Under the Magnifying Glass: NFC South Playoff Race
It's week 11 of the NFL schedule which is typically about the time pundits and forecasters alike turn their collective attentions to the playoffs. After the vastly superior AFC West the best division is the NFC South, sporting 3 teams with a .500 record or better. And considering how mediocre the NFC is this season there is a good chance the top three teams from the division could make it in the playoffs, especially since the NFC South has already played more than half their intra-divisional games. Let's take a gander at the playoff chances for each team.
Bucs- As GNorb pointed out before the Bucs cooooooould win their next six games and finish 9-7. But I think we're more likely to see a Michael Richards comedy special on BET than the Bucs in the playoffs. Although they could play the role of spoiler if they can get a few wins.
Falcons- I would love to say the Falcons look set to fall apart except they already are falling apart. Although one of my guilty pleasures is watching Falcons fans justify Vick's play at quarterback. As though the 20 yard run justifies the three or four boneheaded plays he makes. People forget Drew Brees was drafted the same year as Vick and has since adjusted to the pro game. And more than anything else when Vick and DeAngelo are their leaders you know the team will be in trouble when things get difficult and it's easier to quit than tough it out. So yeah, I don't think the Falcons make the playoffs.
Saints- Speaking of Brees, if he can make the Saints a contender does that make him a top five quarterback? My top four would be Brady, Peyton, Palmer, McNabb. I think Brees has earned his way into the top five. I keep wondering how long the Saints can go on borrowed time, they just don't have much talent on the defense and their best receiver/tightend could be gone for awhile. They still haven't beaten a team with a winning record, and they are entering the toughest part of their schedule. But if the Saints go 3-3 down the home stretch they would finish 9-7 which is good enough to get into the playoffs out of the NFC. Saints will lose in the first round though.
Panthers- People are sleeping on this team big time. The Panthers ALWAYS finish the season strong, and they have a soft schedule down the home strech to boot. You heard it here first, with DeAngelo Williams back from injury Fox will gradually center the offense around Williams, using the run to set up the pass. Which is exactly what the Panthers did during their Super Bowl run.
Once the Panthers get to the playoffs they only have to worry about two teams, Cowboys and Bears. If they get lucky they'll only have to face one of them hopefully the Bears since Panthers apparently own the blueprint for beating Chicago in Chicago. If the Delhomme-Stevie Smith connection gets hot come January the Panthers will be the most dangerous team in the NFC.