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Drew Brees made history in 2011-2012 passing for 5,476 yards and now holds the record for passing yards in a single season
In the NFC South, the quarterback is king.
The top three teams in the division are the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers.
Each of which are lead by a quarterback who can provide offense beyond simply managing the game.
The 2012 season will be no different, but each team has issues outside the quarterback position that will decide their fate.
New Orleans was very close to the NFC Championship game, actually, but couldn't make it past the Divisional Round.
Drew Brees broke the all-ime passing record for yards in a season by reaching 5,476 yards. Though he is an unrestricted free agent this year, it seems certain he will be a Saint next season, one way or another.
So, where do the Saints look to improve?
With defensive coordinator Gregg Williams directing the defense, the Saints loved to try to get after the quarterback. This group did not always achieve success in this, though, and as a result, ranked 30th in the league in pass defense.
They were 12th against the run, but, under new defensive coordinator and former St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, we may see a more balanced defense.
He did guide the Rams to a 2-14 season in 2011, but he has had true success as a coordinator.
Defense was the only thing keeping the Saints from reaching the NFC title game and that is where they will look to improve.
Yet again, though, the production of Brees, coming off his best year ever, will be the key to bringing the Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans. Brees will have to continue to play at a high level while the Saints experience changes elsewhere on the team.
Atlanta also had some success in the 2011-2012 season, but they fell to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants during wild card weekend of the playoffs.
The Falcons were lead by quarterback Matt Ryan who, in his fourth year, threw for close to 4,200 yards. He, too, was the piece that kept it all together.
The running game, by which he was backed up, was nothing incredible ranking 17th in the league. Some poor instances of coaching (see week 10) also were worrisome.
Head coach Mike Smith will have to work on the inconsistencies and get his guys to play more disciplined football. In the meantime, Ryan will have to be the one who holds everything down while the Falcons do everything else they can to get back to their 2010 form (13-3).
In Charlotte, North Carolina is where some serious strides were taken.
Some criticized the Panthers for taking Cam Newton first overall in the 2011 draft, but it proved to be one of the best decisions they could have made.
Newton broke the rookie passing record, throwing for over 4,000 yards. He also ran for over 700 yards and 14 touchdowns bringing his total touchdowns to 35. He got some help from a great ground game, but outside of the aging Steve Smith and couple good tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, Newton wasn't working with the greatest situation.
This was especially the case with a defense that simply could not find a way to slow other teams down. While losing your best player on defense (Jon Beason) explains some of it, nobody outside of cornerback Chris Gamble looked like they'd be a starter anywhere else.
Getting Beason back will help, but the Panthers definitely will have to look to someone outside the organization (in the draft or free agency) to help out a lackadaisical defense. In the meantime, Newton will have to try to continue the magic we witnessed with him commanding Carolina's offense to make sure a team headed in the right direction keeps on that path.
Heck even in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers went 4-12, quarterback Josh Freeman could be important. If Freeman can bounce back from a career high year in interceptions (22), that would make a huge difference towards making Greg Schiano's new job a lot easier.
At the start of every season, everyone starts in the same place and has a fair shot at taking home their division's title. In the NFC South, who jumps out to a lead and maintains that lead will largely hinge on how each team's quarterback ties together his team.