A bit belated but here is my NFC South Preview, in the order of how the teams will finish...
I predicted Carolina to win the NFC South back in July, and after one week I see nothing to shake me from that prediction (although it should be noted I also predicted Vick would NOT be suspended and we all know how that turned out). The NFC has some of the best coaching in a coach’s league, which makes it one of the more difficult divisions in the league. I’m still not sold on their offense, as good as Steve Smith is Jake Delhomme is the definition of running hot and cold, but the defense should be up to snuff. I had to go back and check but the Panthers had the 7th rated (by yards) defense in the NFL last season, and to be honest I figured it would be much worse than that. The Panthers have a hole at safety with Mike Minter retiring and as the Bucs can attest to last season the last thing you want is a weak secondary. But then again the Panthers had no problem holding Marc Bulger to 167 passing yards on 42 attempts.
I have no idea what to make of Jake Delhomme, the guy vacillates between Favre-in-his-prime-esque and the current interception prone version of Favre. Considering how good their defense is it makes a good deal of sense to follow Chicago’s game plan from last season and give 40 carries a game to their two backs, DeShaun Foster and Deangelo Williams. Instead I get the feeling John Fox will continue to put the ball in Delhomme’s hands and hope Steve Smith can make enough plays for an inexperienced receiving corp. I really like the quarterback backing up Delhomme and I don’t look forward to the day Carr becomes the starter. Carr’s a guy who’s been sold short but Peyton Manning would look like Eli Manning if he had to play behind that offensive line in Houston.
Everyone had fallen in love with the Saints in the preseason ignoring their fairly obvious weaknesses on the defense. Last year the Saints were able to sneak up on people but this year every team in the NFC is going to spend more time looking for ways to beat the Saints. As the Colts proved last week the Saints secondary, especially the corners, is the best way to do that. With the exception of the defensive line the Saints defense is largely cast offs from other teams or young guys still struggling to make an impact. Last season, the leads given by the offense and the pass rush from the d-line covered up the deficiencies in the back seven. This year, I expect teams to pass early and often against the Saints.
As bad as the defense may be the offense should make sure this team competes for the division title. I think people are underselling the Joe Horn loss, sure he was getting older and slipping in skills but great offenses (i.e. Rams with Isaac Bruce or Vikings with Chris Carter) keep that veteran receiver to help take the pressure off of the younger guys.
We’ve learned a few things from the Boston DUI fiasco. First, GHB is a steroid (who knew?). Second, Boston is an idiot (we knew). Third, Bruce Allen is a liar (nothing new). Bruce Allen claiming he is releasing Boston for injury reasons is about as hollow as Jessica Simpsons acting career. If you released players for injuries reasons Chris Simms would be a Falcon right now. The Bucs released Boston 'cause he is being prosecuted for a DUI.
And speaking of negligent driving what the hell is going on with Donald Penn? Between Penn, Boston and Stevens the Bucs may want to offer a remedial driving course.
It will be a dogfight between the top three teams with Atlanta at the bottom of the dog pile considering Vick has been sent to the dog house. Woof.
Atlanta is going to truly horrendous unless they can get some semblence of a running game going. The Falcson haven't had a passing game since Vick came to town but at least with Ron Mexico opposing defenses had to worry about the possibility of the quarterback run. The Falcons used the shotgun option (for lack of a better term) extensively and with a good deal of success last season. With Joey Harrington opposing defenses have nothing to worry about.
Although on the bright side the Falcons defense could be much improved considering all the young talent they have added to the team. Throw in the your defense and the Petrino coaching up the offense and the Falcons have the potential to be a dangerous team in two years. Assuming they can find a quarterback.