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Never try to predict the order of finish in the NFC South. Never. If there's one thing you need to know about the NFC South, it's this: since the division's inception in 2002, no team has ever repeated as division champ.
That being said, this division had the potential to be the best in football. The Saints, despite offseason bounty distractions, still had as much talent as anyone. The Buccaneers were breaking in a new coach and a new scheme, ready to take the next step and become a legitimate playoff threat.
The Panthers were prepared to follow Cam Newton to the postseason. And the Falcons were looking to finally get over the playoff hump.
So naturally, only one of those teams has even come close to fulfilling expectations. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC at 5-0, but everyone else is a mess.
Let's start with the Saints. We knew they could take a step back, but not this far back. The defense is one of the worst in recent memory and they may as well not even employ a running back, because they never run the ball. New Orleans is 1-4 and have allowed 154 points.
The Buccaneers went out and got a stud receiver in Vincent Jackson and signed Dallas Clark at tight end. They drafted Doug Martin to shore up the running back situation. Yet they have the 32nd-ranked offense in the league, gaining just 276 yards per game.
The defense has been decent, but Josh Freeman has really taken a step back in his development and has taken the entire team with him.
Carolina would have been a surprise playoff team in 2012, but the Panthers were supposed to at least contend in the early going. But Cam Newton has entered a severe sophomore slump and has lost leadership of the team and the offense isn't running the ball as well as it did last year.
The defense has been porous, and the Panthers are looking at another year of irrelevance.
Put it this way: in a division full of promise, the Atlanta Falcons have five wins, two more than the total amount of wins of the Saints, Panthers and Bucs.