2011 NFL Predictions: Which NFC South Team Will Win the Division?
The start of the NFL season is officially 31 days away.
With all of the free agent moves and the rookie signings, everyone should have a good look at the personnel on their respective teams.
Now is as good a time as ever to take a look at the eight different divisions across the NFL and predict who will win each division.
First up: The NFC South.
The NFC South is comprised of the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Last year's rankings were:
1. Atlanta 13 -3
2. New Orleans 11 - 5
3. Tampa Bay 10 - 6
4. Carolina 2 -14
The division looks to be extremely competitive again this year.
So without further ado, here's the preseason rankings.
1. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons had a great regular season last year before being embarrassed in the playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
The Falcons are looking to bounce back from that playoff loss and are more focused on getting to and winning the Super Bowl.
Their quest started with their roster moves.
They gave away key future draft picks to move up the board and draft Alabama WR Julio Jones.
They have also re-signed Jason Snelling, a viable backup RB for Michael Turner, and drafted rookie Jacquizz Rogers.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons have brought former Minnesota Viking Ray Edwards to play opposite John Abraham. This will certainly give opposing offensive lines fits as they try to protect their respective quarterbacks.
The Falcons are a loaded team, on both sides of the ball.
WR Roddy White has even went as far as to state that the Falcons have a chance to be "the second coming of the 'Greatest Show on Turf.'"
The Falcons certainly have the personnel to make this possible.
Preseason prediction: 1st in the Division, Record 13 - 3
2. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints did make the playoffs last year, but they did not do it with as much flash and pizazz as they did the previous year when they won the Super Bowl.
Of course, the Saints are looking to get back to the Super Bowl and must first go through last year's division winners to do so.
Like the Falcons, the New Orleans Saints have made a ton of roster moves in order to improve.
First, they drafted Alabama RB Mark Ingram with their first pick. Following the ending of the lockout, they let go of former first round pick RB Reggie Bush, who was more of slot receiver in the NFL than a between the tackles RB.
The RB core is extremely deep now with Ingram, free agent pickup Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas,and Chris Ivory. Right now Ingram is listed as third on the depth chart. Do not be surprised if he ends up at the top of the chart come the beginning of the season.
On defense, they have brought in Aubrayo Franklin, Clint Ingram, and Shaun Rogers.
There is even reports out there that state that this year's New Orleans Saints may even be better than the 2009 Saints.
Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but the talent level In New Orleans will certainly have Saints fans chatting "Who Dat" again this year.
It looks like there may be a bid for power in the NFC South between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints.
Preseason Prediction: 2nd in the Division, Record: 12 - 4
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised many last year with their stellar play.
Unlike all of the other teams around them in the division that made significant moves during the offseason and after the conclusion of the lockout, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers management team seemed content with the team that they had in place, because they did very little, if anything, during the free agent frenzy.
This could be because they were closer to the salary cap than many expected.
The current roster the Bucs have in place is still pretty good though.
The Bucs have given RB LeGarrette Blount the reigns as the top RB, which made the oft-injured Cadillac Williams expendable. The team feels as if they have found a solid back up in veteran RB Kregg Lumpkin.
The receiving corps is made up of Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, and Kellen Winslow, so QB Josh Freeman has targets. How smart Freeman is with the ball will be key to Buccaneers success as well.
The defense was o.k. last year. The pass defense was stellar, but the rush defense left a lot to be desired. With little to no free agent moves, especially on the defensive side of the ball, fans are hoping that this issue is addressed during the short off season.
The Bucs will certainly contend this year, especially if they improve upon last year's success. But, they still have to contend with the Falcons and the Saints getting better around them which may prove diffiicult for the youngest team in the league.
Preseason prediction: 3rd in the Division, Record 9 - 7
4. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers have been through major changes this offseason.
They brought in new head coach Ron Rivera from San Diego.
They drafted Cam Newton with the first pick of the draft.
They have even opened the wallet and brought in a bunch of new faces through free agency to help improve the team.
Needless to say, there are very high expectations for Carolina.
There is no doubt that Cam Newton will become the starting quarterback by season's end. It's not even a far stretch to say that he may be the starter come the season opener.
The real question is, will he be successful?
The Panthers have brought in talent to help including Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock and Legedu Naanee. They also re-signed DeAngelo Williams and managed to keep WR Steve Smith.
The weapons are there.
If Newton can show the talent that prompted the Panthers to draft him with the number one pick, then the Panthers could impress many in their first year under the new regime.
The defense has gotten stronger as well. Retaining key pieces such as Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson helped and bringing in DT Ron Edwards and LB Omar Gaither has definitely helped the team improve.
Overall, the Panthers will improve upon last year's struggles, but as a team going through a transition and with the lockout severely limiting the team's chances to gel together, there will still be obstacles that they cannot overcome just yet. But, as always, there is a chance for a team to overperform. Look at the 2006 New Orleans Saints.
Preseason prediction: Fourth in the Division, Record 6-10.