Sports

NFL Previews That Don’t Suck: NFC South

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

It’s fairly simple with the NFC South. They have one really good team that still has a top 3 NFL quarterback (New Orleans). One really bad team that might or might not have MRSA anymore (Tampa Bay). And two others that are middle of the road teams from top to bottom (Carolina and Atlanta).

New Orleans Saints

2013 Record – 11-5, 2nd Place in NFC South, 6th seed in NFC Playoffs
NFC South Record – 5-1

Notable Losses: Darren Sproles, Robert Meachum, Lance Moore, Malcolm Jenkins
Notable Additions: Jarius Byrd
Notable Draft Picks: Brandin Cooks

The Saints still have Drew Brees. In other words, the New Orleans Saints are still the same old New Orleans Saints of the past seven years and will continue to put up video game-like stats. It’s no accident that the diminutive Brees has thrown for 5,000 three straight years.

After all, he is throwing to Jimmy Graham. Only the best tight end since the best years of Antonio Gates, Graham is a freak that nobody seems to be controlled. He’s much bigger than EVERY defensive back in the NFL, and faster than just about every linebacker that he’ll face this season.

Brees might have lost some of his cast of characters from the past few years, specifically Darren Sproles, but we’re talking about Drew Brees here. He’ll be fine, just like how Tom Brady is after he loses his targets. When he has Sean Payton by his side, a double-digit win series is just about automatic.

Best Case Scenario: 13-3, First Round Bye

Considering the weak division they play in and the strength of their offense, this is completely realistic. As long as Drew Brees doesn’t magically regress or the defense doesn’t collapse, they’ll have one hell of a season.

Worst Case Scenario: 10-6, Division Champions/playoff team

Pretty good worst case scenario, huh?

Schedule:

@ Falcons
@ Browns
vs. Vikings
@ Cowboys
vs. Buccaneers
BYE
@ Lions
vs. Packers
@ Panthers
vs. 49ers
vs. Bengals
vs. Ravens
@ Steelers
vs. Panthers
@ Bears
vs. Falcons
@ Buccaneers

Carolina Panthers

2013 Record – 12-4, 1st Place in NFC South, 6th seed in NFC Playoffs
NFC South Record – 5-1

Notable Losses: Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Drayton Florence, Ted Ginn
Notable Additions: Thomas DeCoud, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant
Notable Draft Picks: Kelvn Benjamin, Kony Ealy

Ron Rivera- ‘Hey Cam, great job putting together a 12-4 season last year! Guess what you get as a congratulations?’

Cam Newton- ‘What’s that Coach?!?!’

Rivera- ‘No receivers to throw to!’

Surely Cam Newton was excited when that conversation took place during the offseason. Newton had a grand total of one actual, real life receiver to throw the football to last season, Panther great Steve Smith. Yea, he’s now in Baltimore. Lucky for Cam because they replaced him with nobody of any decency right now. He also lost Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, his other two receivers.

Just for the hell of it, here’s who replaces that triumvirate of receivers: Kelvim Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. Oh boy, that’ll really make Cam pumped for the season: a rookie and two receivers universally known to be over the hill. At least he still has, umm, Greg Olsen.

Can you imagine if Ted Cruz coached football? Well, if you watch the Panthers, you might just get your wish! Riverboat Ron is undoubtedly the biggest Reagan disciple in the NFL.

’3rd and 9? Meh, run DeAngelo up the middle.’ Yepp, that’s how Riverboat Ron operates. Sorry Panthers fans. You may have one hell of a defense, but your offense other than Cam Newton is not good at all.

This is the present version of the Eagles of the 1990s led by Randall Cunningham and Reggie White. Mean as hell defense, good quarterback, no good players around the quarterback.

Many condolences, Cam.

Best Case Scenario: 9-7, possible playoff berth

The Panthers might scrounge up enough offense outside of Newton to eek their way into the playoffs. Key word: might. This teams defense will give opposing quarterbacks absolute fits, led by Kraken himself (Greg Hardy). They have no chance of winning 12 games again. Nine would be a wonderful year for this particular team.

Worst Case Scenario: 7-9, 3rd place in NFC South

Talk about a turn for the worse. A year after going to the playoffs and finishing 12-4, this team is more than likely destined to not even make the playoffs. Their secondary is not good at all, and their wide receivers, as mentioned previously, are even worse. Hell, their receivers weren’t even good last year.

