I want to start out my NFC South preview differently than the others. Not one of these teams looks playoff ready at this point. The one obvious answer is to put the Falcons at the bottom of the list, but to be fair I am not necessarily going to put them there. I am going to do “Eenie Meenie Mynie Moe” (or however its spelled to pick the order of how the division will end up. Here goes nothing.
Whew!!! I seriously thought I was going to have to give an argument for why Atlanta will make the post season.
They may have one of the most complete set of running backs in the league if DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart step up and play like they were predicted to (Stewart is a rookie so I am less skeptical of him). Also, Steve Smith is still one of the most talented wide- receivers in the league, and who cares if he is missing the first two games of the season. In this division he could miss eight and it won’t matter. They still have a very good defense led by one of the top five athletes (if not the best) in the NFL with Julius Peppers and Jon Beason with another year of experience could be a scary thought.
This may be the first year since the Panthers lost to the Patriots in the Superbowl where the only thing stopping them is going to be the Panthers themselves. It seems like I am beating a dead horse, but the Panthers problem is the same as many other teams, the quarterback. Jake Delhomme was good last season, but in only three games. Behind him is Matt Moore who was unimpressive in his limited action last season and Josh McCown who was just as bad as Moore with Oakland last year and does not know the playbook as well yet.
Final Record: 11-5
If McCallister stays healthy, they are going to be ridiculous on offense if not they will drop back into middle of the pack. The key to their success is do not give Reggie Bush the ball as often, let him be the homerun hitter he was his rookie season. The addition of tight- end Jeremy Shockey makes a very good receiving core even better, especially if he keeps his head about him.
The Saints will need to stop other teams and I just do not know whether or not that is possible. I mean Will Smith is good, but besides that, not so much. Also, they do not have anything that resembles a reliable kicker in Martin Gramatica. He is inaccurate and does not have the power he once had. Oh yeah, hopefully he doesn’t celebrate too hard and hurts himself with his 5-8 170 lb. frame it could happen very easily.
Final Record 10-6
They are still trying to get a running game going out of nothing (Earnest Graham is not a big time back, and Warrick Dunn’s best days are behind him). They rely on Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks and other players slightly past their primes on defense. And do not forget that their top two receivers have been in the league forever (Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard). The team was working out Jay Feely, which means Matt Bryant must be less than satisfactory.
All is not bad in Tampa though. All of their veteran players were playing at a high level last year and do not show any signs of slowing down. Jeff Garcia should be playing with an even bigger chip on his shoulder now to prove that the Bucs made the right decision by not trading for Brett Favre and that should be a scary thing for other teams.
4) Atlanta Falcons
Maybe, all decisions should be left up to “Eenie Meenie Mynie Moe”. It has seemed to work out here, anyway. The positives are few and far between for the Falcons. They have to hope on two things to win. The first and more important is that their young players (Jerrious Norwood, Matt Ryan, Jamaal Anderson, etc.) have to step up to the next level and reach their potential. The other hope for the Falcons is for that their veterans (Lawyer Milloy, Jason Elam, John Abraham, etc.) still have at least one good year in them.
The biggest question mark on the team in my opinion is Michael Turner. Turner just signed with the Falcons and was one of the best back- ups in the league last year playing behind LaDanian Tomlinson. Turner has to make sure he does not become Lamont Jordan who like Turner was one of the best back- ups in the league with the Jets then signed a big deal with the Raiders and has now become an after thought backing up Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris in New England.
Final Record: 2-14