’ll be even better than last year by the end of the year.

The defense is chock full of moving parts and questions. Many announcers see this and the lack of a star other than possibly Sean Lee, leading them to think this is a bad defense. It’s not. It’s average, but it can be even better. They lost a lot of snaps from last year’s team, but none of those snaps came from top tier players. They replaced them with young, unproven players and while they’ll make mistakes, they’ll do better at the end of the year.

I can see this defense be dominating, yes dominating, at the end of the year. I can also see it lose a game or two, especially at the beginning of the year where there are so many more question marks.

13-3 is hard to repeat though. I think the Cowboys will be better and finish with an 11-5 record. This will win the division and make them the 2nd seed.

Washington Redskins
2016 Record:  8-7-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.3)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 28th
2017 Age Rank: 15th
2016 DVOA Overall 9th (O/D/ST):  (5th / 25th / 13th)

The Redskins are the inverse of the Giants. It’s a great offense with Kirk Cousins and a number of excellent targets in Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed (if he can stay healthy). They run well enough, and I did not want them to get Samaje Perine. Trent Williams makes that line at least solid.

Will the defense improve? I think so, with additions like Jonathan Allen, Terrell McClain, Fabian Moreau, and Ryan Anderson. It won’t improve much, but get more in the 16th range. League average, in other words.

This was a good team last year. I think it’s better this year, especially since I think they’ll be healthier. I think they are definitely 10-6, maybe 11-5 and a wildcard team.

New York Giants
2016 Record:  11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.8)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 7th
2017 Age Rank: 9th
2016 DVOA Overall 8th (O/D/ST):  (22nd / 2nd / 11th)

The only way I see this team dropping off is if Eli Manning does dramatically worse. I would actually be surprised, even though he’s 36. He was mediocre at best last year, anyway. The offense looks better than it is because of Odell Beckham, Jr. and some big plays. However, they’re very inconsistent and Manning threw 16 interceptions, which is bad but about his norm. The offensive DVOA reflects that. Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram will help, but I doubt they’ll get any better in real terms.

However, the defense is young and great. I want to find a reason for the defense to take a step back. I can’t find it. They are on their downward curve, but closer to their peak than retirement. They may drop a bit, but only to 5th in defensive DVOA.

This team will do really well again. They’ll have a few more injuries than last year, I suspect, but at least 9-7. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re 10-6 and a wildcard team.

Philadelphia Eagles
2016 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.0)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 4th
2017 Age Rank: 23rd
2016 DVOA Overall 5th (O/D/ST):  (20th / 4th / 2nd)

Ah, the Eagles. They’ve added some help on offense for Carson Wentz, but not as much as people think. I was not a fan of Wentz last year. He didn’t play as well as many people think, but he was very good for a rookie. I think he’ll be better, but I don’t see the offense improving much.

The defense was great and got a lot of help in the draft. I was not happy with their draft, though not all of it will arrive this year with Sidney Jones’s injury. Still, Derek Barnett and Rasul Douglas will add some youth to the defense.

The one place where I see the Eagles regressing is on Special Teams, and that’s in part because Darren Sproles is 34. He’ll fall of a cliff soon, though he’s been a fantastic player.

I think the Eagles will take an overall step back, but not by much. They’ll still have a 7-9 record or so, but that’ll match their Pythagorean.

NFL Christmas Presents Opened

I meant to get to this sooner, but with finishing Where Now the Rider and Planet Comicon, I just haven’t had a chance. I also didn’t have a chance to the the Comicon AAR out earlier, so look at me, double-posting in a day. Go me!

Anyway, as a Dallas Cowboys fan I’ve been very happy with our drafting over the last few years. Much of that success can be given to Will McClay, who has proven himself an excellent talent evaluator.

Getting Dak Prescott in the 4th and having him turn out to be as good as he has been is a stroke of great fortune, but even so last year’s draft was excellent. Ezekiel Elliot looks all that was hoped, and both Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown look like quality starters from the 3rd and 6th rounds respectively. If Jaylen Smith and Charles Tapper can return from injury, than the 2016 draft will be one of the best ever in the NFL. That’s not hyperbole, actually. If one can get three quality starters in a draft, then you’ve had a good draft. This one currently has four, with a chance at more.

