Yesterday I posted the power rankings from the end of the regular season last year. From there I like to get started with my analysis on who I expect to be better than the consensus and who I expect to be worse. The rankings noted below are my own and may differ from the NFL rankings. Each day I will analyze 5 teams.
Arizona Cardinals Total 5.5 2012 Record 5-11
The Cards had the toughest schedule in football last season. Having to play in, what is now, one of the toughest divisions in football took its toll. With just 5 wins Arizona was better than just the Lions and Eagles in the NFC. Arizona had no quarterback to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald last year. They ranked 28th in passing offense and 30th in overall offense. This season they should get an uptick in passing with veteran Carson Palmer now throwing it. The defense was ok, 14th overall. Looking at the schedule there won’t be too many pushover games despite playing a last place schedule. Detroit and Philadelphia figure to improve, the NFC South is solid. Their best shot at a win comes against Jacksonville in week 11. They are going to have to get 5 more wins some place in order to get the over here. Leaning under.
Atlanta Falcons Total 10 2012 Record 13-3
The Falcons boasted the best record in the NFC last season. Many thought the record was better than it should have been. The Falcons squeaked by in many games last year against much weaker opponents. The won games against Carolina, Oakland, Arizona and Tampa that they not only could have lost but probably should have lost. Add in a week 2 win over Denver who had Peyton Manning still trying to figure out the offense and his teammates. Manning had 4 early turnovers and still almost won the game late. Last year Atlanta played the 13th toughest schedule. This year they will get a first place schedule which means playing at San Francisco and Green Bay and home for Seattle and Washington. They play the AFC East which means New England but they do catch a break with the Jets. I expect the division to be much more competitive with the Saints focused on football and Carolina and Tampa improving with great young talent. With that said 10 looks to be a number we can not get much value with. Better options elsewhere.
Baltimore Ravens Total 8.5 2012 Record 10-6
Make no mistake this is Joe Flacco and Ray Rices team. The Ravens are offense first now ranking 10th last season. The Super Bowl champs come into this season looking a bit different then they did when they were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy back in February. Losses like Anquan Boldin, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will impact this team for sure but Ozzie Newsome might be the best GM in the game today. Coupled with a very good head coach I do not expect the Ravens to live off of last seasons successes. The Ravens ranked 11th overall at the end of the regular season. The team got hot once they fired Cam Cameron. I gave some statistics to that case in my Super Bowl preview selection last year. A look at the Raven schedule shows that the road won’t be easy but they need to be just 1 game worse than last season. They are heavy favorites against the Jets and Cleveland at home. They need to find 7 more wins. If they can go 5-3 at home they will need to go 4-4 on the road. The toughest road game will be week 1 in a rematch from last seasons Divisional game with the Broncos. The remaining 7 games are all games they can win. They will need 4 of those if they get just 5 at home. I like Baltimore to find a way and go over the 8.5.
Buffalo Bills Total 6.5 2012 Record 6-10
The Bills were a sexy over pick last season and disappointed many. This year the number to beat is one more win then last season. Buffalo played a weak schedule in 2012 ranking 29th. The defense was awful and finished 30th overall. Can EJ Manuel be the Russell Wilson of 2013. That is the big question. But the even bigger question is can this defense stop their opponents enough for it to matter. The Seahawks were able to help Wilson along by playing great defense. Buffalo can not duplicate that. A look at their schedule shows they do have some games they should win. Home games against the Jets, Kansas City and Miami are all very winnable. If they sneak in another win at home that means a 3-5 road schedule will get the over. They play at Jacksonville, The Jets and Cleveland. Those would be the games they have the best shot in. 7 wins is certainly possible and I would lean that way but not enough to make a strong play on them.
Carolina Panthers Total 7 2012 Record 7-9
Year 3 of the Cam Newton era begins for the Carolina Panthers. The 2011 rookie sensation fizzled late in 2011 and early in 2012 before coming on strong again in the second half. The Panthers were ranked 14th overall last season, just ahead of Minnesota and Dallas. This team played solid defense ranking 7th overall. I love teams who are solid against the pass and they were. 6th overall with teams like Denver and San Francisco ahead of them. The schedule looks pretty difficult. As stated earlier the NFC South has no pushover games. They will be playing the AFC East which will give them a couple of easy games. They look to win the Ram, Jet and Bucs game at home and on the road they get Arizona and Buffalo. I think this is a team that will make a push for a playoff spot. You get a low number here because of the schedule and division. Can they be 1 game better than last year? I think so. I like Over 7 with Carolina.
Tomorrow I analyze Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver
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