Breaking Down the Buffalo Bills 2009 Schedule Part 3: NFC South

Savior EdwardsContributor IJune 3, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 28:  Langston Walker #68, Duke Preston #75 and Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills wait to walk on the field before the game against the New England Patriots on December 28, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Definition of Improvement:

1: the act or process of improving
2 a: the state of being improved ; especially : enhanced value or excellence b: an instance of such improvement : something that enhances value or excellence

Technically, every year all 32 teams in the NFL "improve" because of Free Agency and the draft, yet only 12 will make the playoffs. The other 20 teams will be looking ahead to next year—some with many holes to fill, others only a player or two away from taking that next step, and the rest are left wondering what went wrong—believing they made the necessary moves to make the playoffs, but didn't.

A common theme we've heard this off season from the media talking heads and "expert" NFL analysts is that the Buffalo Bills have gotten better (at least in some areas), but so has the rest of the AFC East; negating the improvement on our end. therefore we are destined to finish last place again for a second consecutive season.


We're also led to believe we play two extremely difficult divisions from the AFC South and NFC South in 2009. Both divisions sent two teams to the playoffs last year, and the worst team in the NFC South finished 8-8.


Of course, all of this could end up being true. But that's why they will line up and play the games this fall.

I've decided to break down all the teams on the Buffalo Bills 2009 schedule and take a look at who improved, who will maintain the status quo, and who took a step backwards.

Here is the third installment in which I’m taking an in depth look at the NFC South:



1) Carolina Panthers


2008 Results:12-4, NFCS Champion, No. 2 seed, 2nd round loss at home to No. 4 Arizona

Key Additions: Everette Brown, Sherrod Martin, Justin Geisinger


Key Losses: Jeff Hangartner, Nick Goings, DJ Hackett, Darwin Walker, Ken Lucas

Have they improved from 2008 to 2009?

When your biggest FA acquisition is a former 7th round pick of the Buffalo Bills, it’s a bold statement to claim you’ve improved.


They also mortgaged a 2010 1st round pick to draft Everette Brown as a possible insurance policy, who tumbled from a top 15 prospect all they way to the middle of the 2nd round.


Resigning the aging Jake Delhomme to a big contract raised eyebrows around the NFL world especially after a shaky finish and 6 INT performance in the playoffs.


Let’s not forget that the face of the franchise’s status is very much up in the air, in addition to Peppers demanding a gargantuan payday.


Yes, they return a bulk of their core that won the division last year, but I don’t see this squad being improved and maintaining the status quo might not be enough in a vastly improved NFC conference.

Still have questions about: QB, OL Depth, TE, Safety, DT


The key to their season: Julius Peppers. Will he be motivated and productive if he returns? Also, Delhomme will have to rebound in a major way from his horrible playoff performance and late season funk for this team to get back to the playoff. What will be working against him is his "Penningtonesque" track record of following a playoff year with an injury riddled and inconsistent season.

Best Case Scenario: 10 to 12 wins, NFCS title/wild card, deep playoff run
Worst Case Scenario: 6 to 9 wins, no playoffs
What I expect: 8-8, no playoffs



2) Atlanta Falcons


2008 Results: 11-5, 2nd place NFCS, No. 5 seed, 1st round loss at No. 4 Arizona

Key Additions: Peria Jerry, William Moore, Tony Gonzalez, Mike Peterson


Key Losses: Todd Weiner, Keith Brooking, Michael Boley, Lawyer Malloy, Marcus Pollard, Wayne Gandy

Have they improved from 2008 to 2009?

Anytime you add an HOF player that still has gas in the tank you would deem that an improvement, but given their schedule in 2009 and all sorts of holes on defense, I believe they took a step backward even if Matt Ryan takes a step forward and avoids the dreaded sophomore slump.

Still have questions about: OL, DT, LB, Safety, DB

The key to their season: Matt Ryan doing his best impersonation of Peyton Manning and taking his game to next level to outscore teams week after week in shootouts.


Also, Mike Smith will have to build on his impressive rookie coaching campaign to compensate for a lack of talent on defense.


Atlanta has never posted back to back winning seasons in their entire franchise history, so that’s a good motivation point for Smith and his staff to utilize as a team that will not sneak up on anybody in 2009.


Considering the Falcons have the AFC East and NFC East on their schedule, Smith should win "the coach of the decade" award if they can manage to post a winning record and make to the playoffs in consecutive years.


Best Case Scenario: 10 or 11 wins, NFCS Title/ Wild card, deep playoff run

Worst Case Scenario: 5 to 9 wins, no playoffs

What I expect: 7-9, no playoffs



3) Tampa Bay


2008 Results: 9-7, 3rd place NFCS, no playoffs

Key Additions: Kellen Winslow, Josh Freeman, Derrick Ward, Angelo Crowell, Byron Leftwich, Raheem Morris (New Coach), Mike Nugent


Key Losses: John Gruden, Derrick Brooks, Ike Hilliard, Warrick Dunn, Cato June, Joey Galloway, Phillip Buchanan, Jovan Haye, Jeff Garcia,  Will Allen

Have they improved from 2008 to 2009?

Definitely not. After parting ways with a Super Bowl winning coach and purging the roster of older, high paid Free Agents, one word can sum up the 2009 Bucs: REBUILDING.


I look for this team to return to the good old days of the 1980’s when they were the "Putrid Pirates" as opposed to the "Pewter Pirates".

Still have questions about: QB, WR, OL, DT, DE, LB, S, DB.

The key to their season:  Byron Leftwich emerging from camp and having the type of resurgence that Chad Pennington had in Miami last year.


Also, getting a significant contribution from all the young players on defense would go a long way in attempting to field a competitive team.


Best Case Scenario: 6 to 8 wins, no playoffs

Worst Case Scenario:  2 to 5 wins, no playoffs

What I expect: 4-12, no playoffs



4) New Orleans Saints


2008 Results: 8-8, 4th place NFCS, no playoffs

Key Additions: Malcom Jenkins, Jabari Greer, Dan Morgan, Heath Evans, Paul Spicer, Pierson Prioleau, Anthony Hargrove


Key Losses: David Patten, Deuce McAllistor, Aaron Stecker, Mark Campbell, Martin Grammatica, Josh Bullocks, Hollis Thomas


Have they improved from 2008 to 2009?

Three former Buffalo Bills highlight their off season additions and it’s pretty much playoffs or bust for the Saints in 2009 or a coaching change is likely imminent.


A top five NFL offense returns pretty much intact. If the defense can improve marginally it might be enough for a playoff spot but the question remains if an overhauled unit will improve in 2009.


They play the same beastly that the rest of their division does which includes the AFC and NFC East so a defensive improvement may not necessarily yield the results Payton and his staff are looking for.


Still have questions about: DB, Safety, LB, DE

The key to their season: Defense. Plain and simple.


Last year the offense proved they can score with the best of them, but unfortunately their defense gave up as many points as they scored which resulted in a .500 season.


Another potential roadblock is the pending suspensions of key defensive players, and for a team trying to establish a new defensive identity early on in the season, that could be a major problem.


Best Case Scenario: 9 to 12 wins, NFCS Title/ Wild card, deep playoff run

Worst Case Scenario: 6 to 8 wins, no playoffs

What I expect: 9-7, NFCS champion


As always, feel free to critique, discuss, flame, and offer your own analysis and insight.....

Coming soon, part 4: The Chiefs, Browns and where the Bills fit in to the equation