I'm still recovering from the mild verbal beatdown I received in my article yesterday on the AFC West, so if this comes out a little rough, hopefully you'll understand. (Needless to say Chad from Kansas City isn't one of my two fans).
Today I'm covering the NFC South, which has some intriguing storylines this year.
Atlanta, Atlanta, Atlanta, where do I begin? They couldn't even land Bill Parcells. I can't see a strength on this team. I'm sympathetic to this team and their fans because their fall was totally not their fault. It's sad what happened to this team. The guy they built their franchise around turns out to be a heinous individual and their first year coaches leaves a note, a NOTE, that he was leaving the team. Bravo, Michael and Robert.
Anyways, they have set their sights on the future and have a guy (Matt Ryan) who hopefully for them can be a guy that at least makes them forget about Vick, if it's possible. New coach Mike Smith will bring a hard-nosed defensive approach this team badly needs, and hopefully guys like Keith Brooking can become re-energized and help bring them out of their funk.
The three teams left clog up the top of the division. Carolina has a potentially great running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and an up and coming defense led by Jon Beason and Julius Peppers. This team needs Peppers to rebound for his disastrous '07 campaign and for dynamo Steve Smith to come back from his suspension with a running start. If those things happen, look for this team to at least sniff the postseason.
Tampa and New Orleans should both have very good seasons. The Bucs have a great defense with veterans Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber complemented by youngsters Gaines Adams, Barrett Ruud and Aqib Talib.
Tampa fans are in uproar that the team didn't land Brett Favre when it looked like a done deal, and while I can understand their frustrations, I can also understand Jeff Garcia's. He is by no means a stop gap. This is a guy who annually has a QB rating of 80+, which is very good, better than what Eli Manning has done in any of his years, and is perfectly suited for Gruden's offense. This offense is better than what a lot of people think. Still, they are a little veteran heavy and could use a big receiving option because Michael Clayton just isn't cutting it.
What an offense New Orleans has. Outside of Indy and New England, I don't know if there's a better one. They are extremely strong at quarterback and brought in Shockey to complement Colston and take away some double teams from him, which should only increase his production. Robert Meachem could become a good number two receiver as well. Their line is strong as well, with anchor Jammal Brown and servicable young guys like Jahri Evans.
Running Back and Defense remains a question with this team, but there is reason to think both areas could be better than last year. It's hard to believe Reggie Bush won't be better than he has been so far. Even with his stuggles, he's been somewhat productive, so I look for him to take a step forward. If anything, he becomes more of a receiver and thrives there. They also brought in Jonathan Vilma, who should be a stud for them at linebacker, and have Will Smith and Charles Grant on the line, joined by newcomer Sedrick Ellis, who should solidify the DT spot. We will have to see how the secondary does, that's a huge question mark where answers are remaining to be seen.
Well, with that, how do things break down in the end?
New Orleans 10-6
Tampa Bay 9-7
If you enjoyed this article, you should read the article mentioned above and my NFC West preview. I look forward to hearing your feedback, just keep it nice. (Just kidding, be candid).