Despite being primarily a fantasy sports site, I wanted to weigh in with my thoughts and picks for the upcoming season on each NFL team. Without further ado, here’s my breakdown of the NFC.
My breakdown of the AFC can be found here. All lines courtesy of Bovada.
1. New York Giants – Over 9 Wins (+120)
The NFC East is an interesting division, as I think the winner will almost definitely be eliminated quickly in the playoffs. That also means the division is up for grabs, and any of these teams could make a run to take over the division. The Giants have a ton of questions defensively, and their linebacking corps and secondary are well below average. However, Eli Manning will be leading a unit that isn’t regarded as an elite offense in the NFL but really does play like one. The Giants were 5th in the league in yards per play last season – that’s ahead of teams like the Patriots, Broncos, and Packers. They start off tough with a game at Dallas and then taking on Denver at home, but after that they should go on a run against easy opponents. It will come down to the divisional games against Washington and Dallas, and I say they pull ‘em out.
2. Washington Redskins – Over 8.5 Wins (-105)
This division is probably the closest in the NFL from team 1 to 4, and the Redskins are the biggest question market. Will NFL teams be able to adjust to RG3 and their spread offense now that they’ve seen it and had time to prepare for it? I’m not sure they will as a whole, but the element of surprise is gone, and RG3 may be running less following his knee injury. The defense is good not great and while they could easily fall below .500, I’ll take my chances on game-changing talent, and that’s what they have in their offense.
3. Dallas Cowboys – Under 8.5 Wins (-120)
After having the 11th ranked offense and 25th ranked defense in 2012, it really baffled me that the Cowboys spent their first 3 picks on offensive players, and 2 of them on receivers (their strongest position). Their secondary remains a huge issue and they will be in a ton of shootouts. I wouldn’t be shocked if they end up atop the division, but I think the Giants and Reskins are just a little better.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Under 7.5 Wins (-135)
The thing on this line is that it hinges on the coaching change more than anything else that has happened with the team, and that makes me very nervous. I’m a big Chip Kelly fan, but is he enough to bump this team that was 4-12 last year and is without its best receiver to a .500 team? It’s definitely possible, but I’d give it less than a 50% chance. The defense has major issues on the line and in the secondary, and this line seems a tad too high.
1. Green Bay Packers – Over 10.5 Wins (-110)
After going 15-1 two years ago, the Packers slipped to 11-5 last year. They had a really tough schedule, struggled to stop the run, and probably had the worst running game in the NFL. As a team their running backs averaged 3.55 yards per carry and while I don’t love Eddie Lacy, he should be a clear upgrade over anybody they featured last season. The defense still worries me a little bit, but Clay Matthews being fully healthy should put in a career year and Datone Jones was a nice pickup in the draft to bolster the run D.
2. Chicago Bears – Over 8.5 Wins (-145)
It’s easy to forget just how good the Bears were at the beginning of last season. They started off 7-1 with dominating defensive performances before slowing in the second half of the season and missing the playoffs at 10-6. They return essentially the same unit this year in a division that should be a little easier and an offense that could be a little better under Marc Trestman. 9 wins is a very reasonable mark for Chicago to hit this season.
3. Detroit Lions – Under 8 Wins (Even)
This is a line that seems way too high. The front 4 for the Lions is great, but the rest of the defense could be an absolute disaster. Their schedule is still really tough, and they didn’t add much talent other than Reggie Bush. I don’t see how this team is jumping 5 wins after a 4-12 finish last year. Matthew Stafford isn’t a great QB and even with the Vikings taking a step back, the Lions are a clear under for me.
4. Minnesota Vikings – Under 7.5 Wins (-180)
Well this one is -180 for a reason. I actually really like what the Vikings did in the draft but when you look at the talent on this team, there’s no way they can replicate their 10-6 run last year. AP should be incredible once again, but a 2,100 yard season on a 6.0 YPC is too much ask for. Then you look at the passing game with Cordarelle Patterson replacing Percy Harvin and suddenly the offense looks relatively easy to stop if you stack the box. One player can only take you so far in the NFL, and I see the Vikings as a sub-.500 team this year.
