Zac thinks the writing is on the wall for these four teams in his latest instalment of the NFL Preview.
Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
Coach: Dan Quinn (2015, 8-8) 2nd year coach looking to improve on last years record.
QB: Matt Ryan (2008) Would be wanting to bounce back from a down year last year. Previously was considered a premier QB in the league.
Keanu Neal (17) S, Florida
Deion Jones (50) LB, LSU
Austin Hooper (81) TE, Stanford
De’Vondre Campbell LB, Minnesota
Alex Mack C (FA)
Andy Levitre G (trade)
Mohamed Sanu WR (FA)
Dashon Goldson S (FA)
Courtney Upshaw DL (FA)
Gino Gradkowski C (FA)
Jake Long T (FA)
Tony Moeaki TE (FA)
Roddy White WR (released)
The Falcons have rebuilt the offensive line bringing in pro bowl centre Alex Mack and quality guard Andy Levitre, but they needed to as the offense disappeared last year and the line was not good in the run or pass game. If the upgraded line can keep Matt Ryan upright he could bounce back from a poor year. Mohamed Sanu is a quality receiver who should help Julio Jones more than Roddy White did last year leading to his departure in the offseason. Still huge questions at RB Devonta Freeman has looked good in patches but Tevin Coleman is yet to live up to his billing as a top draft pick.
Recognising a desperate need to upgrade the defense the Falcons spent 3 of their first 4 picks on defense. Keanu Neal should be fighting for a starting role, as should the LB’s Campbell and Jones because the Falcons incumbents Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon are just not good enough. The Falcons Secondary is troubling even with pro bowler Desmond Trufant, but the Falcons are in need of better play if they are to compete.
Buy Low – 3 wins
Buy High – 6 wins
Buffalo Bills (8-8)
Coach: Rex Ryan (2015, 8-8) Veteran coach who tends to get players to overachieve, Has never been able to find a top tier QB in any team he has coached, rather focussed on error free run first football.
QB: Tyrod Taylor (2015) A surprise finding last season after coming across from Baltimore for an opportunity. Big physical QB with a strong arm quickly climbing the charts.
Shaq Lawson (19) DE, Clemson (Shoulder surgery out till Nov/Dec)
Reggie Ragland (41) LB, Alabama (ACL Out for season)
Cardale Jones (139) QB, Ohio State
Reggie Bush RB
Fernando Velasco G
Zach Brown LB
Lorenzo Alexander LB
Mario Williams DE (Released)
Leodis McKelvin CB (Released)
Percy Harvin WR (Retired)
After a middling effort last year the Bills would be hoping for a stronger showing, last year’s revelation Tyrod Taylor gets another full offseason in the playbook and is now the number 1 QB unquestionably in Buffalo. He has a couple of dynamic receivers to throw to in Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush are solid veterans in the backfield who can both catch the ball out of the backfield.
The concern is there is no depth behind these guys and still questions about the offensive line play. This is an offense that has the makings of a hit or miss type which could struggle to move the chains on a regular basis.
The Bills made a huge call this offseason releasing the uber-talent but troublesome Mario Williams, Williams just never settled in Buffalo and it would seem cutting losses was a good option. Like any Rex Ryan team the defense is the key, and usually above average. But this year rookie Shaq Lawson is out 4-6 months, and fellow rookie Reggie Ragland is gone for the season, throw in Marcell Dareus’ 4 game suspension and all of a sudden there is troubles in Buffalo.
Buy Low – 4 wins
Buy high – 7 wins
Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Coach: Chuck Pagano (2012, 41-23)
QB: Andrew Luck (2012) Looking to bounce back from an injury ruined 2015 Luck is one of the premier young playmakers in the NFL.
Ryan Kelly (18) C, Alabama (2015 Unanimous All-American, Rimington Trophy).
TJ Green (57) FS, Clemson
Le’Raven Clark (82) T, Texas Tech (3 time All Big-12)
Hassan Ridgeway (116) NT, Texas
Coby Fleener TE (FA)
Dwight Lowery S (FA)
Jerrell Freeman ILB (FA)
Matt Hasselbeck (Retired)
The side which two years ago was challenging deep in the playoffs looks long gone. The return of Andrew Luck, TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief from injuries will definitely boost the offense but unfortunately the defense is terrible. The loss of Jerrell Freeman and Dwight Lowery will be felt significantly, evergreen Robert Mathis is a year older and it just doesn’t seem the Colts are doing enough to address the defensive holes during the offseason.
The colts are likely to start 2nd round pick TJ Green to replace Lowery in probably the toughest secondary position where he will be pressured by opposing quarterbacks weekly. There are so many question marks and holes throughout the colts roster I can’t see them winning more than 6 games.
Buy Low – 2 wins
Buy High – 6 wins
New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Coach: Sean Payton (2006, 87-57) Led the Saints to a Superbowl victory, but that was a while ago now and may be under pressure to keep his job come December.
QB: Drew Brees (2006) Veteran in the twilight of his career, Brees is one of the most prolific passers in NFL history.
Sheldon Rankins (12) DT, Louisville
Michael Thomas (47) WR, Ohio state
Vonn Bell (61) S, Ohio State.
Coby Fleener TE (FA)
Nick Fairley DT (FA)
James Laurinaitis ILB (FA)
Paul Kruger LB (waivers)
John Kuhn FB (FA)
Marquez Colston WR (released)
Jahri Evans G (released)
Ben Watson TE (FA)
Brandon Browner CB (released)
The worst defense in football last year and it looks like not much will change. The additions of Tackles Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis are all upgrades to the run defense but the secondary has not really been improved in the offseason, the Saints will be hoping Jarius Bird plays like the Buffalo version All-Pro not the slow and ineffective play he delivered in his first year in New Orleans.
The Saints offensively will continue to pass first and as such the health of Drew Brees’ arm will be paramount. The addition of Coby Fleener is an upgrade from Ben Watson and the young receivers are displaying potential but New Orleans are going to have to score a lot of points to stay competitive and that may be hard to do on a regular basis.
Buy Low – 3 wins
Buy high – 6 wins