NFC South Preview

SOUTH

Clearly New Orleans is the class of this division but I have my concerns. Their opportunistic defense of last year will have to be closer to the fortunate side of the scale if they expect to have a similar year. Darren Sharper is out for at least 6 weeks and more than likely won’t be the same player when/if he does return. Brees and the offensive genius of Sean Payton still keep the Saints in the upper echelon of the league but things will be much more difficult for the happy-go-lucky Saints. They were able to play the underdog role right up until the last minute of the Super Bowl, but now they’re squarely in the crosshairs of every opponent they’ll face. I’m expecting a slight hangover but it’ll still be a very tough task for most teams to beat them in the Superdome. (11-5)

This is one of the few teams in the NFL that doesn’t have a single player on their roster that can dramatically influence a game…..positively. Gerald McCoy is an intriguing prospect, but he’s a rookie. Rookies need players around them if they’re going to make an impact year 1. Cadillac Williams is a great story but given his injuries over the years he’s not what he was. Josh Freeman is still very young and without a talent on offense to help bail him out of bad games, I’m afraid they’ll multiply. The Bucs were 3-13 last year, given this years schedule I guess they can at least take solace in a little improvement. (5-11)

I’m expecting the Atlanta Falcons to become a much more serious contender this year. Michael Turner was injured in week 10 of last season which in essence left them with no running game headed into the final playoff push. I believe this offense is one solid slot receiver away from being top 10. A quality slot receiver would give Matt Ryan an option other than Tony Gonzalez on 3rd downs and would also force defenses to replace a linebacker with a cornerback when they stacked the box to stop Turner. Still, Michael Turner can break loose at any point during the game and Roddy White has to be respected down the field. Their defense is solid but they lack a game changer on that side of the ball. I still believe they’ll be a double digit win team, but just barely. Mostly thanks to the other teams in their division not named New Orleans Saints. (10-6)

Matt Moore has talent, but since it’s so early in his career it’s closer to backup quarterback talent. Moore holds the ball too long and doesn’t read defenses particularly well. It’s not hard to confuse young quarterbacks so it’s not a knock on him, he’s just not ready. I know, eventually everyone expects Jimmy Clausen to take over but he won’t fare much better. Tossing it up to Steve Smith doesn’t work like it used to thanks to no other viable receiving threat. See Jake Delhomme in a Browns uniform for evidence. Carolina will once again have to abuse and rely on their two stud running backs. Unfortunately for Panther fans, the NFL is a passing league now and they have a 1997 offense. Running the ball won’t help much when down a couple touchdowns, which I anticipate will be often. (7-9)

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