What’s up everyone! Im writing this late night so it may be a bit off focus a bit………but I shall do my darndest to keep everything straight for you all 🙂
This post is about the NFC South Division, which consists of the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Carolina Panthers. This division always ends up being a fun, up-and-down group that has many heated rivalries that have come up over the years, but has led to some classic games and rivalries.
As per usual…………here we go!
(13-3, NFC South Champions, #1 seed in NFC Playoffs)
The Falcons are entering 2013 with weapons on both offense and defense, many of the players being the same that went to the NFC Championship Game last season before losing to the San Francisco 49ers.
One glaring area that the Falcons needed to upgrade in the offseason was the running game, which the team took care of by bringing in RB Steven Jackson from St. Louis. No one is sure how much Jackson has left, due to his bruising style of running and not having much help with the Rams, but with having a balance between he and Jacquizz Rodgers, the Falcons have the big, hard-hitting runner with a smooth, shifty runner in Rodgers, which will lead to a formidable 1-2 lineup that may be the best in the league.
In the passing game, Matt Ryan just received a $100 million dollar extension to keep chucking it downfield to Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas – together, the best WR core in the NFL coming into the season. On top of that, the organization talked future Hall-of-Fame Tight End Tony Gonzalez into coming back for a 16th and likely final season in the NFL. Gonzalez has some of the best hands for a Tight End or Wide Receiver in the history of the league and is a solid blocker downfield.
For most teams, this offense alone would be enough to get back to a championship, but the team bolsters their defense by signing Osi Umenieyora from the New York Giants, a well-established pass rusher to go along with Johnathan Babineux and Kroy Biermann. CB Asante Samuel should continue to be one of the best ball-hawking corners in the NFL and if the Falcons defense overall can hold most teams to under 20 points a game, the Falcons will have a deep, playoff run, quite possibly a SuperBowl 48 run.
New Orleans Saints
(10-6, NFC Wildcard Playoffs, 6th seed in NFC)
The Saints are coming off of what I consider a “lost” season, where the team didn’t truly have a a head coach due to the regular coach, Sean Payton, being suspended for his role in the team “bountygate” situation that saw various players suspended throughout the season and led to a loss of team chemistry for the most part with the dealing of the media circus for that situation.
Even with not having Payton around, quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s record for most consecutive games with a touchdown and Payton was allowed to be in the stadium for that.
Well, Payton has a new contract extension, Brees signed his last season, and the Saints look ready to fire back as one of the top offensive teams in the NFL. I won’t spend too much time talking about the defense because that unit was absolutely dreadful last year, and its clear that this team will win games this year by outscoring people. It has been their strategy during the Payton/Brees era and it seems to work.
The offense returns in tact with Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles being the RB/WR, big play WRs in Lance Moore and Marques Colston, and one of the best young TE’s in the game in Jimmy Graham. This offensive unit will get the Saints to the 6th and final spot in the NFC Playoffs, any further is hard to see with a weak defensive unit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(8-8, 3rd in NFC South, Misses Playoffs)
The Bucs come into the season with plenty of promise but also many questions. QB Josh Freeman is coming off of an inconsistent season last year, and they have an emerging RB in Doug Martin, who will need to prove again that he can repeat his Pro Bowl season, WR Vincent Jackson, who needs to prove that he is an every down, big play receiver, and CB Darrelle Revis, who is coming off of a torn ACL and needs to show that he is still a Pro Bowl level cornerback and among the elite in the game.
This team has some nice pieces, but I can’t say that they are better than an average team in the NFL. By the end of the season, the Bucs will most likely be able to gel and be used to each other enough to give some teams jockeying for playoff position a hard time, but in terms of being a real threat, until the questions I posed about the players mentioned in the top of the section – especially regarding Josh Freeman – are answered, I don’t see the Bucs making it in the playoffs this year.
(7-9, 4th in NFC South, Misses Playoffs)
The Panthers are another team that will give many playoff-caliber teams a hard time throughout the season, but not really be the key team coming out of the division.
QB Cam Newton is on an upward trend, I believe. After getting ripped apart in the media and by WR Steve Smith for his bad body language and attitude during the early part of last season, Newton got his act together to finish strong down the stretch, and possibly show the organization that he has matured and that coming into his 3rd year, he is truly ready to take over the reigns of the team as the leader, a title that has clearly been owned by Smith during his tenure in Carolina.
Newton has a strong running game around him in RBs DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart, a good offensive line led by Jordan Gross at LT and Ryan Kalil at C, but not much at WR outside of Smith. Brandon Lafell has the chance to be a solid receiver but he needs to prove that he can be an every down receiver and take some of the pressure off of Smith consistently.
On defense, the team is solid with Jon Beason and Luke Keechly at LB positions and CB Drayton Florence leading the secondary, but this is still a growing defense that will need time to come together as a unit this season before they can be effective overall. Keechly is a stud, but still in his second year. Still learning the game, but will be a big time impact player, but I don’t see it being enough every week.
The ex-factor on the team overall is RB Kenjon Barner out of Oregon. He has tremendous speed all over the field and if the Panthers can utilize his natural speed on the field in creative ways, he could break games wide open on his own.
Tremendous growth will be made, but still, more time will be needed for the Panthers.
That is my preview for the NFC South Division. Have a good one everybody!