Over the next week and a half, I’ll be taking a look at each of the NFL’s individual divisions and offering my thoughts and predictions for how they will fare in the 2012-13 campaign. Today’s edition will feature a look at the South division of the National Football Conference, featuring the defending champion New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The schedule for the 2012 NFL predictions pieces is as follows:
AFC East (09/01/12)
AFC South (09/03/12)
AFC North (09/03/12)
AFC West (09/04/12)
NFC East (09/04/12)
Without further ado, my predictions for the NFC South…..
1) Atlanta Falcons — (11-5) — All of the media attention this offseason has been squarely pointed towards the New Orleans Saints, after the details of “Bounty-Gate” became available to the public. This can only mean good things for a Falcons squad that didn’t fare very well under Superbowl expectations in 2011-12. Two seasons ago, the Falcons surprised everyone, amassing an impressive 13-3 record en route to the NFC’s number one seed. Last year came the step back that any young team comes across on the path to long-term NFL success. Flying under the radar, look for Atlanta to take care of business in the NFC South this season and compete for one of the conference’s top-two seeds. Quarterback Matt Ryan‘s offense is extraordinarily deep with weapons on the outside in Roddy White and Julio Jones, veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez and running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. However, there are holes in the front seven and Atlanta will need to rely upon a strong season from their veterans in the defensive backfield.
2) New Orleans Saints — (10-6) — How will they react to a fluid coaching situation? How will they adjust to playing without key defensive players? Can the offensive line hold up without Carl Nicks? Despite all the questions that currently surround the New Orleans Saints, they will remain in the NFC playoff hunt, so as long as number nine continues to put on the uniform. Drew Brees has one of the league’s most impressive offensive weapon arsenals with tight end Jimmy Graham, receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson and the three-headed rushing machine of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. The problems on defense are evident, but if Brees and the offense put up 30-plus points per game, its going to be hard for anyone to conquer the Saints.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — (6-10) — The offseason addition of beastly wide receiver Vincent Jackson finally gives young quarterback Josh Freeman an outside weapon in the passing game. The Buccaneers’ running attack should be strong once again with rookie Doug Martin complimenting the powerful LeGarrette Blount. Like the Falcons, there are many questions on the defensive side of the ball that must be answered in order for the Bucs to make a legitimate run at a postseason berth in 2012-13.
4) Carolina Panthers — (6-10) — Lead by 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award winner Cam Newton and running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, the Carolina Panthers may have the best rushing offense in the entire NFC. The defense will receive a much-needed boost in the middle through the return of all-pro linebacker Jon Beason and the addition of 2012 first round draft choice Luke Kuechly.
Thanks For Reading!