1. Carolina Panthers (15-1)- What a season it was for these guys. Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in training camp and as the season approached, there were so many questions that surrounded their offense. It was truly a collective effort for them and Cam Newton had the best year of his career. He accounted for 45 touchdowns (35 passing, 10 rushing) and led the Panthers to their best season in franchise history, a first-round bye, the overall one seed in the playoffs and he won offensive player of the year and league MVP. The defense was just as good and though they fell short of the ultimate goal, they’ve established themselves as a force in the league. Just imagine what this offense will look like with a healthy Benjamin back on the field.
2. Atlanta Falcons (8-8)- At one time, I was referring to them as the most improved team in all of football. they got off to that hot start, Matt Ryan looked to be much improved and Julio Jones was healthy. their defense also looked to be much improved under Dan Quinn who was the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks prior to taking the head coaching position in Atlanta. After the hot start, they cooled down big time and struggled to remain in the playoff hunt. Their one shining point at the end of the season came when they handed the Panthers their first loss of the season.
3. New Orleans Saints (7-9)- They shocked the world as free agency started in 2015 by trading away Drew Brees’s top target in Jimmy Graham. How would this offense look without their best playmaker down the field? The Saints offense was still a good unit, their biggest problem was their defense. When I say they couldn’t stop anybody, I couldn’t be anymore spot on. They couldn’t tackle, they struggled to make any type of effort and they got burned on every play just about. This will be a very interesting offseason in New Orleans.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)- This is a team that is a work in progress as we speak. After drafting Jameis Winston with the first pick in the draft last season, they finally got their franchise guy and we saw signs of improvement with them. They won six games, four more than they did in the previous season and they have so many talented pieces around them. The Bucs decided to part ways with Lovie Smith and promoted Dirk Koetter to head coach.