[Throughout July and possibly August, I will be going division by division ranking teams of their respective divisions and writing a short [paragraphed] summary of them and then some.]

This time around, kicking off my Breaking ‘em Down segment, I’ll be looking at the NFC South. You know, I’m so friggin’ confused on who I’m going to put in where and what right here. I’m confused about especially the first two spots, and the last two spots. You, the readers, are going to question my conscious, but really I’m just as confused as anyone else of this division even though the obvious #1 choice, should be, well, obvious, there has never been a repeat division champion since the start in 2002. Let’s take a look.

2002: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl champions)
2003: Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl appearance)
2004: Atlanta Falcons
2005: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2006: New Orleans Saints

You know what they say, history repeats itself. Will we see a new division winner this year? A diamond in the rough perhaps that no one is even suspecting? I think not.

1.) New Orleans Saints
2006 was no joke. The 10-6 Saints, orchestrated by Drew Brees, took everyone by storm last season. No one was suspecting a team that had been away from it’s true home, the Louisiana Superdome, for so long that it would be the surprise franchise all the way up to its first ever NFC Championship appearance. Well coached, the coaching staff put players in place to be successful. In the NFL Draft, they added some exceptional players and definitely have the ability to win the South again. However, can they live up to the hype? If anything, their defense a lot less than stellar and teams will be expecting a hard fought game instead of the same old paltry Saints gameplan.

The Saints’ strongest forte: Their offense; Drew Brees, and the receiving threat of Reggie Bush, and the power running of Deuce McAllister
The Saints’ biggest weakness: Pass Defense
Troy questions the Saints: Can their defense step up and can the team overall live up to the hype?

(NOTE: I could have easily flipped 2.) and 3.), but I wanted to add a twist.)

2.) Atlanta Falcons
Everything is on Vick. And not rightfully so. After a horrendous offseason that was displayed by #7, the Falcons step in on an altered coaching staff, with an obvious new face at the helm of the head coach, Bobby Petrino. Things have also swayed on the field. Now Vick has the opportunity to call his own audibles, and Jerious Norwood will be getting more hand offs in the backfield than Warrick Dunn this year. Petrino has made it a point that the Falcons are looking to be using the ever-so-enticing power back system this year. They have been great at rushing the football the past few seasons, and their defense has shown phases of playing formidable stop-the-offense football. This time, it’s a put up or shut up season for Michael Vick, and all of the relying of wide receivers will slam right in front of newly acquired Joe Horn.

The Falcons’ strongest forte: The running game
The Falcons’ biggest weakness: Michael Vick’s problems at Quarterback
Troy questions the Falcons: Can Michael Vick erase all doubt and prove that he’s worthy of lining up at QB for the Falcons?

3.) Carolina Panthers
What can you do if you’re the Panthers? The team was as consistent as Aaron Brooks last season — and that’s not good. Jake Delhomme’s erratic play came into effect and the gunslinger that he usually is was not existent. He was inaccurate, and he actually kinda made me feel bad for Steve Smith (NOT!) They added Dwayne Jarrett during the NFL Draft, and their receiving core is beginning to look good again. Their defense isn’t what it was known for from years ago anymore. But their key advantage over other teams: Julius Peppers. They should have added Safety Donovin Darius to add padding and security to their secondary, as he’s substantial. However, they passed that opportunity and it isn’t going to make them any better. Going back to their offense, DeShaun Foster isn’t the answer to their running problem; get DeAngelo Williams in there!

The Panthers’ strongest forte: Steve Smith’s playmaking ability at WR
The Panthers’ biggest weakness: Injuries
Troy questions the Panthers: Can Jake Delhomme come back and play consistently?

4.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They go 12-4 in 2002, and win the Super Bowl. In 2003 and 2004, they switch from 3rd in the division to 4th in the division. In 2005, they have a pretty solid season and win the division at 11-5. In 2006, they plummet all the way to the bottom of the division to 4-12. Sheesh. What other team can practically spell inconsistency out, besides the Bucs? I can’t tell you. Anyway, this past offseason, they added Jeff Garcia. Most would think he would be terrible in a Bucs uniform, but he’s accustomed to the West Coast offense, and thrives in it (he did in San Fransisco and did as you seen just recently in Philadelphia.) However, are the Buccaneers going to be able to give him the talent he needs to be able to win? That’s a question mark. I’m also going to slap a question mark on their aging defense. To win this division, the Bucs will need more from leading rusher Cadillac Williams, who gained only 798 yards on the ground last season. Now I am obligated to send out a tribute to Cadillac Williams. From Fort Minor’s Where’d You GoWhere’d you go, I miss you so, it seems like it’s been forever, since your stellar Rookie Season. OK, enough with that crap. Tampa Bay, step it up this season!

The Buccaneers’ strongest forte: Pending; Cadillac Williams
The Buccaneers’ biggest weakness: Inconsistency, and the defense
Troy questions the Buccaneers: Will Jeff Garcia turn this team around? And will Cadillac Williams get back on his old two feet that he was on during his Rookie season?

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7 thoughts on “Breaking ’em Down: NFC South

  1. I can actually see the Saints winning this division by as many as six games, with Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta all being under .500. While I’m not sure the Saints actually made enough moves on defense to say they are any better than a year ago, I think the offense will be “off the charts.” Meanwhile, the rest of the division suffers from a number of things, most notably a lack of talent!

  2. What I don’t get is Carolina. One year they’re (supposedly) Super Bowl good, next year they plummet, next year they’re back to Super Bowl good, next year plummet, and so on. Their inconsistency wrecks everything along with the rest of the South. And I think New Orleans will possibly take some more shots this year on defense now knowing full well teams are wanting to completely blast them.

  3. Petrino’s plans in Atlanta just got scrapped if Vick’s trial doesn’t go well, but I think Atlanta will be a much better overall team this year, even if Harrington is behind center. Tampa has problems, and Carolina might be better on offense if they can keep a healthy o-line. For the past 5 years, someone from this division has been in the NFC championship game. They’re all decent teams, but yeah, the Saints look to be the class, again.

  4. Omar’s comment about the division having a rep in the last five NFL championship games…wow…maybe it’s all the heat and humidity here in Philly right now but I had pretty much not connected all the dots on that fact. Considering the Eagles were usually the other team…you’d think that would be pretty fresh in my mind…I gotta get a cold beverage…

  5. I never realized that either, SA. If you ask me, the NFC South is a lot like the MLB’s NL Central. Not too powerful, but gets the job done in the postseason. Not to mention there’s the one team atop the division that plays well (with the exception of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.) OK, I may be going over my own head on that one because there’s only only been 2 teams of the division that has represented the NL over the past 3 years (2004: STL; 2005: HOU; 2006: STL) but the fact remains on that one. It’s just very equivalent to the NFC South.

  6. saints?? they went 3-13 a season ago and then they add a qb and bush and all of a sudden they are superbowl bound .get real guys the only reason they had 10 wins last year was due to a soft schedule.might i add that the (high powered offense) put up a whopping 198 yards last night and 10 points when they got beat down by the colts(41 to 10)last year was a fluke and if i was you i would re-think my picks on them this year

  7. Well, myro, if you would have read the article thoroughly instead of only giving it a cursory glance, you would have read that I was bewildered on who was going to win the division this year.

    Oh, and I love it when all of you that ride the Saints hypewagon and then hurry and jump back off of it after they lose the first game of the season when they have 15 more to go. The Saints beat the Panthers to open up their season in ’05, had a putrid year the rest of the way. I think they’re overrated, but the NFC South is a toss-up. Maybe you should have put more thought into your comment by having actually read the blog post.

    Thanks.

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