This one got a whole lot more interesting with the Tom Brady show moving to Tampa Bay. Red guesses he couldn’t resist the TB12 in TB idea.
New Orleans Saints
Much like the Patriots for the past 20 or so seasons, it just makes sense to keep on picking the Saints. They were arguably the best team in the NFC last season before collapsing against the Vikings in the playoffs. Collapse may be harsh, but the Saints had to score 10 in the 4th quarter including a last second FG to get to OT where they promptly failed to stop the Vikings march down the field for the win. Not much has changed in the Crescent City. Well, Drew Brees is a year older but has shown little signs of being tired and old yet. He has perhaps the No. 1 receiver in the game in Michael Thomas (149 catches) and a hopefully healthy Alvin Kamara in the backfield who has a legitimate shot at a 1000/1000 season in Payton’s offense. The offensive line is one of the best in the business. The defense was shored up. What’s not to like? If Brees stays healthy not much. Without him there is the exciting but unproven Tayson Hill and the human interception machine Jameis Winston. New Orleans wins division at 12-4.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Now that Native Americans can finally breathe easier, how much longer before we stop glorifying sea-faring criminals? Oh and Tampa Bay managed to make a few strategic pick-ups in the off-season including tired old Tom Brady and his go to guy Gronk. But lest ye forget, this is a franchise whose most recent playoff appearance was during the W. Bush years and has not won a playoff game since Superb Owl 37 (Red is done with Roman Numerals). Brady claims that he is going to run Bruce Arian’s offense – which would be a good idea if he could still throw the ball more than 40 yards. That system is a far cry from the dink and dunk that Brady has relied on for the last decade and requires time in the pocket – something that the Bucs’ offensive line did not provide Jameis Winston last season. It’s easier to throw the ball up for grabs than to stand there and get killed. That said throwing the ball up for grabs to Mike Evans is usually a winning proposition. You might remember Evans as the guy who won a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Football. Red only sort of believes. TB gets the benefit of a weaker NFC and 3 wild card spots but still cannot eke its way into the playoffs. Tampa Bay at 8-8.
This team is a mystery. They still have not recovered from the humiliation at the hands of the Patriots 4 seasons ago. This should be a better team than they are. But there were signs of life last season. After a 1–7 start, they rallied to a 7-9 finish saving the bacon of HC Dan Quinn. The defense fueled that remarkable turnaround moving towards elite status in giving up only 18.6 PPG in the second half. The question remains whether Matty Ice can use the high pedigree talent (all 11 starters on offense are former first round picks) to score points. Adding Todd Gurley may help. Red may be crazy but he sees the Falcons finally shaking off the ghosts of seasons past and making another foray into the playoffs. Atlanta in at 9-7 for the final Wild Card spot.
They will probably suck even with best all around back in the league and a new starter at QB in Teddy B. Red could be drastically wrong about this team. Carolina at 6-10.