So I wasn’t expecting anything like that this year. However, this draft lined up with Dallas’s needs, defensive linemen and defensive backs and I am very pleased with the result because we came out of the draft with 7 players from those two areas.

For my whimsical write up, check my post on the best Dallas Cowboys website, Blogging the Boys: http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2017/5/2/15525582/rhodris-2112-pack-2017-draft. There I have an occasional series of 2112-packs, where I give out 12 aptly named beers to whoever strikes my fancy.

Overall, the draft is getting bigger and bigger, and for me, lots more fun. The more data there is out there, the more I research. Lots of fun stuff, especially when I see more of the moves getting played out.

For example, I mentioned that the Cowboys needed DLine and DBs and that this draft is deep in both positions. It’s very clear that the Cowboys anticipated this depth and engineered their team to need those things most right at the time when they were most available. Excellent job, especially since in so doing they will have more draft choices next year to find whatever positions are deep in 2018.

Don’t ask me what they are. I’m not a professional and I haven’t started to research that draft class yet. I’m hoping it will be deep in offensive tackles (a premium position that was extremely weak this year), linebackers (where Dallas has some young players looking for their next contract), and receiver (because Dez is getting old and we need an heir).

As a spectacle, it’s getting more fun too. The NFL and the Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged for a kid to announce the Baltimore Ravens pick. Awesome thing.

The announcers in general are getting more fun. In the 2nd and 3rd rounds, former players or people affiliated with the teams announce the picks. The draft was held in Philadelphia this year, home of one of Dallas’s greatest rivals, so when retired Cowboy great Drew Pearson took the stage to announce the pick, he was soundly booed. He gave it back in spades by epicly trolling them. Brilliant stuff.

Sports are entertainment. One of my biggest problems with the NFL is that sometimes it takes itself too seriously. It’s great to see the draft changing, and perhaps that will cause some other changes, like getting rid of stupid overcelebration penalties.

It’s only 358 days to the 2018 NFL Draft, but who’s counting?

 

NFL Playoff Prediction

Greetings all

Last week, I did a large NFL playoff prediction on Blogging the Boys, a Dallas Cowboys blog. I meant to link it here but forgot.

http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2017/1/4/14169844/rhodris-2112-pack-2016-playoff-edition

Me forgetting to post this is symptomatic of me pushing through a busy holiday season. I’ll be getting more posts out, including some follow-ups to this one as the NFL playoffs continue.

Weekly Update: A National Holiday

Greetings all

I’ve had a productive week, though not necessarily with all of the things I had intended to do. Saturday I did a reading at the Kansas Authors Club meeting. Had a great time. You can find my AAR on my blog at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=447. Of course, Sunday was for me a national holiday, the first full Sunday of the NFL. While I was disappointed in the Cowboys loss against the Giants, I can take solace in the quality play from Dak Prescott. He looks very impressive.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is particularly apt, given that had the Cowboys had 3 more seconds, they might very well have one the game.

“We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”
– Vince Lombardi

Works In Progress
– Worked on making a list of future events and ensuring I was added to their panels.
– I am also making progress on the next Edward novel, which will be called Where Now the Rider. Tentative release date is 30 November.

 News
– The updated electronic version of The Eyes of a Doll is now live on Amazon. If you already own it, you can add wiki links by contacting Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/clicktocall (phone) or http://www.amazon.com/clicktochat
(chat).
– I’ve been working on some new events to attend. I can confirm I’ll be at Time Eddy in Wichita from October 14-16.
Upcoming Events
– Morning 10 September: Reading at Corinth Library, 8100 Prairie Village, Kansas for the Kansas Author’s Club from 9:30am to 1pm.
– Afternoon10 September: King’s Company of Archers in Smithville, MO
– 16-18 September: Dodecacon in Columbia, MO
– 23-25 September: Gryphon’s Fest in Warrenton, MO
– 30 September – 2 October: Kansas Author’s Club convention in Lawrence, KS
– 8 October: Calontir Fall Crown in Omaha, NE

– 14-16 October: Time Eddy in Wichita, KS

Spotlight
I’m adding a new feature to my email. Here I’ll be including a link to someone or something I think is cool. This week I’m pointing you at the Kickstarter that my artist, Patrick McEvoy, is working on. As you know, I think he’s a fantastic artist and he’s lending his talents to another noir-themed mystery, this one a graphic novel that blends Cthulhu with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. You can find more info at:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/309827462/casefile-arkham-her-blood-runs-cold?ref=project_tweet

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works
A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Bk 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Bk 2)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Bk 1)

Weekly Update Archive

2015 Season Overview

Well, it’s time for my overall predictions. This, by the way, is the TL:DR page. You can find my detailed discussions at my divisional breakdowns.

