NFL Midpoint Evaluation: NFC South

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (5-2) –

Offensive Points per Game (6th) Yards per Game (3rd) –

  • The Saints have had one of the more lethal offenses in the league over the past few years so this comes as a surprise to nobody. Brees has actually had a down year himself, throwing for over 300 yards only twice and throwing for 3 TDs only once in a game this season.  The run game has been going strong though, with the emergence of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram running wild.

Defensive PPG Allowed (13th) YPG Allowed (20th) –

  • Very surprising, this defense was the worst in the league and some were even arguing that it could be one of the worst in history just a couple years ago. They have obviously been hitting on some draft picks and have some playmakers on this side of the ball.  They are still allowing points to opposing teams (29 or more points in 3 games so far) but have been able to keep 4 teams from scoring more than 17 (Miami, Chicago, Carolina, and an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay team, tough competition, I know).  Regression is coming but impressive regardless.

Players above expectations –

  • Mark Ingram, before this season is appeared that Sean Payton had a disdain for Mr. Ingram here, never giving him the ball exclusively or as often as he needed. Once AP was shown the door Ingram had exploded.  Currently ranked at RB 10 he has 3 consecutive weeks of scoring a TD as well as 18+ carries in each of those games.  Ingram is finally getting the workload he is capable of handling, hopefully he can stay healthy.
  • Alvin Kamara, speaking of running backs, say hello to Mr. 17. Kamara was a favorite of mine near the end of the draft because I thought Sean Payton hated Ingram.  Kamara is adept at catching passes and I figured he would have a defined role in that and he has big-play ability.  He’s rewarded my faith with 5 consecutive weeks of double-digit points, including 3 TDs and a 10 catch game over that span.  If Ingram misses time Kamara is instantly an RB 1.
  • Saints’ Defense, currently floating at 5th in scoring I showed you how that was inflated by playing some bad teams. They had a shutout against Miami and 3 TDs against Detroit.  I’m not trying to take credit away from them but it’s obviously been a little fluky and regression is on the horizon.

Players below expectations –

  • Drew Brees, I pretty much explained this one above but Brees is perpetually a top 5 option at QB and he currently sits at #12. He hasn’t had to throw the ball as much as in years past because he actually has a running game for once.
  • Michael Thomas, he has had a pretty decent season so far but based on his average draft position (ADP) many expected him to be in the top 10 at the position, not at WR 22 where he is currently ranked. Just as I said with Brees they haven’t thrown as much as in years past so it’s understandable but Drew Brees #1 target needs to produce more.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • Even though they currently sit atop the position I think Carolina has the overall better team, more on that next. Even though the defense here has been playing much better than expected they still aren’t as good as Carolina’s and the schedule for New Orleans appears a bit tougher moving forward.  I do expect them to pass a bit more in the 2nd half and the defense to regress but ultimately they will end up with a wild card spot.

Carolina Panthers (5-3) –

Offensive Points per Game (23rd) Yards per Game (21st) –

  • Any offense with Cam Newton should be putting up better numbers than this. Greg Olsen was lost early in the season to IR (expected to return in a few weeks) but all the other options for Cam are here (except for the Kelvin Benjamin trade that just occurred).  I don’t see how this will necessarily improve based on what I just said but overall numbers should increase since this is below what is expected of them.

Defensive PPG Allowed (5th) YPG Allowed (2nd) –

  • The Panthers defense definitely stepped up their game since last season. In 2015 they had a really good unit but lost some players to free-agency after losing in the Super Bowl.  They have returned to excellency and should continue with their success.

Players above expectations –

  • Cam Newton, Cam went from being MVP 2 seasons ago to QB #17 in fantasy last season. I pegged him to end somewhere in the middle and that’s where I had him ranked, QB 9.  He currently sits at QB 8 so I’d say that’s pretty accurate to this point.  He gets the nod here though because I could have easily seen him falling off after scoring no more than 15 points in the first 3 weeks but he has upped his game since.
  • Christian McCaffrey, McCaffrey was going as early as the 3rd round in some PPR leagues which would make him a top20 back, as I type this up he is the 15th best RB in fantasy. Before the NFL draft many considered him one of the best all-around RBs in the draft, he can go between the tackles when needed and he was the best pass-catcher by far.  Nobody expected the Panthers to use him properly since Cam isn’t known for dumping it off but that’s exactly what they’ve done to start the season.

