NFL Season Preview: NFC
The Wolf previews the NFC and gives all his futures bets for the conference.
The Wolf could not have been more keen on Dallas to sweep all before them in 2016 prior to Tony Romo’s back injury. Even with Romo now forecast to miss the first half of the season. Even with Romo sidelined, confidence is still extremely high on a huge Cowboys bounceback season. With the best offensive line in the NFL, Dallas shape to run the ball and then run it some more. And rookie QB Dak Prescott looks cool and composed and able to take advantage of a solid receiving corps. Their metrics from last season were incredible: a -22 turnover differential, a 2-6 record in close games, a fall of eight wins and 1.2 wins below their Pythagorean win total. With a powderpuff schedule, the Cowboys are every chance to return to a 12-win team.
The Giants have made a change at coach with rookie Ben McAdoo and have drafted depth at wide receiver but it is hard to see them improving significantly. Better health should see them post a better record (they ranked 31st in both offensive and defensive injuries last season) but they look like a fringe playoff contender at best.
Philadelphia and Washington are both no good. The Eagles have moved on from Chip Kelly and seem to be in a rebuilding mode with DeMarco Murray released. They were worse than their 7-9 record indicated. The Redskins were surprise division winners last year despite a rough run with injuries. Outside of Jordan Reed though they lack real offensive class. The addition of Josh Norman will help their coverage.
NY Giants 9-7
Minnesota were the trendy tip to take the NFC North for the second straight season … all before Teddy Bridgwater went down and their quarterback situation was thrown wide open. The Wolf was keen to take them on before Teddy B’s season ended. Always be wary of a team that makes a notable leap in wins on the back of a strong record in close games. Everything broke for the Vikings last year. It definitely will not in 2016.
Green Bay are heavily favoured to win their fifth division title in six years and deservedly so. The Packers have made the playoffs every year since 2009 and have arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Jordy Nelson is back and that will help the receiving game no end. You know they will be thereabouts.
Very keen to bet on Detroit though to take the North at big odds. The Lions have not won an NFC North title since 1993 – nearly a quarter century – and have lost star receiver Calvin Johnson but they have a great schedule and the offense really started to click with the change at offensive coordinator over the backend of last year. The Lions are better balanced at the real deal in 2016.
Put a big line through Chicago. They have just one division title since 2006, they’ve lost the ever-reliable Matt Forte and their defence is a mess. With Jay Cutler at quarterback, their upside is limited. This has all the hallmarks of a five or six-win team.
Green Bay 10-6
There is very little that appeals about the NFC South this year. The Panthers have won the division three straight seasons and will almost certainly make it four due to the lack of competition. They will not be anywhere near the team that went 15-1 last season though and marched to the Super Bowl. The +20 differential, the 7.5-win jump, the 6-1 record in close games … the Panthers weren’t nearly as good last year as their record suggested.
Atlanta again look uninspiring on both sides of the ball. They have made some investments in free agency but they don’t look particularly astute. They are middling at best. Tampa Bay reached six wins last year and are building but still look to have holes on offense and defence. New Orleans are the worst defensive team in the NFL so they will be what they always are: gunslinging and inconsistent.
New Orleans 6-10
Tampa Bay 6-10
The West has arguably the two best teams in the NFC in Seattle and Arizona. The Cardinals assumed the division mantle last season but the Seahawks look set to bounce back in 2016.
The Wolf rates Seattle the best team in the NFL this year and is happy to bet them to win the division, conference and championship. The Seahawks have no Marshawn Lynch and have lost some key defensive pieces but they were a better team than their 10-6 record suggested last year and they went an awful 2-5 in close games.
The Cardinals are also playoff bound and play probably the most exciting game in the NFL. They have a high-powered and deep offense that can score at will and combine with a punishing defence. They are a double digit win team who can push the Seahawks.
The Rams have shifted from St Louis to Los Angeles but their mediocrity has likely followed them. Top pick Jared Goff isn’t ready and it is likely to castrate an offense that will be solely focussed on Todd Gurley.
San Francisco are the worst team in the NFL. Their win line of 5.5 is absurdly high. Chip Kelly is a major upgrade on the least qualified coach in NFL history but this team has almost no weapons and definitely no hope.
Los Angeles 7-9
San Francisco 3-13