Here are my divisional breakdowns
NFC East: 2015 Prediction
NFC North: 2015 Prediction
NFC South: 2015 Prediction
NFC West: 2015 Prediction
AFC East: 2015 Prediction
AFC North: 2015 Prediction
AFC South: 2015 Prediction
AFC West: 2015 Prediction

NFC by seed
1: Seattle (NFC West Champion)
2: Dallas (NFC East Champion)
3: Green Bay (NFC North Champion)
4: Tampa Bay (NFC South Champion)
5: Philadelphia (Wildcard 1)
6: Minnesota (Wildcard 2)

Wildcard Round
Green Bay beats Minnesota
Philadelphia beats Tampa Bay

Divisional Round
Seattle beats Philadelphia
Dallas beats Green Bay

NFC Championship
Dallas beats Seattle

AFC by seed
1: New England (AFC East Champion)
2: Denver (AFC West Champion)
3: Baltimore (AFC North Champion)
4: Houston (AFC South Champion)
5: Kansas City (Wildcard 1)
6: Miami (Wildcard 2)

Wildcard Round
Miami beats Baltimore
Kansas City beats Houston

Divisional Round
Kansas City beats Denver (you’re welcome, Snorri)
New England beats Miami (sorry, Marty)

AFC Championship
New England beats Kansas City

Super Bowl
Dallas beats New England

Yeah, I think this Cowboys team is that good. I may be too close to the team, but it’s the deepest I’ve seen it since the early 90s.

It’s clear to me that the NFC is the deeper of the two conferences, at least in terms of great teams. The NFC South is wretched at the moment, but all the other divisions have potentially great teams.

As a side note, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit, Carolina, and Arizona are all 2014 playoff teams that I think will miss the 2015 playoffs. This is about right, given that around 5.7 teams don’t go back the following year after making the playoffs.

As for last year, I did pretty good. I picked 3 of the 8 divisions exactly right. I picked the division winners in 2 others, and in another case I flip-flopped the division winner and wildcard. My only really bad prediction was Tennessee. The other division I struggled with was the NFC North, and I was not the only one.

In terms of playoffs, I predicted Seattle to win, and I was damn close to being right.

As I said last year, there are 255 games remaining in the season. Let’s get this going.

2015 NFC East

NFC East (2014 Finish: Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Redskins)

Overall: Another division where I predicted the eventual winner correctly. This despite no one thinking the Cowboys would win more than 6 games.

My only mistakes were thinking that the Redskins would see some improvement and that the Giants would regress. Neither happened.

Dallas Cowboys
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.8)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 19th
2015 Age Rank: 14th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 6th (4th / 22nd / 13th)

I said last year that this team only needed their defense to be in the 20th range to be a 10-6 team. I was exactly correct, especially if you look at their Pythagorean record. They were lucky to win 12 games, but still were the best team in the division.

Their biggest loss in the offseason was DeMarco Murray. Make no mistake, he’s a very good RB. However, he was not a great RB despite leading the NFL in yards gained rushing. How can this be? Because he was used a ton. If you rush way more often than anyone else behind a great OLine you’re going to lead the NFL in yardage.

He can be replaced and he will.

This offense is loaded. They have a great QB, a bunch of targets, and a deep and good OLine. They’ll end up around the same spot in offensive DVOA.

There are major changes to this defense and it’s all on the DLine. Their best pass rusher was hurt most of last year, and he’s back. Randy Gregory has looked really good, as has Greg Hardy who’ll be there for 12 games. Add in Tyrone Crawford who is being tabbed for the Pro Bowl and a variety of talented backups tells me this will be a much better line.

