NFL: NFC South Breakdown

In part six of the MikesPickz NFL Breakdown, we will take a look at the NFC South.

2009 Standings:NFC South
New Orleans Saints – 13-3 *Playoffs
Atlanta Falcons – 9-7
Carolina Panthers – 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 3-13

2010 Preseason:
Atlanta Falcons – 2-2
New Orleans Saints – 2-2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2-2
Carolina Panthers – 1-3

2010 Regular Season Predictions:
New Orleans Saints – 14-2
Atlanta Falcons – 9-7
Carolina Panthers – 6-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5-11

Team Breakdowns:

New Orleans Saints:
The defending Superbowl Champions will certainly be in the running for a repeat. The offense is basically the same unit as it was last season, and we know what they can do. Drew Brees is one of the best QB in the league in terms of spreading the ball out to all his weapons. Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Jeremy Shockey will all get their receptions and TDs and the running-back combo of Bush and Pierre Thomas will be enough to keep teams honest (in fact they had the 6th best rushing attack in the NFL last season – 131.6 yards per game). Their defense was the weakness last season (25th in yards allowed per game) and I think it will remain their weak point this season. Jonathan Vilma is solid in the middle and I think this season will prove to be a break out season for the young Malcolm Jenkins (FS). Jenkins will be starting for at least the first six games of the season while Darren Sharper is on the PUP list.

Atlanta Falcons:

The Falcons have an above average offense. Matt Ryan is more than capable at QB, and he will look to improve in his third season. Michael Turner is one of the best running-backs in the NFL when healthy (1700 yards in 2008). The wide receiving core has taken a small hit this season with Michael Jenkins expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Roddy White is still the main target and I expect another solid season from him. The defense was slightly below average last season (21st in yards allowed per game), and I don’t think the Falcons did much to address those issues. Eric Coleman (SS) and Mike Peterson (LB) will be the anchors of the defense. The Falcons hope that John Abraham can return to his 07-08 form (26.5 sacks over those two seasons compared to 5.5 last season).

Carolina Panthers:

The Panthers are an interesting team. They have the best running-back duo in the NFL with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but Stewart does have injury concerns. I like the loss of Jake Delhomme because he was too turnover prone. Matt Moore definitely showed some promise last season (98.5 passer rating in 7 games/ 5 starts), and I actually expect a pretty good season from him despite the poor receiving core. Steve Smith is the only real threat on the outside and he has had injury problems in the past. The defense is where the Panthers fall apart. They lost their best defender in Julian Peterson and did little to replace his impact.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Bucs are a couple of years from challenging for a playoff spot, because of their youth. Josh Freeman (QB) was very inconsistent last season- one week playing like Tom Brady (see Week 12 vs ATL) and the next week playing like true rookie he was (see Week 13 vs CAR). I expect Freeman to work on protecting the ball (18 INTs in 9 starts) this season. His receiving core will consist of two rookies – Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. I expect them to have decent seasons as they grow with the young Freeman. The defense also is studded with youth. Gerald McCoy (DT), Brian Price (DT) and Myron Lewis (CB) will look to make a name for themselves this season guided by the ageless wonder – Ronde Barber (CB) and defensive captain Barrett Ruud.

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