2011 NFL Preview NFC South Edition: Panthers Poised for Back-to-Back Top Picks?

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2011 NFL Preview NFC South Edition: Panthers Poised for Back-to-Back Top Picks?
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal throws pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Stanford won 40-12. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Note: This is Part Four of an Eight-Part Series of NFL Divisional Predictions

The NFC South is the most top-heavy loaded division in the NFL.

The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons are both Super Bowl contenders in my eyes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should finish with a winning record as well. Only the putrid Carolina Panthers keep this division from being named the best in the NFL. As good as the top three teams are, I can’t in good faith say the NFC South is the best division when the Panthers are that bad.

Drew Brees organized team workouts for the Saints during the offseason seemingly more than any other team during the lockout. That dedication coupled with a talented roster should vault the Saints to the top of the division this year. I predict they finish with a 12-4 record and possibly recapture some of their Super Bowl magic from a few years ago.

The Atlanta Falcons may be the most talented team in the division, but I have to predict them in second place due to Brees' organized workouts with the Saints. I think they lose out in a close battle for first place finishing with a record of 11-5. That should secure them a Wild Card spot.

The very young Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the best third place team in the league next year. Josh Freeman seems to have a magic about him on the football field. Even in this top heavy division I predict the Bucs will finish with a 9-7 record. That will tie them with the Chicago Bears for the last Wild Card spot. Too convoluted to predict who wins that tiebreaker.

The Carolina Panthers finished the 2010 season with the worst record in the league. They spent a lot of money in free agency this offseason. However, it was mostly spent on retaining their own players. These are the same players that finished last year 2-14. They will either start a rookie QB in Cam Newton or trot out the pathetic Jimmy Clausen. I can’t fathom how the Panthers improve on their record much especially with the other teams in their division being so stacked. I predict the Panthers scratch out a record of 3-13.

That could turn out to be a blessing in disguise with Andrew Luck on the horizon.  The Panthers could either take Luck, the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning, or they could trade him for a king's ransom if they are content with Cam Newton at QB.  Not only is Luck a franchise savior, his rookie contract will be greatly reduced just like Newton's was due to the new CBA.  Those two factors could net the Panthers a Herschel Walker-type trade to reload the team.

Part One: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/813411-2011-nfl-preview-afc-east-edition-miami-dolphins-qb-drama-hampers-team

Part Two: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/814030-2011-nfl-preview-nfc-east-washington-redskins-destined-for-last-place

Part Three: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/814936-2011-nfl-preview-afc-south-edition-colts-reign-as-champs-coming-to-an-end

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