The Atlanta Falcons and the NFC South in 2009

Wes HoltzclawCorrespondent IMay 11, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 30:   Running back Michael Turner #33 prepares to enter the game against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on November 30, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

After a surprising 11-5 record in 2008 and a second place finish to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons are primed for a run in 2009.

The NFC South was, from top to bottom, one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, with no team finishing with a losing record in 2008.

The only other division to have all of their teams with at least a .500 winning percentage was the NFC East. This season, both the South and East divisions play each other with bragging rights on which division will be the toughest in the NFC.

The Falcons were one and one against each team in the NFC South with a 3-0 home record and a 0-3 away record.

This season, all of the teams have been shaken up, some are better and some are worse.

The team Atlanta should have no problems with in 2009 is Tampa Bay.

The Bucs fired head coach Jon Gruden, lost long-time defense coordinator Monte Kiffen to the college ranks, and released long-time fan favorites Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn.

The Bucs are definitely a team that is in rebuilding mode, after losing QB Jeff Garcia to free agency and then betting the farm on QB Josh Freeman in the first round of the draft.

The New Orleans-Atlanta rivalry should still be in full force, as both teams will put offenses on the field that will light up the scoreboard.

Last season, Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 422 yards in the Atlanta win, and Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for 312 yards in the New Orleans win. In 2009, both QB's should showcase more of the same when these two teams meet.

The Saints get RB Reggie Bush back from knee injury to go along with QB Drew Brees, WR Marcus Colston, and TE Jeremy Shockey. If there was one team in the division that mirrors the Falcons in personnel, it's the Saints.

The strongest defensive team the Falcons will face in the division will no longer be Tampa Bay but will be the Carolina Panthers.

Even if the Panthers trade DE Julius Peppers, it shouldn't matter, because they drafted his replacement in DE Everette Brown out of Florida State.

The Panthers will be strong on offense as well, with their form of the two-headed monster in RB's DeAngelo Williams and Deshaun Foster.

Carolina recently signed QB Jake Delhomme to a five-year extension that guarantees that he will be playing catch with WR Steve Smith over the next few years.

Atlanta now possesses a new weapon in TE Tony Gonzalez, which makes their offense even more potent.

Falcon QB Matt Ryan will no longer have to depend on WR's Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, after play action fakes to RB Michael Turner.

Instead, he will now have a TE that will be running down the seam or in the flat one-on-one with a linebacker. If Gonzalez has proved anything during his career, it is that no linebacker can hang with him one-on-one.

The Atlanta Falcons should go 2-0 against Tampa Bay, and if they split both games with Carolina and New Orleans, they will be 4-2 in the division.

Last season, Carolina won the division with a 4-2 record. If the Falcons do the same, they should also win the NFC South and be able to make a deep run in the playoffs in 2009.


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