2016 NFC South Outlook

Posted: September 3, 2016 in NFL

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons finished last season at 8-8 and missed the playoffs for a third straight season. Last season was their first season under new Head Coach Dan Quinn. Quinn came over in 2015 after spending two seasons as defensive coordinator for the Seahawks. Kyle Shanahan, son of Mike, will enter his second season as offensive coordinator for the Falcons. Shanahan had experience as offensive coordinator for the Texans, Redskins and Browns prior to joining Atlanta. The Falcons went from a top-10 to bottom-10 offense in one season last year. Richard Smith will lead the defense for a second year in a row. Unlike the offense, the defense saw some improvement last season but was still poor, ranking 22nd in the NFL. 22nd is much better than their last place finish in 2014.

Offseason Summary

Departures: DT Paul Soliai, C Gino Gradkowski, LB Justin Durant, LB Nathan Stupar

Arrivals: C Alex Mack, WR Mohamed Sanu, DE Derrick Shelby, S Dashon Goldson, LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Dwight Freeney

Top Draft Picks: S Keanu Neal (Florida, #17 overall), LB Deion Jones (LSU, #52), TE Austin Hooper (Stanford, #81)

Preseason Awards

MVP: Matt Ryan

Non-QB MVP: Julio Jones

Offensive Player of the Year: Ryan Schraeder

Defensive Player of the Year: Desmond Trufant

Other Notable players: Andy Levitre, Robert Alford, Vic Beasley Jr, Derrick Shelby

Strongest position group: Offensive line

Weakest position group: Secondary

Preseason Projection

The Falcons are projected for 6.0 wins with a 90% confidence interval of 2.3 to 9.8 wins. They begin the season with an approximate 7.8% chance of making the playoffs and a less than 1% chance of winning the Super Bowl. The graph below shows the Falcons probability of winning X number of games.

Falcons

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers went 15-1 and won the NFC Championship before losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers made the playoffs and won the NFC South for a third straight season. Riverboat Ron (Rivera) has been head coach of the Panthers for 5 seasons and has a 47-32-1 regular season record with the Panthers. Mike Shula will continue his tenure as Panthers offensive coordinator. The Panthers finished with the eighth ranked offense in the NFL, much improved from the 20th ranked offense in 2014. Sean McDermott is entering his sixth season as defensive coordinator for the Panthers. Carolina finished last season with the second best defense in the NFL, only behind the Broncos.

Offseason Summary

Departures: CB Josh Norman, P Brad Nortman, S Roman Harper, CB Cortland Finnegan

Arrivals: DT Paul Soliai, C Gino Gradkowski

Top Draft Picks: DT Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech, #30 overall), CB James Bradberry (Samford, #62), CB Daryl Worley (West Virginia, #77)

Preseason Awards

MVP: Cam Newton

Non-QB MVP: Luke Kuechly

Offensive Player of the Year: Trai Turner

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawann Short

Other Notable players: Jonathan Stewart, Andrew Norwell, Kurt Coleman, Charles Johnson

Strongest position group: Front seven

Weakest position group: Secondary

Preseason Projection

The Panthers are projected for 12.8 wins with a 90% confidence interval of 9.4 to 15.8 wins. They begin the season with an approximate 98.2% chance of making the playoffs and a less than 16.2% chance of winning the Super Bowl. The graph below shows the Panthers probability of winning X number of games.

Panthers

New Orleans Saints

The Saints finished last season 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. Sean Payton will begin his tenth season as head coach of the Saints. In his first nine seasons, the Saints made the playoffs five times, with one appearance resulting in a Super Bowl victory. Pete Carmichael will enter his eighth season as offensive coordinator for the Saints. The Saints offense has ranked seventh overall for two straight seasons and will likely continue to have success as long as they have Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Dennis Allen took over as interim defensive coordinator last season and was hired as the official defensive coordinator in the offseason. The Saints defense ranked last in the NFL and has been very bad for several seasons.

Offseason Summary

Departures: TE Benjamin Watson, S Rafael Bush, RB Khiry Robinson

Arrivals: TE Coby Fleener, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Craig Robertson, LB Paul Kruger, DT Nick Fairley, LB Nathan Stupar, S Roman Harper

Top Draft Picks: DE Sheldon Rankins (Louisville, #12 overall), WR Michael Thomas (Ohio State, #47), S Vonn Bell (Ohio State, #61)

Preseason Awards

MVP: Drew Brees

Non-QB MVP: Cameron Jordan

Offensive Player of the Year:  Terron Armstead

Defensive Player of the Year: Delvin Breaux

Other Notable players: Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Kenny Vaccaro, Nick Fairley

Strongest position group: Quarterback

Weakest position group: Front seven

Preseason Projection

The Saints are projected for 6.5 wins with a 90% confidence interval of 2.8 to 10.3 wins. They begin the season with an approximate 12.1% chance of making the playoffs and a less than 1% chance of winning the Super Bowl. The graph below shows the Saints probability of winning X number of games.

Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers finish last season 6-10 and last place in the NFC South for the fifth straight season. Lovie Smith was fired in the offseason and Dirk Koetter will take his place. Koetter was the Buccaneer’s offensive coordinator last season and has previous NFL experience with the Jaguars and the Falcons. Todd Monken will take over at offensive coordinator in place of Koetter. Monken spent his last three seasons as Southern Mississippi’s head coach. The Bucanneers had the 17th ranked offense last season-much improved for their last place ranking in 2014. Mike Smith, former head coach of the Falcons, will step back into coaching this season as defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers defense ranked 18th in the NFL last season and had the 9th best rushing attack.

Offseason Summary

Departures: CB Mike Jenkins, DT Tony McDaniel, DT Henry Melton

Arrivals: G J.R. Sweezy, DE Robert Ayers, CB Brent Grimes, S Chris Conte, LB Daryl Smith

Top Draft Picks: CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida, #11), Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky, #39), K Roberto Aguayo (Florida State, #59)

Preseason Awards

MVP: Jameis Winston

Non-QB MVP: Robert Ayers

Offensive Player of the Year: Mike Evans

Defensive Player of the Year: Gerald McCoy

Other Notable players: Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, Demar Dotson, Daryl Smith, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Strongest position group: Front seven

Weakest position group: Secondary

Preseason Projection

The Buccaneers are projected for 7.1 wins with a 90% confidence interval of 3.3 to 10.9 wins. They begin the season with an approximate 19.1% chance of making the playoffs and a less than 1% chance of winning the Super Bowl. The graph below shows the Buccaneers probability of winning X number of games.

Bucs

Projected NFC South Standings

  • Carolina Panthers (13-3)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
  • New Orleans Saints (7-9)
  • Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
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