Breaking Down the NFC South Schedules

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst IApril 15, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers is congratulated by head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints on December 28, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Panthers defated the Saints 33-31.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

From top to bottom, the NFC South was the best division in the NFL last season. They sent two teams to the playoffs, and no team finished below .500.

Part of the NFC South's success was dictated by a fairly easy non-division schedule. They played against the AFC West, which didn't have a team finish above .500. They also played against the NFC North, which had the 6-10 Packers and 0-16 Lions.

This year will not be so easy for the NFC South. They must face the AFC East and the NFC East. Both of those divisions feature three teams that finished 2008 with a winning record.

Opponents' winning percentage, though, is not the only thing that I look at when evaluating a team's schedule. I look at the road schedule. Who does your favorite team play on the road and when? Are they playing the Patriots on the road in December (Carolina)?

Does your team play a bunch of physical teams in consecutive weeks that wears them down? Are your team's prime time games on the road or at home? 

Of all the games that were played on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sunday nights, and Monday nights, the NFC South home teams went a combined 27-17. Below is a breakdown of each team's schedule.


Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were the darlings of the NFL in 2008. They were not expected to do much with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback, but they turned a 4-12 season into 11-5 and a wild card berth.


Biggest Break

Nov. 29-Dec. 13

The Falcons get a rare three-game stretch at home. The Buccaneers, Eagles, and Saints all visit the Georgia Dome.


Toughest Trail

Oct. 25-Nov. 22

Four out of five games are on the road, including two division games (Saints and Panthers) and two consecutive road games against physical teams (Panthers and Giants).


Most Intriguing Non-division game

Sept. 13

Miami made an equally impressive jump in 2008. They went from 1-15 to AFC East champs. Teams that spike up drastically in one season usually fall back to Earth the following year (right, Cleveland?).

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers used a powerful running game and smart coaching to finish unbeaten at home and win the NFC South. However, no team has ever won the NFC South in consecutive seasons.


Biggest Break

Oct. 11-25

Following a bye week, the Panthers have two of their next three games at home. Coach Fox should easily outsmart fellow coaches Jim Zorn, Raheem Morris, and Dick Jauron.


Toughest Trail

Dec. 13-27

Two out of three games are on the road. The Patriots, Vikings, and Giants are all physical football teams. These three teams won an average of 11 games last season.


Most Intriguing Non-division game

Nov. 1

The Cardinals ruined the Panthers' perfect home mark and their season. Jake Delhomme may still have nightmares from his last meeting with Arizona.


New Orleans Saints

The Saints finished with the worst record in the NFC South, thanks in part to a 2008 schedule that took away a game from the Superdome and kept them away from home for 42 straight days.


Biggest Break

No cold weather games

The Saints are a fast, finesse football team that was built for the dome they call home. As shown the past three seasons with games in Chicago, the Saints struggle in cold weather.


Toughest Trail

Nov. 15-Dec. 13

The Saints play four out of five games on the road with a home date against the Patriots in the middle. 


Most Intriguing Non-division game

Nov. 30

ESPN comes to town on Monday night. The Patriots and Saints feature two of the league's elite quarterbacks.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs start over with a new head coach and a host of new players. Gone are veterans such as Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn.


Biggest Break

Unlike any other team in the South, Tampa has their bye week toward the middle of the season instead of the beginning.


Toughest Trail

Nov. 15-29

Tampa Bay plays three straight games against the division, and two of these games are on the road. It's never easy to win division games, especially on the road.


Most Intriguing Non-division game

Sept. 27

The last time the Giants and Bucs hooked up in Tampa Bay, the Giants shocked the Bucs on their way to the Super Bowl.


In a division as competitively balanced as the NFC South, sometimes the schedule can make all the difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs altogether