Every year, the NFL has a division that annoys fans of other teams. It’s not like the annoyance when you see your team has to play both the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots two weeks in a row on the road. That’s just pure torture. This annoyance is about records. It seems like there is always a team that gets into the playoffs because the other teams in their division are lousy, not because that team was playoff-worthy. Last season it was the NFC South. Will they repeat this season? Let’s take a look.
We continue our asinine analysis of NFL teams that you hate to love and love to hate to prepare you for the 2015 season. Our next targets: the teams of the NFC South.
Record: 6-10. Five out of those six wins came against other teams in the NFC South. Unfortunately for the Falcons, divisional records only count for playoff berth tie-breakers.
The Good: Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are both healthy, so the passing attack of the Falcons should be as good as it ever was. With players going down during the preseason, it’s not something that should be taken for granted. The injury bug merely nudged Roddy White.
The Bad: The idea is that taking Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, and making him a head coach will help bolster Atlanta’s defense. Quinn has quite a mountain to climb after the Falcons ranked dead last in total yards allowed with 6,372 and yards per game with 398.3. It’s not like they were playing against Peyton Manning every game.
The Ugly: It’s official. Mercedes-Benz is taking over the NFC South. As if having the naming rights for the home of the New Orleans Saints wasn’t enough, the future Atlanta sports stadium, set to open in 2017, will also be named after Mercedes-Benz. This makes jokes about how the stadium looks like more than just the state flower unfurling much more apt.
Yeah, it’s obvious, right? It’s the underside of that giant ship in the movie Independence Day.
Record: 7-8-1. In the mess that was the NFC South last season, the Carolina Panthers rose to the top with the least number of losses for the season. Thanks to a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Panthers just missed out on being as good at backing into the playoffs as the Seattle Seahawks. Maybe this year they can take the crown by hosting a wild card game with a 6-10 record.
The Good: The Carolina Panthers are in the NFC South. How bad can it get? You can check off two games against the Bucs and one each from the Saints and Falcons. Add wins against Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Washington, throw in a random tie against Dallas, and you have the 2014 season all over again.
The Bad: Half of the pass catchers Cam Newton could rely on are out for the season. Okay, so half of two is only one, which is why the season-ending injury to Kelvin Benjamin is so much more painful than any fantasy football manager could understand. All teams have to do is put their defensive backs on Greg Olsen, their linebackers on Cam Newton, and let the safeties watch over anyone that tries to run 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.
The Ugly: Cam Newton will probably be testing out new touchdown celebrations after being sighted wearing a shirt in practice with a Batman symbol on it. As any superhero aficionado knows, Batman does not rip open his shirt to reveal himself, so Cam will have to give up that move.
Come to think of it, Superman really doesn’t do that either. At least, not in public. someone give Cam a stack of comic books for research, please. He already knows the playbook. Everyone already knows the playbook of the Carolina Panthers.
New Orleans Saints
Record: 7-9. When you lose to the Cleveland Browns, you don’t deserve to back into the playoffs. That game was the difference between wining the division by half a game or losing the division by half a game. Who dat, indeed.
The Good: The Saints have finally started pushing that run game other teams are always raving about. C.J. Spiller joins Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson in a backfield that will surely keep defenses from leaving one player at the line of scrimmage.
The Bad: With the departure of Jimmy Graham, Drew Brees may have a tough time finding someone to throw the ball to. It’s not just about talent, either. Brandin Cooks has the speed to get open if Brees can just see him over two rows of linemen who are 6’4″ or taller.
The Ugly: Meanwhile, at Rob Ryan’s house…
I think it’s safe to assume there are two possible reasons that Rob Ryan’s house is sinking: wild French Quarter-style parties every night during the offseason or he’s stocking all of his candy on one side of the house. You need to balance it out, Rob!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Record: 2-14. 2015 Champions! Okay, so the Bucs were champions of the 2015 NFL Draft, not the Super Bowl. Sometimes you need to celebrate the little things when your team hasn’t had a winning season in four years.
The Good: In a division that is so bad, and particularly bad with two of the remaining three teams having defenses ranked at the bottom, you think the Bucs could outscore someone with a #1 draft pick quarterback taking snaps, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson running routes, and Doug Martin banging into the line.
The Bad: All of the above was true except for the rookie quarterback, and the Bucs ended up with two wins. I don’t think a draft pick automatically adds six wins and a playoff berth. That offensive line couldn’t protect Josh McCown, and he’s a bona fide veteran when it comes to terrible offensive lines after playing for the Chicago Bears.
The Ugly: With the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston.
Fresh off of a Rose Bowl blowout featuring a fumble that would make Mark Sanchez giggle, Winston was drafted by the Bucs because the team believes he is their best shot at becoming relevant again in the NFL. Or maybe they just thought Winston would fit right in with the sad humor on the field.