Four new playoff teams emerged in 2016, and we are looking at the potential of a repeat in the coming months. Why such turnover? Competition. And plenty of it.
Like the AFC, the NFC may still have a few terrible teams, but it is also full of regression candidates. Such steps to level out the field brings new combatants into the fold, and a takeover is possible in nearly every division. And, even in what-appears-to-be the only lopsided group, question marks still exist.
Below are the full season predictions for the 2017 National Football Conference, with top over/under win-total plays highlighted where applicable:
Washington Redskins – 6-10, 4th in NFC East – Under 7.5 Wins
How quickly it can all come crashing down. The Washington Redskins entered the final week of the 2016 season in control of their own destiny. One win over the Giants in a game that meant absolutely nothing to New York would have given Washington its second consecutive playoff berth. The Redskins failed miserably. Most notably, the league’s third-ranked offense – in yards – had its worst statistical game of the season. It was also the second-worst game of the year for quarterback Kirk Cousins – ranked by passer rating – highlighted by a critical interception that basically ended the game late in the fourth quarter.
Cousins may have had another solid season, but it wasn’t enough for Washington to commit, as the team applied the franchise tag to Cousins, again. Financially speaking, this might be the right move, as it prevents Washington from getting burned, while also devoting resources to a position that needs them. But, teams aren’t built on finances, and the rest of the organization – which lost both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon – will feel the lack of trust in a quarterback that just failed. Washington had its chance. It missed it. The window of opportunity just closed.
New York Giants – 7-9, 3rd in NFC East
Adding Brandon Marshall will take some pressure off of Odell Beckham, Jr., but it potentially stunts the growth of Sterling Shepard in the process. In addition, the Giants’ gaping hole on offense was noticed mainly in the rushing attack – or lack thereof, as New York touted the third-fewest yards-per-attempt in 2016 – rendering the acquisition of Marshall somewhat unnecessary. Most importantly, the Giants were the major benefactors of perception, last year, as the team’s 11-5 record shines favorably on then-rookie head coach Ben McAdoo.
Not so fast. New York’s point differential of 26 was the second-lowest among double-digit win teams since 2015. The other team was the Miami Dolphins. Not surprisingly, both lost in the first round of the playoffs, last year. The regression is coming for the Giants.