I won’t spend a lot of time on them since they’re pretty chalky, but my NFC Picks:
NFC East: 1. DAL 2. NYG(*) 3. PHI 4. WAS I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the top 3 teams won. The Eagles have a ferocious defense that may well be better than New York’s, but after I prematurely ate crow Wentz was awful the rest of the year, so we’ll see. I suspect Prescott was at the top of his abilities last year, but then again he was 3rd in DVOA — he doesn’t need to develop, and indeed can regress somewhat and still be firmly championship caliber.
NFC North: 1. GB 2. MIN 3. DET 4. CHI The Packers have the best QB in the league and hence are contenders, and the acquisition of Bennett shows that Thompson is finally recognizing that the window isn’t infinite, although I’d like them more as a Super Bowl team if they had a better coach. I don’t like any other team in the division, though, so if Rodgers is healthy the only question is how many home games they’ll have in the playoffs.
NFC South 1. ATL 2. TB(*) 3. CAR 4. NO Since Brees is still great, a division anyone can win. I don’t think the Super Bowl hangover is really a much of a thing and for reasons that should be obvious don’t think Kyle Shanahan is a transcendent SUPERGENIUS, so I like the Falcons to repeat, but I suspect the division will come down to injuries, with Newton’s health status being especially cruical. And you do have to worry how the Bucs will fare without placekicking SUPERPROSPECT Roberto Aguayo — maybe to be sure they should use a first rounder on a kicker next year.
NFC West 1. SEA 2. ARI 3. LA 4. SF The Seahawks still have the coach/GM/QB trinity that make you a presumptive contender, and especially with the addition of Richardson the defense should be closer to vintage Legion of Boom than it’s been in the last couple of years. On offense, Wilson has a better-than-usual set of weapons, and the trade of Kearse will force Bevell to try something new and develop red zone plays for NFL caliber-receivers. But as always, the Seahawks have a bad offensive line that they don’t seem to take seriously because Tom Cable will fix everything although he’s never fixed anything. so we’ll see if Wilson can actually make it through the year. The Cardinals are still very talented and I like Arians, but it’s hard to pick a team relying on a 38-year-old Carson Palmer backed up by Drew Stanton and Hey-Gabba-Gabbert. (BTW, the other backup QBs in the division are Austin Davis, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen, and C.J. Beathard plus Brian Hoyer is starting. Yeah, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job for purely football reasons — I mean, he’s no Kellen Clemens.) Hiring Wade will presumably lock in one of LA’s annual 5-3 wins over Seattle, but while Goff will improve this year he was so historically terrible last year that he could improve substantially and still preside over a bottom-5 offense. The 49ers are still owned by the guy who sided with Trent Baalke and Smashmouth in a power struggle with Jim Harbaugh, and are starting Brain Hoyer backed up by C.J. Beathard.
I’ll have a separate post with more research on it later this week, but for your Sunday reading this Mike Tanier piece about the bullshit analytical foundations of extreme tanking is really good. Speaking of which, really looking forward to the Bills/Jets game the fine folks at CBS are favoring me with…