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Handicapping all NFC teams

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by -X-, Jun 3, 2014.

  1. -X-

    -X- I'm the dude, man.

    Jun 20, 2010
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    A tidbit from each of 16 NFC teams in pro football

    Last week, I focused on the 16 teams from the AFC. This week, I’ll pass along a tidbit or two from each of the 16 NFC teams in regards to last year.

    My focus is on things that are not likely to repeat the same way in 2014. I’ll do my absolute best to avoid egregious errors like my “San Diego didn’t make the 2013 playoffs” mistake from last week.

    Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have one playoff win since 1996. They have sunk into long term mediocrity over the past decade. Given their extensive salary cap woes, it’s not going to be easy for Dallas to end that streak in 2014. Last year, the Cowboys defense allowed a woeful 6.1 yards per play, ranked No. 31 out of 32 teams. And Dallas will be hard pressed to repeat their 67% fumble recovery rate from 2013.

    New York Giants: Absolutely destroyed by injuries last year and suffered the highest advanced metric “adjusted games lost” total of any team that Football Outsiders has tracked in the 21st century. The Giants also finished -15 in turnovers against a very tough opposing schedule. Two-time Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning ranked 35 out of 37 QB’s with enough pass attempts to qualify – only Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith were worse.

    Philadelphia Eagles: Things broke right for the Eagles last year, resulting in a division title for Chip Kelly in his first season. But Nick Foles’ NFL-best QB rating of 119.2 in his first year as the full time starter is a clear outlier number. Philly also finished +12 in turnovers against a much weaker than average slate of opponents.

    Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III saw his QB rating drop by more than 20 points between his rookie year and second season. He went from elite to below average following his offseason surgery. Despite that decline, the Redskins outgained their foes by 0.8 yards per rush attempt – elite level rushing numbers. Washington’s special teams can only improve after ranking among the worst five teams of the last 25 years according to the Football Outsiders advanced metrics.

    Chicago Bears: The defense was riddled with injuries last year, and it showed in the numbers. The Bears’ 6.2 yards per play allowed on defense ranked dead last in the NFL, as did their 5.3 yards per rush attempt allowed. And those woeful defensive numbers were compiled against a much easier-than-average slate of foes. Career backup Josh McCown’s QB rating was 20 points higher than starter Jay Cutler’s.

    Detroit Lions: The Lions didn’t finish with a winning record last year despite facing one of the easiest opposing schedules in the league. The Lions were -12 in turnovers; a key factor in all six of their “tight game” losses by four points or less. Franchise QB Matthew Stafford was very mediocre, finishing with 19 interceptions and a QB rating of 84.2.

    Green Bay Packers: Green Bay also benefitted from an easy schedule last year; the single easiest slate in the NFC according to my numbers. Even against that bottom tier slate, the Packers only outgained their opponents by 0.1 yards per play. And Green Bay’s pass defense was a bottom tier unit, routinely torched by opposing QB’s.

    Minnesota Vikings are one of six teams with a QB rating more than 20 points lower than the QB rating they allowed on defense. All six squads were sub .500 teams (the Jets, Texans, Jags, Raiders and Redskins were the other five). Minnesota’s strong rushing game (+0.9 yards per rush compared to their opponents) wasn’t enough for them to overcome their QB woes and -12 turnover margin.

    Atlanta Falcons were every bit as bad as its 4-12 record would indicate last year! The Falcons were outgained by 0.7 yards per play. Their pass defense was torched, finishing with the second worst opposing QB rating allowed. Atlanta did finish -7 in turnovers and faced a tougher than average schedule; two factors that point toward at least modest improvement in 2014.

    Carolina Panthers had a truly elite level defense last year, holding foes to 4.9 yards per play (only Seattle, Cincy and Cleveland were better). But Carolina finished with an “unlikely to repeat” +11 turnover margin. The Panthers offense was below average in every department. There’s plenty of room for improvement from their rebuilt offensive line and receiving corps.

    New Orleans Saints returned to the playoffs last year, ranking among the top four teams in the NFL; outgaining their opponents by 0.7 yards per play. They did it against a brutal slate, top 5 in the NFL in opposing strength of schedule. And they did it without the benefits of a positive turnover differential, finishing with a net turnover margin of zero.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The scary thing about that 4-12 record last year is being that awful despite a +10 turnover margin; a true rarity with a rookie starter at QB. They were outgained by a full yard per play, a true bottom feeder statistically. And the Bucs faced one of the five toughest opposing slates last year, giving their new coaching staff at least a glint of hope for 2014 improvement.

    Arizona Cardinals: With 10 wins the Cardinals were arguably the biggest surprise in the NFC last year despite facing an above average strength of schedule and finishing with a -1 turnover margin. Arizona ranked in the top quartile of the league, outgaining their foes by 0.4 yards per play. Behind a rebuilt offensive line, QB Carson Palmer could be even more effective with more time to find open receivers downfield.

    San Francisco 49ers finished with a +11 turnover margin in 2013 and the offense didn’t make many egregious errors – the Niners “points allowed on offense” for the entire season consisted of a single safety on Colin Kaepernick. But the offense was largely a pedestrian unit; only 5.4 yards per play, in large part because of a dearth of big gainers. It’s an area San Fran will need to improve to reach a fourth consecutive NFC Championship Game.

    Seattle Seahawks: A +20 turnover margin in 2013 was the best in the NFL; a stat they’ll be hard-pressed to repeat in 2014. But the Seahawks +1.2 yards per play differential between what they gained on offense and what they allowed on defense was by far the best in the NFL (only Denver was close); a clear indicator their Super Bowl title was no accident.

    St. Louis Rams gave up 32 points on offense last year due to safeties, pick sixes and fumble return TD’s; a bottom five team again in that key statistical category. The Rams 5.0 yards per play on offense tied for next-to-last in the NFC. QB Sam Bradford had a solid QB rating of 91 (No. 11 in the NFL) before getting hurt. He faces a “make-or-break” season in 2014.
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