NFC South Preview

NOBODY REACHED .500 LAST YEAR...WHO'S DESTINED TO WIN THE NFC SOUTH IN 2015?!

Looks like we saved the worst for last! The nature of NFL parity is such that it's very hard to find a division where NOBODY can play .500 ball. If it's a bad division...they all get six games against each other which should launch at least one team up to fake respectability. But, in 2014, the entire NFC South finished below .500. Carolina Panthers made the playoffs at 7-8-1.

2014 NFC SOUTH DIVISION STANDINGS
Carolina: 7-8-1 (+3 turnovers, #20 rated schedule)
New Orleans: 7-9 (-13 turnovers, #27 rated schedule)
Atlanta: 6-10 (+5 turnovers, #28 rated schedule)
Tampa Bay: 2-14 (-8 turnovers, #29 rated schedule)

Notebook: Oh god...it gets worse...nobody could reach the .500 mark as they were all playing soft schedules! New Orleans was more like a 6-10 or 5-11 team based on those numbers...while Atlanta may have been 4-12 vs. a neutral schedule. How could all of these teams have fallen so far so fast? Tampa Bay was in the tank for draft position...but it's still hard to lose 14 times against one of the league's easiest schedules. To the degree there's good news in that data...Cam Newton was making better decisions in a way that kept the team on the right side of turnover differential. Atlanta did that as well thanks to a veteran quarterback presence. What a disaster for New Orleans! Has the league finally caught up to that offense?

2014 YARDS-PER-PLAY
New Orleans: 6.0 on offense, 6.0 on defense
Carolina: 5.2 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Atlanta: 5.8 on offense, 6.1 on defense
Tampa Bay: 5.0 on offense, 5.5 on defense

Notebook: Not as bad as you might have been thinking...but you had to adjust for schedule strength. And, of course...turnovers for New Orleans! Horrible defense for the Saints and Falcons considering who they were playing last year. Carolina at least had a competitive defense...but had to grind on offense with a lack of explosiveness (which has already taken a hit injury-wise in the 2015 Preseason).

2014 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
New Orleans: 48% on offense, 46% on defense
Carolina: 42% on offense, 42% on defense
Atlanta: 44% on offense, 47% on defense
Tampa Bay: 37% on offense, 44% on defense

Notebook: If you run your finger down the defensive marks...you can see that opponents were largely in control of their own destiny vs. this division. Everyone could move the chains at least reasonably well. Opponents of the Saints and Falcons moved at will. On offense, you can see which three teams had veteran quarterbacks, and which was struggling with a starter that was in over his head.

2015 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
Carolina: 8.5
New Orleans: 8.5
Atlanta: 8.5
Tampa Bay 5.5 or 6

Frankly, the market can't make heads nor tails of the contenders. All three have had some sort of recent success if you go back a few years. Any of the three could fix their problems and jump up to 11 victories. Any could falter even more if they're unable to fix what wasn't working. A real roulette wheel at the top. Then, the Bucs will hope the Jameis Winston learning experience isn't too painful.

Speaking of that...you'll be able to watch Winston and the Bucs Monday Night in a TV game, as three of the four divisional teams are still set to play here in Week Two. We originally planned the NFC South for this day to get you ready for Saints/Patriots. But...everyone but the Falcons is on the weekend slate...

Saturday: New Orleans hosts New England
Saturday: Carolina hosts Miami
Monday: Tampa Bay hosts Cincinnati

Be sure you watch those teams carefully either live or on taped replay. A point of emphasis for all three will be third down defense. Obviously the Saints have a lot of work to do on that side of the ball. Carolina is more worried about opening up the offense. Tampa Bay wants to keep Winston's head on straight while his production gradually rises up to how good he already thinks he is.

JIM HURLEY doesn't have that problem. He's been the best in the field for decades! You can always purchase game day BEST BETS in both football and baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 before the earliest games start Saturday or Sunday.

We've now finished all eight divisional previews. Please check the archives so you can print them all out and have them handy this month and through the first few weeks of the new regular season. A couple of TV previews will finish out Week Two for us. Here's what's on tap through the next week...

Sunday: NFL TV Preview...St. Louis Rams at Tennessee Titans on FOX
Monday: NFL TV Preview...Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Bucs on ESPN
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants
Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview...Baltimore at Kansas City
Thurs-Friday: NFL TV Preview...Detroit at Jacksonville on CBS
Saturday: NFL TV Preview...Seattle at San Diego on CBS
Sunday August 30: NFL TV Preview...Houston at New Orleans on FOX

Vegas oddsmakers are always like the NFC South when it comes to battling JIM HURLEY. They're going to lose...and NETWORK clients are going to GET THE MONEY!

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