1. Atlanta Falcons – Over 10 Wins (+115)
The Falcons are a team without many holes. Their offense is one of the best and most balanced in the NFL, and Steven Jackson will be a huge upgrade over the corpse of Michael Turner. Defensively, Osi Umenyiora should be able to replace John Abraham’s pass rushing adequately and while their run defense is their weakest unit, their young linebacking corps should continue to improve. Akeem Dent at mike will probably be the make or break player for this defense as the Falcons try to prove that they can hang with the elite of the NFC. Even if they’re a notch below the Seahawks and Niners, I still think 10 wins is an easy mark for them to hit, and one that they’re much more likely to eclipse than fall under.
2. New Orleans Saints – Over 9 Wins (-150)
In the Saints’ last 3 seasons with Sean Peyton at the helm, they’ve had 13, 11, and 13 wins. The biggest issue with the Saints for 2013 is clearly with their defense. They let up 6.5 yards per play last season, the highest rate in the league, struggling against the run and the pass. I like Kenny Vaccaro and Chris Carr to help shore up their secondary, but the rush defense will still be rough. This win number seems a little low and I see no way they end .500 or below. The offense is just too explosive and teams won’t be able to keep up.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Over 7.5 Wins (-145)
While most teams around the NFL used their first rounders to acquire rookies, the Bucs used theirs to acquire Darelle Revis. Formerly the most valuable defensive player in the league, the trade for Revis and the signing of Dashon Goldson immediately solve the biggest flaw of the team – it’s secondary. This team will really fall on the shoulders of Josh Freeman and other than a few individual games (Weeks 3, 15, and 16), he had a really solid season in 2012. If he is able to retain some of that success and Doug Martin is as good as last year, this team will be a tough out for anybody and make the NFC South a division to fear.
4. Carolina Panthers – Under 7 Wins (+160)
The Panthers look like a team that could be pesky all season, but I think their late season push was overrated. Winning 5 of your last 6 games is impressive, but none of them were true impact games other than their win over the Falcons, who already had the division locked up. Cam Newton is a player who gets overrated because of his fantasy value and needs to develop is arm more, and the defense is still a project. I like the +160 here and don’t see a way for the Panthers to get to .500 in this tough division.
1. Seattle Seahawks – Over 10.5 Wins (-135)
The Seahawks may be the best team in the NFL. Percy Harvin’s injury hurts their explosiveness offensively, but this was a unit that managed a 6th best yards per play offense last season without him. Christine Michael is a great 2nd RB to throw in, and Russell Wilson should continue to develop his game. Their defense and home field advantage are the main reasons I have faith in this team as the season goes on, and I’d say 12 wins is even more likely than 11.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Under 11 Wins (-140)
I’ve been pretty bullish on other high lines, and this is one where I’m going to lean towards the under. By no means do I hate the Niners – I think they’re a phenomenal team. I just think the Seahawks are a little better and their schedule leads to them being more likely to struggle and win 10 games rather than get up to 12. In addition to the Seahawks twice, they have the Falcons, Texans, and Packers at home as well as a couple tough road dates in New Orleans and Washington. Their offensive line is phenomenal and the offense should be consistent even without Michael Crabtree. Their linebacking corps is the best in the NFL, but the secondary will be a little weaker than last year and the Niners could easily fall in a shootout with some of the teams previously mentioned.
3. St. Louis Rams – Under 7.5 Wins (+110)
The Rams don’t seem to have much an identity. Their defense is solid, Sam Bradford is decent but is never going to be great, and the rushing game is relatively weak. I like Jeff Fisher as a coach but fail to see the impact players on either side of the ball for this team. This team should probably stay around even with where they were last year and 7 wins seems like a fair target but I think there’s also a good chance they finish behind the Cardinals.
4. Arizona Cardinals – Over 5.5 Wins (-155)
Even though they’ve won just 1 of their last 12 regular season games, I really like the Cardinals for this year. They shored up QB to a guy in Carson Palmer who can be a league average player, and their defense is clearly above average. Even if the rushing game is pretty bad, they have some playmaking wide receivers and should be able pick up 6 wins relatively easily.
Projected Playoff Seeds
- Seattle Seahawks
- Green Bay Packers
- Atlanta Falcons
- New York Giants
- San Francisco 49ers
- New Orleans Saints
- Falcons over Saints
- 49ers over Giants
- Seahawks over 49ers
- Packers over Falcons
- Seahawks over Packers
- Seahawks over Broncos
Matt Cott is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis. Follow him on Twitter @KidCotti21 and all of his work on RotoAnalysis.com, BasketballWAR.com, & CBSPhilly.com!