Yesterday, USA Today published their 2017 regular season record projections for every NFL team, and of course what immediately attracted my attention was how they saw the NFC South unfold this upcoming year. Obviously, I was most curious to see what they thought of the New Orleans Saints after an offseason during which the team has already been impacted by various personnel moves, injuries, and the NFL draft. Well, let me spoil the surprise right away: you’re not going to like what USA Today had to say. However, we all know that every season in the NFL is a new one, and history tells us that projections are the most inexact of sciences. Nonetheless, here’s how USA Today sees the NFC South in 2017:
Let’s take a quick look at the main points that led USA Today to these rankings, and I’ll give you my own opinions and rankings. Let ‘s get to it!
Coming off an 11-5 record in 2016, a division title and an appearance in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons are the logical choice to repeat as NFC South champs in 2017. Gone is the mystique of the division that no team could win in consecutive years, let’s remember that the Panthers won the South three seasons in a row from 2013 to 2015. Atlanta also has a lot of young talent as USA Today points out, “they may have the most loaded roster in the league.”
The Falcons have a good roster indeed and they are coming off an impressive playoff run last season, one that should have culminated in a Super Bowl championship. Thank Jesus, they found a way to squander a second half 25-point lead in the Super Bowl (man, was that enjoyable or what???). When you see Atlanta’s record in 2017 (11-5) this is a team that got hot from week 14 last season when they were 7-5 and never looked back until said second half of the Big Game. Not exactly a squad that was dominant throughout the season. With the inevitable “Super Bowl loser hangover,” and the change at offensive coordinator, I do not envision the Falcons being the runaway NFC South champion that many make them to be. I disagree with USA Today in that I see Atlanta being a decent team in 2017, but one that loses three more games and will end the regular season with an 8-8 record. This only place the Falcons will blow a 25-point lead in the postseason next year is on Madden 2018.
USA Today based their prediction mainly on the offensive side of the ball. With Jameis Winston at the helm and the addition of lethal weapons like DeSean Jackson and former Bama tight end O.J. Howard, the Bucs figure to be a pain the crotch of every defensive coordinator that they’ll face in 2017.
In the last three years, the Bucs have steadily gotten better: 2-14 in 2014, 6-10 in 2015 and 9-7 last season. This progression seems to lead to the inevitable one to two games improvement. I think that Jameis Winston is a year or two from becoming the best quarterback in the NFC South, one that will give nightmares to opposing fans for a few years to come. I see the Bucs end the 2017 regular season with an 11-5 record and their first trip to the playoffs since 2007.
When I read the first line of USA Today’s analysis for the Saints’ record, I wanted to punch my computer screen. But then I remembered that I actually needed said computer to write this piece and that in fact, my reaction was just a case of: “the truth always hurts.” The line read: “Same Old Saints?” I cannot say that it isn’t warranted. The last three seasons, the Saints have been a model of consistency. The problem of course is that they’ve been consistently mediocre, with a 7-9 record from 2014 to 2016.
Something’s got to give, right? The Saints will either go under 7-9, in which case Sean Payton will probably be sent packing for his mostly underachieving ways since that beautiful yet fateful year of 2011. Or, Payton and Co. will remember that playing defense is part of the game of football and the Saints will find a way to win three more games to end with a 10-6 record and maybe a Wild Card playoff berth. I think the latter will happen, that’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.
Which Cam Newton will show up in 2017? USA Today isn’t betting on it being “Good Cam,” thus they envision the Panthers winning only one more game than they did in their lousy 2016 campaign. Carolina’s schedule is no piece of cake either, as USA Today notes: “October looks rough with just one of five games in Charlotte…”
The Panthers had a window that seemed wide open, but lasted only about two-and-a-half years. From 12-4 (2013), they fell to 7-8-1 (2014) while still winning a putrid division. In 2015 they rebounded magnificently, riding a 15-1 record all the way to the Super Bowl, then came the 2016 crash that saw them go 6-10. Despite Cam’s prowess, Carolina has been led by its defense during its recent run, but last season let us see quite a few chinks in the Cats’ armor. With Luke Kuechly recent bout with injuries (concussions) I’m not betting much on the 2017 Panthers and I do see them finishing last in the division once again, with a 7-9 record.
So here’s my prediction of how the NFC South will shape up when the 2017-18 regular season ends:
This is all speculation and educated guesses, but that’s what makes it fun, because on the eve of the opening of training camp, we can all dream and hope springs eternal. Time will quickly tell whether we’ll be celebrating postseason football in January or lamenting yet another mediocre year. Here’s to hoping that it’s the former.
What will the Saints’ record be in 2017?
This poll is closed
16-0 baby...ok seriously, 11-5 South Champs
10-6, miss the playoffs by a whisker
7-9, same old, same old. Fire Payton!
4-12, the wheels they’ve fallen off
I once ate a record 16 burgers and 0 regurgitation