Players below expectations –

  • Jonathan Stewart, with the signing of McCaffrey it was obvious that the Panthers were sending him a message, his days here are numbered. J Stew wasn’t expected to be a huge fantasy asset this year but being ranked at RB 39 makes him practically worthless in PPR leagues.  He doesn’t really catch passes and TDs are scarce since Cam loves to keep it near the goal line.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • Based on what I said above it’s clear that I have the Panthers winning the division. They have played like Super Bowl contenders at times and like a bottom 10 team at others.  Beating the Patriots in Gillette stadium is no easy task but losing to the Bears and only mustering 3 points has to be as unimpressive as it gets.  They have an easier schedule than the Saints moving forward and I think the Panthers’ best games are still ahead of them.

Atlanta Falcons (4-3) –

Offensive Points per Game (T-15th) Yards per Game (5th) –

  • These numbers tell me that this team is moving the ball down the field but they are struggling to get it into the endzone. Typically that is a run-game problem but the eye test will tell you that there is nothing wrong with the running game in Atlanta, the passing game is down.  When Kyle Shanahan left the OC position it was easily to assume that the passing game would take a step back to less aggressive play calling.

Defensive PPG Allowed (T-15th) YPG Allowed (11th) –

  • The defense has done well so far this season and you can’t expect much more than what they have done so I’d say these numbers are pretty fair. I don’t really expect much regression toward the second half but this team needs to get on the same page in the passing game and if they try and fail at that the defense is going to see a drop in production as well.

Players above expectations –

  • Austin Hooper, Hooper currently sits at TE #12 which is much higher than he finished last year (36th) but obviously he has been used a lot more this season. The major caveat in this is that the majority of Hooper’s production has come from the week 1 matchup when he had a statline of 2/128/1.  Since then he has not topped 50 yards once and has caught more than 5 balls only once.  He seemingly only is utilized when one of the WRs is hurt.

Players below expectations –

  • Julio Jones, anything outside of the top 5 at this position would have been considered a letdown and he currently rests at WR 19. Julio caught his 1st TD of the season against New England in week 7 and has broken 100 yards only once.  It is odd to think that he and Matt Ryan are not on the same page but that’s just how it looks if you’ve seen him play.
  • Devonta Freeman, even though the running game has been the main focus of this offense Freeman has also seceded more touches to Coleman per game than he had last year. Freeman was a late 1st rounder/early 2nd rounder which means he was taken to be around RB 6.  At RB 12 he still has a chance to reach that by the time the season ends but he needs to find his way into the end zone more, something he has not done in the previous 3 weeks.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • As they sit right now I don’t expect this team to make the playoffs. New Orleans seems to have found their step this season and has a solid chance at winning the division or taking a wild card spot at least.  Carolina has been very up and down but if they can settle in and continue playing football at the caliber they have shown at times to start this season they won’t be able to be stopped.  Look for Atlanta to press for a playoff spot by continuing to run the ball effectively but Matt Ryan and Julio really need to get their chemistry back.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) –

Offensive Points per Game (18th) Yards per Game (4th) –

  • Just as I said with Atlanta, having a lower PPG ranking than YPG shows me that this team is struggling in the red zone and that is likely because of a poor run game. With Doug Martin suspended the 1st 3 weeks of the season we didn’t really see much success with the run game to start the season and it hasn’t really been all that great since.  Winston had 3 consecutive games over 300 passing yards but has been hampered since with a shoulder injury.

Defensive PPG Allowed (24th) YPG Allowed (29th) –

  • This defense wasn’t projected to be good before the season and they certainly haven’t been. One of the worst at defending the pass (30th in passing yards allowed per game), they haven’t been able to give the running game a chance to really get going.  I don’t see them improving much moving forward but they certainly don’t have much ground to lose statistically.

Players above expectations –

  • Cameron Brate, the offense here has been pretty good as a whole but not quite what I expected but the biggest surprise here has to be Cameron Brate. Brate finished as TE #8 last season and showed that he can ball, what he’s done so far this season is come in at #4 and score 4 TDs in the 1st 5 games of the season.  After losing a number of weapons offensively in the offseason Brate has rewarded the Buccaneers brass with a good 1st

Players below expectations –

  • Mike Evans, even though he has 4 TDs in the 1st 7 games and is on pace to beat his total last year, the reason he’s on this list is because I had him as the 4th best WR in fantasy drafts and he has rewarded my faith with NOT gaining over 100 yards IN ONE SINGLE GAME. It’s hard to be the #1 guy on an offense because defensive coordinators watch your every move and know everything you do but to be a truly elite talent you need to overcome that which Evans just has not done.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • With only 2 wins it’s hard to expect much from this team moving forward but for your fantasy purposes you should still target players on this team. Once healthy, this team should be one of the most prolific offenses in fantasy.  What you want is an offense with some firepower and a defense that can’t stop a JV high school team and that’s exactly what we have here.  Playoffs may be an option in a couple years but it’s not in 2017.

 

*Featured image courtesy of thegamehaus.com*