Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions! Part 6: The NFC South

It's going to be a very, very tight race in the NFC South. You've got three teams that can really play some good football, all with very good offenses and loaded with playmakers. The winner of this division will come down to who can stop the run. All of these teams will throw for over 300 yards a game, but rushing...that's a different story. If one of these teams can maintain a good balance of passing and running plays at a successful rate, they will be the team that comes out of this division alive.

NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons/New Orleans Saints 12-5

It was very, very difficult deciding who I thought would win this division in 2011. Both the Falcons and the Saints have stellar offenses, with defenses that are good but not great. The winner of this division will come down to who wins between the Falcons and the Saints, and I think Atlanta has the edge with its powerful running game and consistent passing. New Orleans, right now, is too one-dimensional, but I think Mark Ingram has the tools to explode for a huge rookie year. Drew Brees is still the prototype passer and he's got plenty of wideouts to throw to, while Matt Ryan is becoming an elite quarterback with one fantastic receiver and that's about it. Ryan will need Julio Jones to step up and take some of the pressure off of Roddy White, and that's asking a lot out of a rookie receiver. However, I think the Falcons moved up in the draft to get Jones for a reason, and this Alabama product will have a huge impact in the NFL. Atlanta needs consistent production from RB Michael Turner, which shouldn't be a problem. But, with injuries and inconsistent blocking, you just never can tell. While I believe the Saints will have a better offense through the air, I've always been a firm believer that success on the ground means success in the playoffs. Both teams will make the postseason, but I think the Falcons will make it one round further than New Orleans.

Final Predictions: Saints - Loss in Divisional Round
                             Falcons- NFC Championship Appearance

3. Tampa Bay Bucaneers 10-6

Josh Freeman is expected to have a huge season, but let's not get our hopes up too much. After all, his career touchdown-to-interception ration is 1.5:1, which isn't all that impressive. The Bucs saw a breakthrough year for rookie RB LeGarrette Blount last season, but he's going to have to really put in work to avoid the infamous sophomore slump. Tampa's defense isn't anything to write home about, but they have potential to give their offense just enough breathing room to win 10 or so games. This is a talented young group of guys, and I think Josh Freeman will improve this season, but not enough to give the Bucs that deep playoff run.

Final Prediction: Miss Playoffs

4. Carolina Panthers 5-11

This is an interesting group. Offensively, the Panthers have some intriguing talent. This year's first overall draft pick, Cam Newton, is a versatile player with a strong arm, quick legs, and some questionable decision-making. He'll get better with experience, but this will not be a 30 touchdown season for the former Heisman Trophy winner. He'll have some help on offense, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield, so that should take some of the workload off of Cam. However, in today's NFL, you need to be able to get the ball downfield and quickly if you want a shot at the title. Defensively, the Panthers will struggle. What a surprise. But there is seriously something wrong with that run defense, and the talent in the secondary is quite underwhelming. I don't think Carolina will be as bad as everyone says, but they definitely have some room for improvement.

Final Prediction: Miss Playoffs

My last predictions, the NFC West, will be out shortly. Thanks for taking the time to read! And remember, whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right. Until next time!

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