NFL Predictions 2014-NFC South
by Mark Neal
posted Aug 20 2014 10:48AM
We will be doing our NFL division predictions, one division at a time...here is the NFC South! Your thoughts and comments are welcome!
Tomorrow: NFC West
1. New Orleans Saints...Great season in 2013, and they could be better in 2014. Drew Brees still leads this team, and he is as productive as any QB in the NFL. As long as he is there, and healthy, the Saints will always be a factor in this division. Brees can still look for arguably the most dangerous weapon in the NFL, Jimmy Graham, and he will most likely end up in the end zone. Whether he is a WR or a TE, it doesn't matter to me...he is a factor every game. They do need something from the ground game though...all can not be put on Brees' shoulders. Defensively they were solid in 2013. People might not realize they were 4th in the league in total defense. If they can replicate that this year, and keep key offensive pieces healthy, the sky is the absolute limit in the Crescent City.
2. Carolina Panthers...12-4, yes 12-4 in 2014...an incredible season for the Panthers. The defense was exquisite last season, providing a pass rush few could deal with game to game. The unit allowed the 2nd fewest yards, and 2nd fewest points of any team in football...but can they do it again? Cam Newton had a break out type season in 2013 as well, but lost many of the pass catchers he had grown accustomed to finding, namely Steve Smith. Meshing with receivers, and building timing, takes reps and games...if they can build that, then they might have something. The ground game has the ability to be a real asset, will it be in 2014? Another strong showing by the defense, and a balanced offense for Cam, another playoff trip is certainly there to be had.
3. Atlanta Falcons...a 4 win season certainly hasn't been the norm in the ATL since Matt Ryan arrived. This franchise is far removed from the Gerald Riggs, Bill Fralic years where 4 wins was common place...this group has won games, in the regular season. They get Julio Jones back, which is enormous. Roddy White even missed 3 games in 2013, something he never does. Gone though, is Tony Gonzalez. The TE that just never aged, retired, and with him took a lot of experience and moxie. The defense was terrible in 2013, 27th in total yards...but that had been the issue for most of the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era. Can they develop a pass rush? Can they replace LT Sam Baker, who is lost for the season with a knee injury? Does Steven Jackson have anything left in the tank? Too many questions for too big of a turnaround for the Falcons in 2014.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers...I know, Lovie Smith is there, but they still have the same talent, right? Looks as though Josh McCown will get 1st crack under Center, after Mike Glennon showed signs, at times, in 2013. Pair Vincent Jackson with 1st Rd pick Mike Evans out of Texas A&M, and you have a huge, big play pair of receivers. Doug Martin returns after an injury in 2013. His yardage fell off by nearly 1000 yards from 2013 due to that injury. His healthy return is the most crucial aspect of the season. That, and can the OL block for him, or whoever plays QB. Defensively, Tampa was middle of the road, 17th in total defense in 2013, led by DT Gerald McCoy as well as up and coming LB Lavonte David. Adding DE Michael Johnson via free agency from the Bengals could provide a major asset to the pass rush. This is a team that could make a real jump from the 4 wins they posted in 2014, if the right breaks go their way. I still feel they are at least another year away from being real players in this division.
Filed Under :
Bill Fralic, Cam Newton, Doug Martin, Drew Brees, Gerald McCoy, Jimmy Graham, Josh McCown, Julio Jones, Lovie Smith, Matt Ryan, Michael Johnson, Mike Evans, Mike Glennon, Roddy White, Sam Baker, Steve Smith, Steven Jackson, Tony Gonzalez, Vincent Jackson