Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Last year was a strange one in the NFC South. Perennial power Atlanta collapsed out of the blue, falling to 4-12 after coming oh-so-close to a Super Bowl berth. Carolina finally figured out how to win close games, and surged to 12-4 before struggling to move the ball in the playoffs. New Orleans had weeks where they looked like a superpower, but managed only an 11-5 record because of poor road play. Tampa Bay? While rebuilding they decided to dump head coach Greg Schiano and start over with Lovie Smith.
This all means things could get VERY interesting in 2014! Atlanta is going to be back. Carolina may or may not be for real. And, Lovie Smith is likely to have an immediate impact in the areas of defense and discipline in Tampa. Let’s run through our key indicator stats for the NFC South, as we continue our summer series of divisional previews. Please scroll back through the last few days in our archives if you missed the NFC West (Thursday) and the NFC East (this past Sunday).
2013 NFC SOUTH STANDINGS
Carolina: 12-4 (+14 turnovers, #9 rated schedule)
New Orleans: 11-5 (+4 turnovers, #8 rated schedule)
Tampa Bay: 4-12 (+13 turnovers, #2 rated schedule)
Atlanta: 4-12 (-5 turnovers, #5 rated schedule)
Notebook: The first thing to note is that these teams played very tough schedules. They drew the NFC West in divisional action, and they all also had to face New England from the AFC. So, Carolina was legitimately playoff caliber even if they were “lucky” in a couple of close games. Had they gone 10-6 against the #9 schedule…that’s playoff caliber! Part of Atlanta’s collapse was schedule related. But, turnovers were a problem for a team that never got its running game going.
New Orleans: 5.9 on offense, 5.2 on defense
Carolina: 5.1 on offense, 4.9 on defense
Atlanta: 5.4 on offense, 6.1 on defense
Tampa Bay: 4.5 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Notebook: This is where you have to worry about Carolina a bit in terms of going deeper this season. They were only +0.2 in YPP differential. Granting their tough schedule…that’s still behind what Seattle and SF were doing in the West against even tougher schedules. It is a good sign that the defense was so elite. The media storylines were either the team was “lucky,” or that Cam Newton was maturing. Too many missed out on how great the Carolina defense was playing. Important to notice that Atlanta’s defense was awful. Their quarterback took a lot of the blame for losses last season. He was constantly chasing what a poor defense was allowing.
2013 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
New Orleans: 44% on offense, 35% on defense
Carolina: 44% on offense, 36% on defense
Atlanta: 43% on offense, 46% on defense
Tampa Bay: 31% on offense, 39% on defense
Notebook: Excellent offensive numbers for everyone but Tampa, as 43-44% is way above the league average. Cam Newton makes fewer highlight reel plays, but he moves the chains more often. That’s a very good indicator for his development. Once again you see that Atlanta’s defense was horrible. For those hoping for improvement from Tampa Bay. Their offense was HORRIBLE on third downs and yards-per-play, and new coach Smith doesn’t have any history at all for improving offenses. He’s a defensive guru.
2014 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
New Orleans 10 wins
Atlanta 8.5 wins
Carolina 8 wins
Tampa Bay 7.5 wins
Vegas oddsmakers are keeping things tight with this group, largely penciling in regressions toward the .500 mark for everybody. Professional wagerers in particular have come out as skeptics about Carolina in 2014. It’s not clear from our numbers why they would think that way. And, it’s not clear how Atlanta is going to surge back into the playoff race with such a bad defense!
JIM HURLEY will definitely be watching Friday Night football very closely…because ALL FOUR of those teams are in action!
*Atlanta hosts Miami
*Carolina hosts Buffalo (who has a one-week head start on them)
*Tampa Bay visits Jacksonville
*New Orleans visits St. Louis
You can see why we chose today for the NFC South preview. Purchase the very best from tonight’s schedule right here at the website with your credit card. BIG, JUICY WINNERS are always just a few clicks away for both football and baseball. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155. This is a great time to lock in for full season service.
Our divisional previews continue Saturday with the NFC North, to get you ready for Detroit hosting Cleveland on the NFL Network, and Green Bay visiting Tennessee. Then, it’s back to the baseball pennant races for a few days until the NFL resumes on Thursday. Here’s an expanded look at the very entertaining upcoming schedule.
Saturday: NFC North Preview (Detroit/Cleveland on NFL Network)
Sunday: MLB TV Preview: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves on ESPN
Monday: MLB Series Preview: Detroit at Pittsburgh
Tuesday: MLB Big Game Preview: either LAD/Atlanta or Oakland/Kansas City
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview: NY Yankees at Baltimore on ESPN
Thursday: AFC South Preview (Jacksonville/Chicago on ESPN)
Friday: AFC East Preview: (New England hosts Philadelphia on NFL Network)
Saturday 8/16: AFC North Preview: (Baltimore/Dallas on NFL Network)
Sunday 8/17: AFC West Preview: (Denver/SF on NFLN, Kansas City/Carolina on FOX)
Monday 8/18: NFL Big Game Preview: Johnny Manziel vs. RGIII in Cleveland/Washington!
That should get you excited. Don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for September to get here. GET IN THE GAME right now with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!