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Project the NFC South standings and records before training camp

Give it your best shot, and tell us why the Falcons win the division.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is still to come, and we don’t yet know the Falcons’ 53 man roster, nevermind the 53 man rosters of the other three teams in the division. We have seen free agency and the draft play out, however, so it’s not a bad time to think about how this division is going to shake out.

Sussing out the finishes in the division is always tricky, because with the exception of the 2013-2015 run that saw the Panthers finish in first place three consecutive times, no one’s managed to win the NFC South in back-to-back years. The Falcons have their doubters coming off a Super Bowl loss and all three of their rivals appear to have improved, but Atlanta still should probably be considered the easy favorite to win the thing, and then you’re deciding from there. So let’s project.

Of course, we’ll loop back and do this again right before the season, but I’m interested in seeing if your projections have changed after the bulk of the offseason has gone by. Here’s my projection.

Atlanta Falcons: 11-5

Carolina Panthers: 9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-8

New Orleans Saints: 7-9

You’ll likely be surprised to see me placing the Panthers above the Bucs after I’ve talked up Tampa Bay all offseason, and I’m sure I’ll be waffling throughout the summer on this. Tampa should be good sooner than later, and their passing attack could be devastating, but there are still holes on the roster and I’m not sure I buy that Doug Martin is bouncing back. The Panthers, meanwhile, are due for a bit of a bounceback and should be better on offense than a year ago, with a strong defense still intact. It should be a tight race for #2 in the division.

Last year, I had the Falcons at .500 in my preseason projection, with the defending Super Bowl-losing Panthers coming in at 11-5. I was one game off on the Bucs (I said 8-8) and Saints (I said 6-10). Tell us where you were a year ago, and give us your projections for this year.