I think the strongest teams in the league this season overall reside in the AFC. But a look at the NFC reveals that there are definitely a handful of teams that on a good day will push the best of the best.
The truth again probably lies somewhere between what I really think and what I came up with at the playoffpredictors site.
Green Bay 12-4
Explanation: The only one that shocked me a bit in this division was Detroit. After a brief and slight slump in 2016, Aaron Rodgers righted the ship and Green Bay clearly seems to be the pick of the litter right now. Minnesota has maybe an 11-5 defense, but an offense that is just uninspiring. I expect a lot of close, low-scoring losses. Chicago probably wins more than two games, but will finish last as part of its rebuild.
I thought I would expect the Lions to roughly match Minnesota. But the talent is certainly there to exceed those expectations by a bit.
New Orleans 8-8
Explanation: So … No, I don’t truly expect a 13-3 season by Carolina. But I do think it’s very plausible to think the Panthers rebound from the 2016 doldrums to finish somewhere between that end and the 2015 Super Bowl run. Tampa continues to get competitive, but in this iteration finishes tied with Drew Brees and the Saints at 8-8 – I think both teams are on the rise. Tampa could finish a bit better. I think that’s about right as a ceiling for the Saints.
The Falcons pick might get me mocked. But look at what happened to Carolina in the year after a Super Bowl loss. And also, I buy into the impact Kyle Shanahan had on Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and company. Maybe it doesn’t drop to 7-9, but a game either side of .500 would not surprise me in the least.
NY Giants 13-3
Explanation: I buy the Giants this year. The offense added Brandon Marshall to an already dangerous collection of weapons. Jason Pierre-Paul should be better with a full year recovery behind him. The secondary is great. And Dallas won’t repeat. I am on board with the Dak Prescott regression bandwagon. The Eagles are improving. The Redskins are … confusing. Probably better than four wins, but … I can’t figure that team out.
Los Angeles 3-13
San Francisco 2-14
Explanation: Arizona is better than it showed last year, but is not as good as Seattle, which still fields a great defense that got better with the Sheldon Richardson. The Rams’ defense probably wins them more than three games but I’m not sold on Jared Goff. The 49ers probably win more than two, as well, but it’s going to take a while for Shanahan to make the team truly competitive