2010 NFL Preview Part 8: NFC South

Team                                                Projected Wins-Losses (Range)

1. New Orleans Saints                   11-5 – 13-3

The Saints were very impressive on both side of the ball against the Vikings last Thursday, its looking like they could continue to be very good this season. QB Drew Brees is one of the best players in the league, and he has a slew of players to throw to including RB’s Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, WR’s Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore, even TE Jeremy Shockey will get a few balls thrown his way. The RB combo of Bush and Thomas give the Saints a pretty good rushing attack to go with their fearsome passing game. New Orleans has an excellent offensive line anchored by RG Jahri Evans. The Saints have the best offense in football, but their defense does need some work. One thing is guaranteed when you play the Saints, they will hit you and they will hit you hard. Most of the time last year that strategy caused a lot of turnovers. I wouldn’t expect quite so many touchdowns off those turnovers, but I think Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams knows what he’s doing. The Saints have some very good player on their defensive line with DE Will Smith and improving DT Sedrick Ellis. Other than MLB Johnathan Vilma, New Orleans does not have the greatest group of LB’s. Scott Shanle is a decent LB, but on the weakside Jo-Lonn Dunbar is unproven. The Saints secondary is one of the best in the league with underrated CB Jabari Greer (who in my opinion is one of the best cover corners in the league), Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter, the hard hitting SS Roman Harper, CB/S Malcom Jenkins, veteran FS Darren Sharper, and rookie Patrick Robinson.  The Saints are a good enough team for a possible Super Bowl repeat, but I would expect a slight drop off, but a very slight one.

2.Atlanta Falcons                           7-9 – 11-5

Last season the Falcons had a drop off from their 11-5 2008 season, mostly because of QB Matt Ryan’s sophomore slump. This season Matt Ryan should be much better. The return of RB Michael Turner will definitely help. Turner is a great runner, but is not a factor in the pass game. WR Roddy White is one of the most consistent wideouts in the NFL and with TE Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan has at least 2 good targets. WR Michael Jenkins is an average player, but could return to his 2008 form, where he had 50 receptions for 777 yards, if Ryan plays better. The Falcons should have no trouble protecting Ryan or blocking for Turner, this one of the better offensive lines in football. Atlanta’s defense is improving, but still is quite a while away from being considered to be great. DE John Abraham is coming off a rough year, he’s going to need Kroy Biermann to step up. DT Johnathan Babineaux is suspended for the 1st game of the year, but once he returns, the Falcons could be solid in the middle with Babineaux paired with last years 1st round pick Peria Jerry. MLB Curtis Lofton has develop into a great player, and with rookie OLB Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons have a great future ahead of them. Atlanta’s most glaring problem is their secondary. Even with the addition of CB Dunta Robinson, the Falcons will get repeatedly burned. Robinson can make big plays, but is an average cover corner and will gamble too much on plays. CB Brent Grimes is decent and had 6 picks last season. FS Thomas DeCoud is decent young player, but needs to prove he can move on to the next level. SS Erik Coleman is a solid veteran, but his backup William Moore has done almost nothing since being drafted in the 2nd round of last years draft. I’m expecting the Falcons to be decent this year, but I’m not so sure they can make the playoffs, don’t be surprised if their in the race though.

3. Carolina Panthers                      6-10 – 8-8

The Panthers will once again have a great rushing attack with star RB’s DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but a poor passing game and defense will hold them back. QB Matt Moore could be a decent player, but Carolina didn’t draft Jimmy Clausen to sit on the bench. Clausen should have the starting job sometime this season. WR Steve Smith is still one of the games best wideouts, but a lack of other proven targets will leave him in double coverage almost 100% of the time. The Panthers have a great offensive line with LT Jordan Gross and RT Jeff Otah leading the way for Williams and Stewart.  Carolina took a huge blow when DE Julius Peppers signed with the Chicago Bears, but they are hoping 4th year player Charles Johnson or 2nd year DE Everette Brown can step up. With OLB Thomas Davis most likely out for the season, the only other linebacker who I would consider to be good is Jon Beason. Beason is not only a great player but is a team leader. In the secondary the Panthers have 2 solid corners with Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall, but young safeties  Charles Godfrey and  Sherrod Martin are going to need to improve. The Panthers are a team that could be good if their young players develop, but with weaknesses on the defense, special teams, and their lack of wide receivers, the Panthers will not contend for at least another year.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers            2-14 – 5-11

The Buccaneers are going to have the worst offense in the league this season. QB Josh Freeman will continue to struggle. Receivers Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, and Sammie Stroughter have potential, but aren’t going to be getting 1000 yards any time soon. RB Cadillac Williams is good when healthy, but if he gets injured the Bucs have no other proven backs. Freeman’s best option in the passing game is TE Kellen Winslow, who when healthy is also a very good player. Tampa Bay has a decent offensive line lead by LT Donald Penn and RG Davin Joseph. Despite the Bucs terrible offense, they do have a promising future on defense with 3rd overall pick DT Gerald McCoy and fellow rookie DT Brian Price. McCoy and Price will solidify the interior of the line for years to come. The Buccaneers will need more production out of DE’s Stylez White and Kyle Moore if they want to get to the quarterback. MLB Barret Ruud has turned into one of the premier LB’s in the league, and with improving Geno Hayes and Quincy Black, the Bucs have a quality group of linebackers. In the secondary Tampa Bay has solid veteran SS Sean Jones and FS Tanard Jackson, who had 5 picks last season. CB Aqib Talib is a great young corner, but is suspended for week 1 leaving 2nd year player E.J. Biggers in his spot. Ronde Barber has not been an elite corner for a couple years now, but the Bucs have some talented young corners to eventually take his spot including Biggers, Elbert Mack, and rookie Myron Lewis. The Buccaneers will struggle to win games once again this year, but with a good young QB and a strong nucleus on defense, they have a bright future.

Check back later for my NFL preview wrap up

This is also posted on ESPN.com

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