It is, of course, way too early to be projecting how the Falcons will fare in the 2016 season. We haven't seen how the pieces the team added through free agency and the draft really fit just yet, and we don't yet know how the team will respond after another full offseason under this coaching staff. That didn't, however, stop Football Outsiders from projecting Atlanta to finish 7-9 this season.
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders actually made projections for the whole NFC and AFC, which are available with an ESPN Insider subscription. The outcome they're projecting for the NFC South overall looks eerily similar to the 2014 season. They have the Panthers declining to a 9-7 finish, and winning the division despite that inauspicious record. Atlanta and the Saints both are projected to finish with 7-9 records, and the Bucs are in the basement of the division, finishing 6-10.
The projected 7-9 finish, which is one more loss than the Falcons finished the 2015 season with, doesn't mean the Falcons are regressing, however. According to Schatz, the Falcons will be better next season, but they just won't be as lucky as they were in 2015.
Schatz bases this on the Falcons' DVOA ranking, a proprietary Football Outsiders advanced metric that creates a baseline against which to compare all NFL teams. The Falcons finished the 2015 season ranked 26th in DVOA. Schatz says he doesn't expect the defense to be very good, but he does expect the Falcons' offense to rebound to a level more consistent with previous seasons.
Needless to say, these projections have the Falcons missing the playoffs. According to their metrics, the Arizona Cardinals will be the first seed, followed up by the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Carolina Panthers, and then the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings in the wildcard spots.
What are your thoughts on these early projections?