Tampa Bay Buccaneers: NFC South Division Preview

David JeffreyContributor IMay 29, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 26:  Members of the 1968 Jets touch the Lombardi Trophy during halftime festivities celebrating the 40th anniversary of the team's win over the Colts in Super Bowl III during the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets on October 26, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jarrett Baker/Getty Images)

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have any shot at playing football in late January they are going to have to win games within their division. Hoping to win five or more games against the NFC East and the AFC East is not likely. The only problem is, the NFC South is also one of the deepest divisions in the league.



Atlanta Falcons


The Atlanta Falcons made a solid bid at being the sixth consecutive team in the NFC South to go from worst to first. The bid fell one win shy but still had an unfathomable 11-5 record with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Now looking to 2009 it looks like the Falcons just got better.


Last season Matt Ryan’s options at tight end were limited. Justin Peelle led Atlanta tight ends with 15 receptions. Needless to say that total will increase. When you add the most prolific pass catching tight end in NFL history in Tony Gonzalez it will just make the Falcons better.


The 2009 out look for the Falcons will depend on two things; Matt Ryan’s continued progression and their team defense. They allowed a ton of yards but held strong in the red zone last season. If they can keep opponents kicking field goals instead of extra points they can repeat last season’s success.


Key 2008 Statistics


24.4 points per game (10th in NFL)

152.7 average rushing yards (Second in NFL)

348.2 yards allowed per game (24th in NFL)

127.9 average rushing yards allowed (25th in NFL)




Carolina Panthers


It looked like the Panthers were going to the Super Bowl. They had home field advantage throughout the playoffs once top seeded New York fell to Philadelphia. Then Jake Delhomme had one of the worst performances in his career against the Arizona Cardinals. A 12-4 season was wasted and the Panthers are now looking to repeat as division champions.


If the Carolina Panthers could some how keep star defensive end Julius Peppers happy for the season they could have a shot at repeating. They will need Peppers to stay healthy and motivated because when he is, he is one of the top five defensive ends in the league.


Just like almost every team in the NFC South, the Panthers biggest flaw is stopping the rush. Their only addition on the defensive line was a third round pick in Corey Ivy. They must be praying that Maake Kemoeatu is going to come back healthy because without him the secondary will be chasing down a lot of running backs this season.



Key 2008 Statistics


25.9 points per game (Seventh in NFL)

152.3 average rushing yards (Third in NFL)

20.6 average points allowed (12th in NFL)

119.5 average rushing yards allowed (20th in NFL)



New Orleans Saints


Last season the Saints showcased the most prolific air assaults in the NFL. Drew Brees was just 14 yards away from surpassing Dan Marino. Lighting up the scoreboard hasn’t been the problem for New Orleans. The problem has been keeping everyone else off of it.


For the second season in a row opponents averaged more then 24 points per game. The Saints pass defense was making opponent quarter backs look like Drew Brees. 


That’s why in the draft they selected the best corner back available in Malcolm Jenkins. He will probably replace Mike McKenzie’s roll on defense. Jenkins was one of the most productive corners in college football last season and being a hair over 6'0" tall he has the size to cover most wide receivers.


They also added veteran strong safety Darren Sharper to share the load.


After a couple salary cap casualties the offense may have a couple of question marks going into the season. Reggie Bush will have to take on a more dominant roll now that Deuce McAllister was cut and one of Brees’s best third options were cut in David Patten. Any progression on defense could be for naught if there’s any regression on offense.


Key 2008 Statistics


28.9 points per game (First in NFL)

410.7 yards per game (First in NFL)

24.6 points allowed per game (26th in NFL)

221.7 passing yards per game (23rd in NFL)



Tampa Bay Buccaneers


After last seasons collapse the Glazer's cleared house and brought in a whole new coaching staff and a significantly different roster. The classic stalwart veterans are gone and now the kids get to play.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the hardest team to predict in the NFC South division since it will be a dramatically different team from last season. Their 2008 top quarterback (Jeff Garcia) and running back (Warrick Dunn) are gone as well as their most prolific deep threat (Joey Galloway).


However, the Buccaneers made moves that made it at least look like they aren’t rebuilding. Trading for TE Kellen Winslow and signing QB Byron Leftwich and RB Derrick Ward makes it plausible that their may be improvement on offense.


Even in the draft, instead of taking a player that will help the team in 2009 they took a risk on drafting their QB of the future.


The offense might improve, but just like every other team in the division their flaw is stopping the other teams running backs. Similar to Carolina, Tampa Bay didn’t make any veteran signings to sure up their defensive line, they just selected Roy Miller in the third round.


If they can shut down the oppositions passing attack and improve at stopping the rush they could stay in the picture in January.


Key 2008 Statistics

22.6 average points per game (19th in NFL)

306.1 opponents yards per game (Sixth in NFL)

187.3 opponents passing yards (Fourth in NFL)

118.8 opponents rushing per game (19th in NFL)





With the NFC South division slated to play the AFC East and the NFC East it would be shocking to see the divisional champion win 12 games again. I don’t foresee the second seed in the NFC coming out of the South this season. This is how I prognosticate the NFC division will turnout in January




9-7 Atlanta

8-8 Carolina

8-8 New Orleans

6-10 Tampa Bay


But you never know...