Yes, they lost their best CB, but they got their best LB back who they lost all last year. I see major improvements in this defense, up to something like 10th in the NFL.

That being said, I think this team will only win 11 games because their schedule is tougher this year.

They were lucky in their Pythagorean record and that will regress to the norm, but they weren’t lucky in terms of injuries and this is not an old team. Yes, I’m a Dallas homer, but in my opinion, this is still the best team in the division.

Philadelphia Eagles
2014 Record: 10-6 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.7)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 5th
2015 Age Rank: 28th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 7th (13th / 10th / 1st)

People are predicting the Eagles could go to the Super Bowl. They think that the additions of Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Nelson Aglohor to an offense with a damn good OLine, Darren Sproles, and Jordan Matthews will be amazing.

I don’t see it.

Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez weren’t bad last year. Sam Bradford has never been great, certainly not major upgrades to either of those two. Could he be? Yes. This could be a perfect fit, and he could massively exceed his previous production, but he’s in his 5th year and that is unlikely.

I see the the same thing for RB and WR. LeSean McCoy is a fantastic RB. Will Murray be that much better? I doubt it. Same for Jeremy Maclin. Aglohor will be good, but significantly better?

Plus, they had two of the best guards in the NFL last year in Todd Herremanns and Evan Mathis. Their OTs and their center are very good, but these two will not be replaced easily.

This was a slightly better than average offense last year. I think they’ll improve, but will they be the best in the NFL? I don’t think so.

Their defensive front is very good. I can see some improvement here, but it depends on if their defensive backfield, which was wretched last year, can improve.

However, I see a major dropoff in their special teams. They were amazing last year and had a ton of returns. TD returns tend to be fluky. They will have some regression to the mean.

Plus this is a team that has had 2 years of really good luck with injuries. It is more likely than not that they’ll have some injury problems this year.

Overall, I think they’ll be a little better, but still in the 10-6 range. They’ll be one of the wildcard teams.

New York Giants
2014 Record: 6-10 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.5)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 32nd
2015 Age Rank: 25th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 21st (15th / 25th / 15th)

This is a better team than I expected, and better than their 6-10 record. Part of that is no one quite realized how good Odell Beckham, Jr. really is. Like that was one of the best rookie seasons a WR has ever had. Forget ‘The Catch,’ look at the rest of his season and you’ll be amazed. He’s gonna suck to play against year after year.

Despite him, this was an average offense. I predicted their OLine would give them trouble and it did. I predict their OLine will continue to hamper this offense. Eli Manning has proven, year after year, that he is hampered by pressure more than most QBs. He makes up for that for being more efficient than most in clean pockets. They did draft Ereck Flowers, but I’m not sold on him. We’ll see.

My expectation is that Beckham will have an even better year, and this team will hit a bunch of homers. However, they’ll not sustain many drives and end up being average again.

Last year I predicted Jason Pierre-Paul would return to glory and this defense would be much better. I was sort of right. He had a very good year, but there were still a lot of holes. Now we have no idea what he’ll be able to do after blowing off his index finger on July 4th.

This was an unlucky team in 2014. They finished 1.5 games below their Pythagorean record and were 32nd in the NFL in terms of injuries.

Normally, I’d look at that and be optimistic for the team the following year. However, they’re fairly old. JPP is a major question mark. Victor Cruz has been iffy already. Their luck does not seem to be changing.

Washington Redskins
2014 Record: 4-12 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.5)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 24th
2015 Age Rank: 17th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 28th (28th / 27th / 29th)

What a model of consistency. Look at those DVOAs by group. Impressive, Washington, impressive.

And it’s not going to get better.

Could they have mismanaged the RG3 situation any more than they did? Unfortunately, I think RG3’s career is essentially over, though he’ll get another shot somewhere. Concussions will force him to retire soon, and I lay some of that blame on Jay Gruden.

Is Kirk Cousins a better QB than RG3? Maybe in this offense. I can’t see him being great, though. They’ll run some, but a decent OLine and Alfred Morris. Overall, this offense might improve some, but not much.

I don’t see the defense improving. Ryan Kerrigan is a useful supporting piece but not an All-Pro type player.

They haven’t drafted well of late either. I like Brandon Scherff, but they had better picks at that point in the draft, given that a 4-12 team is guaranteed to have a lot of holes.

