As promised, the Almost Varsity NFC South Preview
1. Atlanta Falcons – (o/u 10 WINS)
The Falcons have been a model of consistency in a division where consistency is hard to find. Well at least in the regular season. Matty Ice has led the Falcons to the playoffs 3 straight years and has 1 win to show for it. Their offense is loaded with one of the best pass catching cores in the football. Expect Julio Jones to be even better this year and become the true number one option in front of Gonzo and Roddy. However, it is the change at RB that is really going to make this offense go. Michael Turner ran like he was stuck in quicksand the past few years, and moving from him to Jackson is a massive upgrade. Jackson has a lot left in the tank. He makes the offense truly unique. On the defensive side of the ball, Osi Umenyiora and rookie Desmond Trufant give the Falcons some needed play makers. The defense is just good enough that we feel confident in the Falcons retaining the NFC South crown again.
AV Prediction: 12 WINS (OVER) – 3 stars
2. New Orleans Saints – (o/u 9 WINS)
Efffff you mode. Let me explain. The Saints, having been put through a tortuous season thanks to league suspensions last year, will be out for vengeance this year. Sean Payton is back in control of the offense and ready to unleash on the sorry defenses that have to face the Saints. With one of the best QBs in football, the best TE in football (we can’t be sure about Gronk right now), the best offensive mind in football, and one of the best RBs out of the backfield in Sproles, this offense will be impossible to stop. Then factor in the Superdome being one of the best home field advantages in sports and its pretty clear why we like a big rebound season from the Saints. We know the defense allowed an NFL record 7,042 yards last year, but the secondary is much improved after drafting Kenny Vaccaro and signing a few smaller FAs. Plus Rob Ryan will be changing defenses and sending pressure on virtually every snap. The Saints are looking to make up for lost time and won’t be holding anything back. Watch out NFL. Oh and effff you Rogel Goodell. Signed the city of New Orleans.
AV Prediction: 11 WINS (OVER) – 5 stars
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – (o/u 7.5 WINS)
If the Packers and Ravens are model franchises because of the way they draft and develop talent, the Bucs are the opposite. The past two seasons they have signed the biggest names in free agency to massive contracts. Last season was Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. This year was Dashon Goldson and trading for Darrelle Revis. They have also had great success in the draft. Mark Barron is an absolute stud and Doug Martin had a great rookie year that may be hard to top. On paper, they have the best secondary in football and have added rookie Jonathan Banks to that group. So why aren’t we more confident in the Bucs? Well the answer comes down to two of the most important positions in football. The DE position is the weakest part of their team. The Bucs were second to last in the NFL sacks last year and their leading sack man, Michael Bennett, left for Seattle in the offseason. Most importantly, we just don’t trust Josh Freeman. Neither does his head coach who brought in Mike Glennon through the draft. Neither does his front office that refused to extend him this offseason. If they don’t trust him why should we?
AV Prediction: 8 WINS (OVER) – 2 stars
4. Carolina Panthers – (o/u 7 WINS)
Last season the Panthers started the season 3-9 and finished the season reeling off 4 straight wins as Cam went into Superman mode. This year, they are faced with the toughest schedule in the NFL and have only improved at one vital position: DT. The Panthers used their first and second round selections on two promising DTs but that leaves other holes on the roster. While the DLine figures to be a top 10 unit, the LB group is very thin and injury prone and the CB position only went through minor tweaks in the offseason. On the offensive side of the ball, Steve Smith is a year older and has to start to decline at some point (right?). Brandon LaFell is an underwhelming second option who doesn’t create much on his own and there is little talent behind him. Jonathan Stewart is already injured and had surgery on both ankles so far this year. This team is going to go as Cam Newton goes. It’s a shame they haven’t surrounded him with more offensive talent so far. For the Panthers to reach the playoffs, we will need to see a lot of Super-Cam. (Get it?)
AV Prediction: 6 WINS (UNDER) – 1 star