Thursday, September 9, 2010

NFC South Preview and Predictions

1. New Orleans Sants - 13-3
The Super Bowl XLIV champs return their basically their entire offense in 2010. Drew Brees is one of the best QB's in the league, if not the best. Last season, Brees threw for nearly 4,400 yards and connected on 34 TD's, I don't doubt that Brees can best that performance in 2009. Running Back Pierre Thomas provides the tough, hit you in the mouth running style, while RB Reggie Bush brings dynamic play making ability both in the running and passing game. The Saints have four solid Wide Receivers in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore. All four of those guys have the ability to produce at very high levels. Tight End Jeremey Shockey also gives Brees a huge target when all else fails. Drew Brees has unlimited options on offense, and they will be one of the top 3 offenses in the NFL.
The defense took a tough hit when Free Safety Darren Sharper was place on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which will cause him to miss the first six weeks of the 2010 season. The Saints do have a very good defense, despite the loss of Sharper. Linebackers Johnathon Vilma and Scott Shanle combined for 5 interceptions in 2009, they also signed veteran LB Danny Clark in the off season. New Orleans' secondary will be able to hold their own while Sharper is out, CB's Randall Gay and Jabari Greer both have the ability to be lockdown defenders, and fifth year safety Roman Harper has broke onto the scene as one of the best in the league. Defensive End Will Smith had 13 sacks last season, so look for him to have another huge year in 2010.

2. Atlanta Falcons - 10-6
The Falcons have three very good pieces to make their offense a very productive one. Quarterback Matt Ryan has developed into a solid NFL player, in 14 games last season, Ryan threw for 2,916 yards and connected on 22 TD's. I expect Ryan's numbers to be much better this season, as RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White are healthy coming into 2010. Michael Turner is one of the most explosive backs in the NFL. His 2009 season was dampened with injuries, so I fully expect him to return to 2008 form when he rushed for 1,700 yards and 17 TD's. Like Turner, WR Roddy White battled injuries all through 2010. Despite all the nagging injuries, White started all 16 games and put up good numbers, 1,153 receiving yards and 11 TD's. I expect White to have many more receiving yards this season and about the same amount of TD's. Look for Ryan to take comfort in having TE Tony Gonzalez as someone he knows he can count on to get first downs.
For all the good players on offense, the Falcons defense cannot be talked about in the same light. John Abraham will lead the Defensive Line, and LB Curtis Lofton will try and teach rookie LB Sean Weatherspoon how to be an effective NFL defender. Atlanta gave a big free agent contract to CB Dunta Robinson in the off season, they're hoping he can provide another defensive stopper on the opposite side of Brent Grimes who had 6 interceptions in 2009.

3. Carolina Panthers - 5-11
The Panthers have good pieces on offense, but QB Matt Moore is gonna have to lead this team, and I don't know if he can. Moore is coming into his first year as a full time starter, and the Panthers haven't shown the utmost confidence in him; they used two 2010 draft picks on young QB's Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Wide Receiver Steve Smith is coming into 2010 healthy and is looking to have another season like the one he had in 2005 in which he had 1,563 receiving yards and 12 TD's. The Panthers have one of the best back field's in the NFL with the combination of DeAngelo Williams and Johnathon Stewart. Williams and Stewart combined for 2,250 rushing yards and 17 TD's in 2009.
The Panthers lost DE Julius Peppers in the off season, and it will be difficult to replace him. Defensive End's Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson will help make the loss of Peppers sting a little less. Linebacker Jon Beason will be the only guy who was a full time starter at the position in 2009. Cornerbacks Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall are both very good players and combined for 8 interceptions last season. Safeties Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey are young, energetic players who definitely have playmaking ability.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 3-13
The Bucs easily have the best team website I have come across through this process, but they don't have a good team, and that is what matters. Second year QB Josh Freeman will be the starter, and I don't have much confidence in him, especially with the lack of weapons around him. Running Back Carnell "Cadillac" Willams has been broken down like the three Caddies my next door neighbor has rotting in her backyard. The number one Wide Receiver listed on the depth chart is rookie Mike Williams out of Syracuse, the Bucs are hoping he doesn't turn out like Pete Carroll's first reunion piece in Seattle. Tight End Kellen Winslow is an accident waiting to happen.
Tampa Bay's defense used to strike fear in the heart's of opponents, but not so much anymore. Some of the players from those great defensive teams still remain, Ronde Barber and Barrett Ruud, but defensive leader Derrick Brooks opted to retire. The Bucs used a first round pick on Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy out of Oklahoma, so look for him to get a lot of run. The Bucs secondary is quite dangerous with Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and Tanard Jackson patrolling the area. Defense is not the problem in Tampa, the offense is.

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