4-12 is a good expectation here.

2015 NFC North

NFC North (2014 Finish: Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears)

Overall: This was probably my worst division last year, mostly because I thought the Lions weren’t as good as they ended up being. I also thought the Vikings would be better, but part of that was based upon Adrian Peterson playing, which of course did not happen.

Green Bay Packers
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.2)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 3rd
2015 Age Rank: 3rd
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 3rd (1st / 16th / 22nd)

If any team can lose a player like Jordy Nelson and march right on it’s the Packers. There are two big reasons for this. One, they draft WRs constantly, and Davante Adams will perform very well. Two, they have the best QB in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers.

With Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, and Adams behind a reasonable OLine, this team will be in the top 5 on offense again.

Now, it’s true that the Packers were lucky in terms of injuries last year, ending up ranking 3rd in the NFL last year. It’s likely that they’ll regress to the norm some, and that’s already started to happen with Nelson.

However, note also that the Packers are the 3rd youngest team in the NFL going into 2015. This is a team likely to finish in the top half of the league in terms of injuries and is still generally speaking climbing their career arcs.

I don’t see any reason to think they won’t end up 11-5 or better and winning a really good division.

Minnesota Vikings
2014 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.5)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 8th
2015 Age Rank: 7th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 24th (22nd / 23rd / 10th)

The Vikings have been given a lot of love by the press lately, and it’s not hard to see why. They get Adrian Peterson back, and even though I think he’ll start fading soon, having a year off might mean the tread on his tires was refreshed somewhat.

More importantly though, is that Teddy Bridgewater is already a pretty good QB on the way up. Pro Football Focus picked him as one of the players on the rise because of his improvement over the latter part of the year. In his last 5 games, his QB Rating was 120.7, 117.7, 84.9, 114.1, and 90.2. That’s really good.

This is a team that’s not old, that has my 2nd favorite QB in the division, that has one of the best RBs in history aching to prove himself. They’ve got a few targets for him as well. This team will score, and will end up being around the 10th best offense in the league.

They also threw a bunch of draft picks at this defense. I think it will improve a little. Then you add one of the most explosive returners in Cordarrelle Patterson and their special teams will be at least in the top half again.

That’s the recipe for a 9-7, 10-6 team. They’ll be fighting with Arizona for a wildcard.

Detroit Lions
2014 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.2)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 15th
2015 Age Rank: 24th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 14th (19th / 3rd / 31st)

There are a lot of people on the Detroit bandwagon. Since I picked them last in the division last year, I’m clearly not sold on them and I’m still not on this bandwagon.

First of all, this team benefited from some luck, and was more of a 9-7 team than an 11-5 one. Second, this is not a young team. Third, I’m not a fan of Matthew Stafford. He puts up big numbers because they throw a lot and because Calvin Johnson is one of the best receivers in history (not quite as good as either Jerry Rice or Don Hutson in my opinion… yet).

In any case, the 19th ranking in offensive DVOA suggests that this offense was at best average, despite the presence of Stafford, Johnson, and Golden Tate. I really like Ameer Abdullah, and I see in him an RB with a few top notch seasons to come, but I can’t see this offense improving that much, if at all.

Unfortunately, the defense will not be as good, basically because Ndamukong Suh has left. They have some other good players on the DLine but you just can’t lose a player like Suh without having some dropoff.

This was a 9-win team that got lucky last year. This is a 8-9 win team this year. Sorry, Detroit fans.

Chicago Bears
2014 Record: 5-11 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.9)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 27th
2015 Age Rank: 19th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 26th (14th / 28th / 25th)

This is a bit of a train wreck. Their offense was average last year, but it will be much worse this year. Kevin White is hurt, so he can’t replace the production of Brandon Marshall. Worse, Matt Forte, who has been a fantastic player, is declining, as RBs do as they get to around 30.

Their defense might be a little better, as regression to the mean suggests they should be, but I see no reason to see a major improvement.

This team won 5 games last year. I’m hard pressed to think they’ll do any better and I could absolutely see this team winning 2 or 3 games and picking first.

2015 NFC South

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.

Atlanta Falcons
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.

Carolina Panthers
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.