2012 NFL Preview: NFC South

In the 9 year history of the NFC South, no team has ever won the division two years in a row. Even in the last couple of years as the Saints have been one of the best teams in the NFL, they had to settle for a wildcard in 2010. I think the above trend continues for another year.

1. Atlanta Falcons, Predicted Record: 11-5

Like I said, no team has ever won this division two years in a row. Besides that, I also think that the Falcons are a real good team. Matt Ryan may be one of the league’s most underrated QB’s, and that’s probably mostly due to his failures in the postseason. He threw for over 4,000 yards with a 29-12 TD to INT ratio in 2011. He has one of the league’s best WR’s in Roddy White and one of the league’s best up and coming WR’s in Julio Jones. Don’t be surprised if Matt Ryan takes another leap this year. Another reason to expect him to be better this year is because I expect the running game to slow down this year. Since Michael Turner joined the Falcons in 2008, three out of four years he’s had over 300 carries which is something we don’t see often in today’s runningback by committee league. Him and Maurice Jones-Drew were the only two last year with over 300 carries.

On the defensive side, the Falcons made a big splash this offseason by adding Asante Samuel from the Eagles. Him and Dunta Robinson aren’t exactly a shut down duo, but they are both good corners and the addition of Samuel definitely gives them a much improved secondary which is something they have been working on for years.

2. New Orleans Saints, Predicted Record 10-6

The Saints still have Drew Brees and that should be enough for anyone to buy how good the Saints are. The problem that most people don’t look at though, is the loss of Sean Payton. It’s getting overlooked, but it will be a big deal in New Orleans. We’re about to see just how important the head coach is. Part of the coaching problem in New Orleans is also the replacement. Not that Joe Vitt isn’t capable of being a good NFL coach, but that he’s also going to be unavailable for the first 6 games of the season. There’s a lot of moving parts in New Orleans and that isn’t a good sign for things this upcoming season. They still have Drew Brees, Darren Sproles and most of the players from last years playoff team, but things will be different without Sean Payton. It isn’t that Payton makes them the team they are, but with so much uncertainty it won’t work in New Orleans. They could go on a Patriots in 2007-esque tear and dominate the field, but I don’t see that happening.

3. Carolina Panthers, Predicted Record: 6-10

The Panthers showed huge improvement in 2011 after finishing 2010 as the worst team in the league. Fans and media around the league may be crowning Cam Newton a little too early, but he does look like the real deal. All reports is that he’s working hard and he claims that his sophomore season will be even better than his record-breaking freshman campaign. Even with Cam though, this team has a lot of problems. Their offense is good, but much like in 2011 the defense will be the weakness of the Panthers in 2012. They drafted Luke Kuechly to help with that, and he definitely will. He has looked very impressive in the preseason and pairing him with Jon Beason in the middle will give the Panthers a feared linebacking crew. They still aren’t good enough to be a legitimate team yet, but they won’t be a cake walk for opponents. The Panthers will be a good 6-10 and are a year or two from being a real force in the NFL.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Predicted Record: 5-11

The 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the season 3-1, until they quit on their coach Raheem Morris. After beating the Saints on October 16th, they lost every single game and finished the season at 4-12. Morris is out, and they brought in Greg Schiano. It may pay off in the long run, but for right now the Bucs and Schiano aren’t going anywhere. Josh Freeman may have had a down year in 2011, but I don’t see that continuing in 2012. He will be back to his 2010 form, and a big part of that is Vincent Jackson. Even though Jackson isn’t worth the money he got from the Bucs, he is a better WR than anyone Freeman has played with and he should immediately become the favorite target for the young QB. The Bucs also used a first round pick on Doug Martin, the RB out of Boise State. The Bucs have a young core of players that sets them in a good position for the future. For the 2012 season though, it’s going to be another year spent at the bottom of the division..

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