[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 Go — Where’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?