Last week we offered a Football Outsiders projection that had the Atlanta Falcons going 9-7 and finishing second in the NFC South. Today brings another analytic take, this from ESPNs Bill Barnwell, who sees the reigning division champs as having had the best offseason among NFC South teams.
Barnwell assigns the Falcons' post-Super Bowl work a B-plus. Tampa Bay and New Orleans get B's; Carolina gets a C-plus. We note: Apart from the Falcons' 11-5, only the Buccaneers finished above .500 last season, and their 9-7 bore a fat asterisk -- they were outscored on the year. The Saints were 7-9, the Panthers 6-10. The latter three have work to do to close the gap.
Then again, there's a reason that -- apart from Carolina's just-ended run of three consecutive NFC South titles -- nobody has won this division in consecutive seasons since it became a division before the 2002 season. (The non-repeaters include two Super Bowl champs. Also two runners-up, which is what the Falcons are now.)
Barnwell gives kudos to the Falcons for landing Dontari Poe as a free agent and Takkarist McKinley in the draft, though he asks if McKinley was worth the trade-up value. He also wonders if Vic Beasley Jr. can come close to replicating his 15.5-sack season. (I share that concern, FYI.) He applauds their re-upping of Desmond Trufant. He questions whether the offensive line, which saw no starter miss a game last season, will be as good without the retired Chris Chester and an Alex Mack who's coming off a broken ankle.
Barnwell doesn't mention that the Super Bowl runners-up will be working with new offensive and defensive coordinators. Though I believe I just did.