Michael Conroy/Associated Press
||New Orleans Saints
||Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The New Orleans Saints looked like a very complete team a season ago, riding its high-flying offense and budding defense to an 8-0 home record and 11-5 mark overall. Expect Drew Brees and Co. to better that number in 2014.
This offense remains as dynamic as ever thanks to the more experienced Kenny Stills and addition of rookie Brandin Cooks to join the steady Marques Colston and the dangerous Jimmy Graham.
Defensively, this team flourished under Rob Ryan in 2013, finishing the season ranked fourth in the league. With another year of experience under the defensive coordinator and the additions of Champ Bailey and Jairus Byrd in the secondary, this unit should be expected to finish among the league's best yet again.
The Atlanta Falcons will be one of the most resurgent teams in the NFL this season. The offensive line is in better shape than it was last year, and wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are healthy once again. We should expect bit things from quarterback Matt Ryan.
Atlanta also did a nice job solidifying the interior of its defensive line over the offseason, adding Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson. These two players will be instrumental in improving a run defense that ranked 31st in the league one year ago.
New head coach Lovie Smith has already done wonders for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a completely different team from the one that finished last season with a 4-12 record.
Tampa Bay's offense is just huge now. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are both 6'5", and the team has a new veteran quarterback in Josh McCown who made a living tossing jump balls in Chicago last season. The return of Doug Martin to bolster the backfield is a big added bonus.
Tampa Bay's defense appears vastly improved as well. The team added Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald to pair with Gerald McCoy to form one of the league's most threatening defensive fronts.
As for the Carolina Panthers, it just doesn't look good. The team was a big surprise a season ago, winning the division with a 12-4 record. While the league's No. 2-ranked defense remains intact, it's the offensive side of the ball that causes concern.
The offensive line remains iffy at best—Cam Newton suffered a fractured rib during the preseason as a result—and there's a severe lack of explosive weapons at the quarterback's disposal.
Rookie Kelvin Benjamin is already slated as a starter, and veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant simply aren't able to take the top off any defense. Due to this lack of speed, more pressure will be applied up front by opposing defenses this season to contain the running game as well.
This offense hasn't been overwhelming through the preseason, and this team could be in bad shape if head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Mike Shula can't get a plan together quickly.