Sunday, September 9, 2012

NFL Preview: NFC South

1st Place, Atlanta Falcons: 13-3

Offense: QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WR Julio Jones, WR Roddy White, TE Tony Gonzalez, G Justin Blalock

Defense: DE John Abraham, LB Sean Weatherspoon, CB Dunta Robinson, CB Asante Samuel, S Thomas DeCoud

The Falcons don't have the most stacked defense in the league, but it's just good enough to prevail with their outstanding offense. They have the best receiving tandem in the league in Jones and White, and even Gonzalez has shown he still has a lot left in the tank. They'll have to play well in order to fend off the Saints, but they have more than enough talent to do so.

2nd Place, New Orleans Saints: 11-5*

Offense: QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, RB Darren Sproles, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, T Jermon Bushrod

Defense: DE Will Smith, LB David Hawthorne, LB Curtis Lofton, LB Jonathan Vilma, CB Patrick Robinson, S Roman Harper

The Saints have had a premiere offense since Drew Brees arrived in town, but they've never quite had the defense to match it. This year, they've brought in two huge additions at linebacker and should be much better this time around under Steve Spagnuolo. They will have one of the best linebacking corps in the league once Vilma is back in shape and ready to go, and they again should be back in the playoffs come January.

3rd Place, Carolina Panthers: 9-7

Offense: QB Cam Newton, RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Jonathan Stweart, WR Steve Smith, C Ryan Kalil

Defense: DE Charles Johnson, LB James Anderson, LB Luke Kuechly (R), CB Chris Gamble, S Charles Godfrey

The Panters are a team on the rise, but in this division and conference, they are still a little short. Cam Newton should be even better in his sophomore season, and I think the running back duo of Williams and Stewart could be in for a 2,000 yards on the ground this year. Like with the Saints though, their defense is the question mark, but unlike the Saints, they don't have quite the offense to overcome defensive mishaps.

4th Place, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-9

Offense: QB Josh Freeman, RB Doug Martin (R), WR Vincent Jackson, WR Mike Williams, T Jeremy Trueblood

Defense: DE Adrian Clayborn, LB Lavonte David (R), LB Mason Foster, CB Eric Wright, S Ronde Barber

The Bucs should improve upon their 4-12 record of a year ago, but not by much. They have improved their defense and made it more explosive with the addition or Jackson and the drafting of Martin. That should help Freeman rebound from an off 2011 season. Unfortunately for them, they have a somewhat patched together, young defense that will take some time to lean to play together.

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