Not many divisions are as good as the NFC South. A division once noted as one of the worst in the league has now become a perennial power in the NFL. There are many good players in this division and I suspect that one of these teams will make a lot of noise this season.
The Falcons are as good a football team as it gets. They have a prolific runner, a solid passer, and a pair of wide receivers that would make any secondary put in a little extra time.
Offensively the Falcons success will be tied to the play of their franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has been successful but he has under achieved what many expected of him. Michael Turner is getting a little older but he still is a 1000 yard back and Julio Jones and Roddy White are two of the best ten wide receivers in the game.
Defensively the Falcons are pretty solid. When John Abraham is healthy, there isn’t a better one – on – one pass rusher in the game and the secondary is pretty good at preventing the big play.
The only real threat to the Falcons success is lack of depth. If any of the starters gets hurt, the Falcons can go from contender to pretender pretty quick.
Prediction – 1st Place
The Carolina Panthers are the young team in this division. Last year they leaned heavily on the athletic ability of Cam Newton. This year they should be more balanced as teams have realized that they can no longer load the box with eight guys as Cam showed them he is more than just a runner by putting up lights out numbers last season.
No one benefited from Newton’s progress more than Steve Smith who put up some of his best numbers as a pro. The running game is also solid with two elite running backs and a powerful offensive line.
Defensively the Panthers got better as the season progressed but getting John Beason back and adding depth at the position in the draft should help the Panthers be more successful this year.
Prediction – 2nd Place
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are coming off one of the most turmoil ridden off – seasons in the history of the NFL. Bounty-gate and contract disputes have cost the Saints more than any other team in the league. They will go the entire season without their head coach and middle linebacker and will go more than half the season without their offensive quarterback and key players.
Offensively the Saints have as many weapons anyone in the league but continuity may be an issue if Drew Brees doesn’t get a contract signed very soon.
Defensively the Saints may struggle a bit. Suspensions and losing defensive coordinator Greg Williams may change the structure of the defense enough that it may take a while to return to championship form.
Prediction – Last Place
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs come in with high expectations as they have a new roster full of talent and a new head coach directing them. The Bucs have made a lot of additions and their success will hinge on the ability of Josh Freeman to bounce back from a terrible season last year.
Offensively the Bucs have weapons as Mike Williams has emerged as a promising receiver and LeGarrett Blount has proven to be a feature back. The biggest question will be the offensive line. Freeman should get some security as Dallas Clark has been signed to work the middle of the field.
Defensively the Bucs are solid. They have needs that they should have addressed in the draft at safety but they do work in their front seven. The Bucs need Gerald McCoy and Da’Quan Bowers to be what they were drafted to be. If that happens then they will finish much better than most projections.
Prediction – 3rd Place.