Division Series Preview, Part 8:
Combined Record: 33-31
2011 Division Winner: New Orleans Saints
2011 Playoff Teams: New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons
Well it's time for the home division. This season, the NFC South will play the AFC West & NFC East.
New Orleans Saints (13-3, 5-1 Division, 9-3 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Ben Grubbs, Curtis Lofton, Brodrick Bunkley, David Hawthorne, Chris Chamberlain, Nick Toon (DRAFT), Akiem Hicks (DRAFT)
Noteworthy Departures: Robert Meachem, Carl Nicks, Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Tracy Porter
2012 Predicted Record: 12-4
I referenced a ton of the offseason for the Saints in my Saints: One Offseason Later blog, so there's not a ton I'll add. It seems like an understatement, but MAN what an offseason! Everyone finally breathed a sigh of a relief when Drew Brees & company reached a deal (thank you for makin' it happen Loomis!). We've gone through camp & preseason, and we're thrilled to see Akiem Hicks progressing, and the emergence of Travarias Cadet. We were also saddened with the loss of Chris Chamberlain, who was poised to rotate in the 4 LB set. Personally, I was happy to see Andy Tanner retained to the practice squad. We know the Saints can score with arguably the best offense in the league, but what about the defense? The first team didn't look all that hot in the Pre-Season, and the health of our LBs is questionable. It's encouraging that Curtis Lofton is determined to play for the opener, one can only hope the determination for 'proving the Failcons wrong' will emerge. All I would care about is a healthy team! I've seen predictions that the Saints were predict to win anywhere from only 8 to as many as 13 games this season. 8 & 9 are laughable, 10 & 11 seems very realistic, 12 & 13 seem to be a stretch. Before everyone blasts that, just take a look at the Games of interest (which is almost all for the Who Dat Nation): Washington (RGIII debut), @GB, San Diego, @Denver (SNF), Philly (MNF), Atlanta (all in a 3 week stretch), San Francisco (Revenge), @Atlanta, @NYG, @Dallas (In December :) It's gonna be a hell of a ride this season, but to say the least, WE READY!
Forever locked in time. What a night, and against the Failcons of all teams.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6, 3-3 Division, 7-5 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Asante Samuel, Lofa Tatupu (Awwww)
Noteworthy Departures: Ovie Mughelli, Mike Peterson, Curtis Lofton (Yeah, you'll regret that), James Sanders, Eric Weems
2012 Predicted Record: 7-9
What about this team makes analysts swing from their nutsack? They traded away their Draft for Julio Jones, who was supposed to be the 'one player away from the Super Bowl' player. You saw how well that faired. 2 Points. 2. A safety. (Choke, choke, choke). I guess you could say it's because they are 26-5 over the last four seasons in the Georgia Dome, just don't let it be a big game like the Packers coming to town and get embarassed 48-21. I imagine another thing would be because Mattyocre had career highs in Passing Yards & Touchdowns last season. It's not like any of this has really helped them out. We saw Roddy White gloat & rant about how great he was, and it showed too with that NFL Record High 15 drops last season. Tony Gonzalez (36) is on his last gas, and it seems like it'll be more fumes as the season progresses. Michael 'Burner' Turner (30) fizzled out toward the end, must be all those Big Macs. The Falcons face the same tough test as all of the NFC South, a harder strength of schedule. Denver (MNF), @SD, a 3-game stretch of @Philly, Dallas, @New Orleans, NY Giants, @Detroit. Let's not forget they went 3-3 in Division play last year, and they'll still have to play them too. Everyone wants to bet of the Falcons, and it's 'their year', but I guarantee you that's one bet I'll never take, and you shouldn't buy into the stench.
I'd be sad too if my QB is still 'Mattyocre'
Carolina Panthers (6-10, 2-4 Division, 3-9 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Mike Tolbert, Bruce Campbell, Mike Pollak, Kenny Onatolu, Haruki Nakamura, Reggie Smith, Luke Kuechly (DRAFT)
Noteworthy Departures: Mike Goodson, Legedu Naanee, Jeremy Shockey, Geoff Schwartz, Travelle Wharton, Thomas Williams, Dan Connor
2012 Predicted Record: 8-8
We all hoped Cam Newton would fall on his face, but it didn't happen. We even thought it may be a few years until he developed. Instead, he became the 2011 Rookie Of the Year. With Newton doing his thing, it lead to the resurgence of Steve Smith, who had a much better year, even though he's still a piece of trash, yeah, I said it. Mike Tolbert will prove to be a good addition to the offense when called upon. On the flip side, the player you need to be most familiar with is Luke Kuechly. This guy is a tackling machine, and if the other Panthers LBs stay healthy, it would be something to watch. However, if the Panthers want to do better, they have got to do it at home. They went a grueling 3-5 on their home turf last season, and it's also worth pointing out that it was against the Redskins, Bucs, & Jags. They'll also have to win some tough games, and their schedule is tough. Games of interest: NO, NYG, @Atlanta (3 of the first 5 games), and after the Bye they'll have Dallas, @Chicago, Denver, @Philly, @KC, ATL, @SD.
Newton impressed many, but is he due for a Sophomore slump?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12, 2-4 Division, 3-9 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Dan Orlovsky, Vincent Jackson, Dallas Clark, Carl Nicks, Wallace Gilberry, Jayme Mitchell, Amobi Okoye, Gary Gibson, Eric Wright, Mark Barron (DRAFT), Doug Martin (DRAFT)
Noteworthy Departures: Josh Johnson, Kellen Winslow Jr., Kregg Lumpkin, Earnest Graham, Jeff Faine, Albert Haynesworth, Geno Hayes, Elbert Mack, Tanard Jackson, Sean Jones, Corey Lynch, Michael Spurlock
2012 Predicted Record: 6-10
And then there were the Bucs. Let's be honest, we could spend lots of time on where things went wrong. Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, & Mike Williams all had personal undisclosed issues. It showed in Freeman's game probably most, as he went from having a TD:INT ratio of 25:6 in 2010 to 16:22 in 2011. Making the splashes in the offseason were vital, but unknown as to how it will pan out. Vincent Jackson has only known Philip Rivers & Drew Brees, so the chemistry is yet to be seen. Carl Nicks will help their run attack, and it's much needed as they'll turn to rookie Doug Martin as their starter. I say all this, and it really doesn't matter about the Offense. The real problem is their Defense, who was dead last in most categories last season, especially sacks. The bad apples were there with Haynesworth, Talib, & Tanard Jackson. Sadly, there wasn't much upgrade to the defense, and it'll be a huge reason why the Bucs won't win games this season. Games of interest: @NYG, @Dallas, KC, San Diego, Atlanta, @Denver, Philly, and of course all the divisional matchups.
The Bucs will live or die by Josh Freeman's performance this year.
NFC South - Bold Predictions
- The Saints will repeat as NFC South Division Winners
- Over/Under: Mike Smith will break a minimum of 5 headsets this season
- Doug Martin will rush for over 1,000 Yards this season
- The Panthers won't get anywhere near a Super Bowl (go get drug tested Ryan Kalil)