Atlanta Falcons, 1st Place
Offense: QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WR Roddy White, WR Julio Jones, TE Tony Gonzalez, RT Tyson Clabo
Defense: DE John Abraham, DE Ray Edwards, DT Jonathan Babineaux, LB Curtis Lofton, CB Brent Grimes, SS William Moore, CB Dunta Robinson
Call me crazy, but I just see Atlanta as a more well rouded squad than New Orleans. Don't get me wrong, NO can pass with anyone in the league, but their running situation is still un-proven and their defense is nothing special. Atlanta, on the other hand, has a rock solid defense, and an offensive unit you dream about if your a football coach. Smart, good quarterback, power/quick running back, multiple recieving threats including a premium pro-bowler and Tony Gonzalez (who should be better in year 2 with Ryan). I just like that team on that turf in ATL as long as they keep their key guys healthy.
New Orleans Saints, 2nd Place *Wild Card*
Offense: QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Marques Colston, WR Lance Moore, TE Jimmy Graham, LT Jermon Bushrod, C Olin Kruetz
Defense: DT Sedrick Ellis, DE Will Smith, LB Jonathan Vilma, CB Jabari Greer, SS Roman Harper
There's no disputing the Saint passing game. They're dominant and 2nd to none in all the NFL. It's when they need to run the football and stop teams on defense is what I'm worried about with them. I think Ingram will be a fine back, but it won't happen overnight. There have been just a few rookie backs over the last 5 years to standout offensively. Both their backs also have injury histories and both are battling nagging issues already in September! I Saints will be in the playoffs, and will be a dangerous team because of their scoring power, but they are flawed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3rd Place
Offense: QB Josh Freeman, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow, RT Jeremy Trueblood
Defense: DT Gerald McCoy, DE Da'Quan Bowers (R), LB Geno Hayes, CB Aqib Talib, CB Ronde Barber
The Bucs are another up and coming team in the NFC, it's just too bad their in the South with Atlanta and the Saints. Still though, with the young stud QB Josh Freeman behind center and throwing to the impressive Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow and pounding Blount down defenses throats (no pun intended), this offense will be good. Defensively, they're still in rebuild mode but are just a few years away. They're starting 3 rooks on d, but all 3 should have bright futures and it should payoff down the line. As is though, their still good enough to flirt with a playoff spot and keep things interesting into December.
Carolina Panthers, 4th Place
Offense: QB Cam Newton, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Steve Smith, LT Jordan Gross, C Ryan Kalil
Defense: DE Charles Johnson, LB Jon Beason, LB James Anderson, SS Charles Goodfrey, CB Chris Gamble
The Panthers could challenge to be one of the worst teams in the league. They seemed married to the idea of using Newton no matter what, and I'm not so sure that's the best idea, then again, they have little options. Maybe let Newton watch for a few weeks from the sideline and let Derek Anderson start things off or something, cause I'd hate to see Newton get roughed up early on and never recover. I've seen it way too often. Their running game and O-Line should be a strength, but teams will put 8 in the box until the Panthers prove they can pass the ball.