Schedule:

@ Buccaneers
vs. Lions
vs. Steelers
@ Ravens
vs. Bears
@ Bengals
@ Packers
vs. Seahawks
vs. Saints
@ Eagles
vs. Falcons
BYE
@ Vikings
@ Saints
vs. Buccaneers
vs. Browns
@ Falcons

Atlanta Falcons

2013 Record – 4-12, T-last in NFC South
NFC South Record – 1-5

Notable Losses: Tony Gonzalez, Sam Baker (injured, out for season), Asante Samuel, Thomas DeCoud
Notable Additions: Devin Hester, Tyson Jackson, full year of Julio Jones
Notable Draft Picks: Jake Matthews, Ra’Shade Hageman

It’s hard to believe the Falcons could be as bad as they were last year. While they lost Tony Gonzalez to the TV booth, the Falcons return Julio Jones, who was lost for the final 11 games of the 2013 season. Jones is an absolute game-breaker; one of the truly unique players the NFL has to offer these days.

Partner a healthy Julio with Matt Ryan and mainstay Roddy White, and this team might be on to something, just as they were a year ago. Even their pairing of Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson is pretty solid barring injuries. The loss of LT Sam Baker stings though. The former draftee out of USC tore his right patella tendon and was lost for the season before it even started.

Unfortunately, their defense isn’t nearly as intriguing. They have nothing that resembles a pass rush. Other than Tyson Jackson, they didn’t add anyone to what wasn’t a great defense by any stretch of the imagination.

Best Case Scenario: 9-7, possible playoff berth
This team is the exact opposite of the Panthers. They don’t have much defense, but they have a complete offense, including a solid offensive line even without the aforementioned Baker. This could be a fun team to watch offensively.

Worst Case Scenario: 7-9, 2nd or 3rd in NFC South
On the bright side for fans of the ATL, they won’t be as bad as they were last year. That’s a guarantee. They’ll improve, it’s just a matter of how much they’ll improve. They don’t have a defense that can compete on a day-in, day-out basis. Their lack of a pass rush will be their downfall, ultimately because they cannot leave their defensive backs on an island, which most certainly will happen this year.

Schedule:

vs. Saints
@ Bengals
vs. Buccaneers
@ Vikings
@ Giants
vs. Bears
@ Ravens
vs. Lions
BYE
@ Buccaneers
@ Panthers
vs. Browns
vs. Cardinals
@ Packers
@ Saints
vs. Panthers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2013 Record – 4-12, T-last in NFC South
NFC South Record – 1-5

Notable Losses: Darrelle Revis, Carl Nicks, Davin Joseph, Josh Freeman, Greg Schiano :(
Notable Additions: Logan Mankins, Josh McCown, Michael Johnson
Notable Draft Picks: Mike Evans

‘Sing us a song, you’re a not a Schiano man!’

Tampa fans should be joyous as hell that they don’t have to endure 1) Greg Schiano and his dumbass antics anymore and 2) MRSA, because thats the worst. The season can’t be as awful as last year, right? I mean it can’t be.

Lovie Smith is Schiano’s replacement and that’s overwhelmingly a good thing (Also, thank god Schiano didn’t get that Penn State job). Lovie had a pretty solid tenure as the Bears coach, which included a Super Bowl appearance.

They’ve also got Josh McCown playing quarterback for them, who had a really good year backing up for Jay Cutler in Chicago last season. Plus, he’ll be throwing to Vincent Jackson and Johnny Football’s best friend Mike Evans, who is an absolute man-child.

The Bucs also have Doug Martin. And Gerald McCoy. And Lavonte David. Oh! And they have new jerseys and that pirate ship at the new sombrero in Tampa! That pirate ship is one of the dumbest things in the NFL. It’s not quite as bad as an NFL team playing in Jacksonville, but it’s pretty damn close.

Anyway, the Bucs were so frisky this offseason, they went out and pissed Tom Brady off by plucking Logan Mankins from the Pats. If you piss off Tom Brady, you get a gold star in my book…well done.

Best Case Scenario: 6-10, last place in NFC South
If Josh McCown continues his play from last year where he had Bears fans wanting him to unseat Jay Cutler as the starter, well they could be on to something. They’re just too young to do anything just yet, despite their better than average defense. Give them a few years and they may have something.

Worst Case Scenario: 4-12, last place in NFC South and another top 5 pick
Josh McCown plays like pre-2013 Josh McCown rather than last year’s version and they are in deep trouble. As if going 6-10 was trouble enough, they could be just as bad as they were last year. They should just be glad that Schiano isn’t acting like a five-year-old on their dime though, so there’s that. Same with Josh Freeman.

Man, both of them sucked.

Schedule:

vs. Panthers
vs. Rams
@ Falcons
@ Steelers
@ Saints
vs. Ravens
BYE
vs. Vikings
@ Browns
vs. Falcons
@ Redskins
@ Bears
vs. Bengals
@ Lions
@ Panthers
vs. Packers
vs. Saints