Pro Football Focus just released its win-loss projections (done by “projecting the quality of each team and using them to predict the outcome of all 256 regular-season games.”) for the NFC teams in the 2017 NFL season. Whether you love or hate PFF’s grading system and statistical analyses, they sure do generate plenty of discussion, which is something we need during the doldrums that are the June-July stretch of the offseason.
In PFF’s standings, the Atlanta Falcons (12-4) and Dallas Cowboys (10-6) take the first-round byes. Green Bay (10-6) wins the NFC North, while the Seattle Seahawks once again manage ten wins, but it’s not enough to win them the NFC West.
5. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
The Seahawks were close to 10-6 last year, and not much has changed for them. They made a few changes on the offensive line but it’s unclear if that will impact the line’s overall quality. Eddie Lacy (77.3) and Bradley McDougald (79.0) were two underrated free agent moves. Since 2013 Lacy has had 169 defenders miss tackles on his carries; a number only topped by Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy. While they might be reasons for optimism, the star players on the roster are either at their prime, or reaching the downside of their career. If the team is able to improve on the last year, they’ll need some of their younger players to take big steps forward.
Taking the division would be the Arizona Cardinals, and if they predicted every regular season game, then that means Arizona either swept the Seahawks or they won a divisional or conference tiebreaker.
4. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
In 2015, the Cardinals were a game away from the Super Bowl. They followed that up with a season where they were top 12 in terms of PFF overall grade for the team, and they scored 50 more points than they allowed, but still ended up with a losing record. They will definitely miss longtime veteran Calais Campbell, but many of the lowest-graded players on the roster are either no longer on the roster or will no longer see playing time unless there is an injury. Winning more close games than they lose should get the Cardinals on the right side of .500, and if Carson Palmer or Tyrann Mathieu is able to return to their 2015 form, Arizona should find their way back into the playoffs.
After a quick double-check, I can confirm that PFF does not stand for Prisco’s Football Focus.
That line about Carson Palmer is an odd one, because he’ll be 38 by the end of this year and frankly the 2015 season looks more anomalous than a standard we should expect him to reach again. Then again, I suppose aging curves affect Seattle more than Arizona, with ancient players like 28-year-old Doug Baldwin, 29-year-old Kam Chancellor, 29-year-old Richard Sherman, 31-year-old Cliff Avril, and 31-year-old Michael Bennett presumably on that list of Seahawks who are “reaching the downside of their career.”
For what it’s worth, the Rams and 49ers are both projected to be at the very bottom, each holding records of 4-12. That’d be a two-game improvement for the Niners, but a repeat performance of last year for the Rams.