Fooch's Note: This is a great idea for a quiet time in the offseason. I'll bookmark this as well so we can check back after the season to see how people do with their predictions. Make sure and follow the format.
I thought this might be a fun topic to discuss since we're stuck in the offseason doldrums.
Which team do you think will be the most improved, and which team will fall the farthest from last year?
I'll take the obvious choices to help inspire discussion...
Most Improved: Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton, despite all his detractors, put up 4025 passing yards in his rookie year. This, on a mediocre Panthers team that couldn't stop the run to save their lives. They picked up Kuechly at ILB in the draft, and I expect this will help shore up some of the gaps in the run defense. Newton will post another 4000 yard season, and the Panthers will snatch the NFC South away from the Falcons and Saints. Prediction: 10-6, Winner NFC South
Farthest Fallen: New Orleans Saints
Hey, I said I was taking the more obvious choices! The Saints have been devastated by the bounty scandal. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, they are out a coach for a year and key players for several games. Brees is a great player and they have enough talent to win some games by pure offensive might, but morale will be near rock-bottom after losing Sean Payton, and for such an emotionally-driven squad, that will be painful. Prediction: 7-9, 3rd Place NFC South
Wild Card: Green Bay Packers
Here's one less obvious choice. The Packers ended up with only 1 loss last season, but it was a shameful one, losing to a mediocre-at-best Chiefs squad. Yes, the same Chiefs squad that was pathetic all year - they somehow managed to put the heat on Aaron Rodgers and won almost solely by virtue of that. I think the Packers are still the best team in the NFC North, but the Bears and Vikings will be much improved with the return of key players (Cutler & Peterson, respectively). Add to that a greatly improved 2011 Lions team that found itself in the playoffs (if mainly by virtue of Calvin Johnson jump-ball TDs), and you've got a division that just might be the toughest in football. Matt Flynn went to Seattle this offseason, so Rodgers' health will be more important than ever with less quality behind him. If he can't stay healthy, and/or if their pass rush can't return to its 2010 form, they may just plummet to 8 or 9 wins.
So, what do you think?