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2008-2009 NFC SOUTH PREVIEW
Not Much separates three NFC South teams, the Panthers, Bucs and Saints, while the Falcons continue to rebuild and recover from the Michael Vick fiasco. Each of the three mentioned has their different strengths. With the Saints, it's an offense led by Drew Brees. With the Bucs, it's a solid defense, but also an offense that could break out. The Panthers had to deal with the Jake Delhomme injury last season. He played 3 games last season and still led the team in touchdown passes! So with a healthy Delhomme and a coach in John Fox potentially on the hot seat, watch the Panthers. Don't forget to sign up to receive our Free Picks newsletter each week during the NFL and College Season as our Key release crew will release the strongest plays on the board each week - free!
New Orleans Saints: Odds to win NFC South - 1-1
Head Coach: Sean Payton (3rd year)
Off. Coord: Doug Marrone; Def. Coord: Gary Gibbs
2007 Record: SUR 7-9, PSR 6-10, O-U 10-5-1
Even with a very questionable defense, the Saints are “leaps and bounds” ahead of the other teams in this division……..
Drew Brees started slow like the rest of the Saints offense in 2007 but once he got his rhythm there was no stopping him. After averaging 232 yards over the first 6 games he averaged a silly 303 yards the rest of the way. 5 TD passes in the first 6 games, 23 in the last 10. You get the picture. For the season Brees finished 2nd in passing yards (4423), 3rd in comp. % (67.5), 6th in TD passes (28), and 1st in red-zone comp. % (71.4). New Orleans signed Brees to a 6-year, $60 million deal in 2006 but many were afraid his surgically-repaired right shoulder was trashed. A lot of the money was back-loaded to protect the team against re-injury. Well, Brees is collecting the back-loaded money. In 2006 he was pure magic: 4418 passing yards (1st), 26 TD passes (3rd), and a 96.2 QB rating (3rd). Brees threw eight 300-yard games, including a 510-yard game, and threw 20 TDs from week 8 to week 14. This offensive line allowed a sack every 40.7 attempts, best in the NFL. Jahri Evans was robbed of a Pro Bowl spot in '07. Goodwin replaced C Jeff Faine and did great.
Regardless of how potent the 2008 offense is, it might not matter unless the “D” makes some big strides. Thus, the Saints were major players in free agency, eyeing almost every available defender. And they focused almost exclusively on defense in the draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Odds to win Division 2-1
Head Coach: Jon Gruden (7th yr. in T.B.)
Off. Coord: Bill Muir; Def. Coord: Monte Kiffin
2007 Record: SUR 9-8, PSR 8-8-1, O-U 9-8
Tampa Bay’s problems are: 1. Revolving quarterbacks during the season. 2. A group of wide receivers that is ready for an old age home. 3. Consistency at running back.
STICK WITH GARCIA, HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Garcia’s QB rating (94.6) was the 7th best mark in the league. His 4 INTs were the least of any starting QB not named David Garrard. With Galloway (37) and Hilliard (32) both in their 30s and Michael Clayton having settled into his role as complement WR/blocker, Gruden is looking for
someone—anyone—who can make “splash” plays in his West Coast passing game (16th LY). Many have gotten a look from Gruden. But he’s still seeking a breakthrough guy.
In 2007, the Bucs were No. 1 in pass defense, No. 2 in total defense, and No. 3 in scoring defense.
Carolina Panthers: Odds to win the South 5-2
Head Coach: John Fox (7th year)
Off. Coord: Jeff Davidson; Def. Coord: Mike Trgovac
2007 Record: SUR 7-9, PSR 8-8, O-U 6-10
Just too many questions surrounding this club to make a serious run at post season play.
You just knew that Williams couldn’t escape the 2008 draft without a new running back added to the mix. After DeShaun Foster left for San Francisco they needed a power back to fill his shoes. In comes Jonathan Stewart with the 13th pick. Too bad for Williams, he’s actually quite effective when he gets extended playing time. He only had 10+ carries in 7 games but in those games Williams carried 98 times for 554 yards (5.6 ypc) with 4 TDs. And Carolina went 6-1. But many teams are going to 1-2 punches these days and Williams might be best suited for a change-of-pace role.Gross/Wharton can maul, but playing new positions. 1st-rd OT Jeff Otah is thrown to the wolves. C Ryan Kalil is good but only has 3 career starts. Many nice reserves.
With Peppers’ longtime DE colleague Mike Rucker finally calling it quits, Carolina hopes young DEs Stanley McClover and Charles Johnson can become pass-rush threats.
Atlanta Falcons: Odds 15-1
Head Coach: Mike Smith (1st year)
Off. Coord: M. Mularkey; Def. Coord: B. VanGorder
2007 Record: SUR 4-12, PSR 8-8, O-U 9-7
Obviously, this is their second year as a rebuilding team but even so this should a very “worthy” team to follow.
They've considered 2007 2nd-rd pick Blalock at RT. New OL coach Paul Bodreau had great success with Panthers, Jags, & Rams. McClure is underrated. Not a horrible group. MichaelTurner signed a 6-year deal worth $34 million, including a whopping $15m in guarantees. That's not platoon money. That’s “20-25 carries per game” money, hands down. Turner’s waited for 4 years for this chance, so he wouldn’t sign with any team that even hinted at a platoon. Just like LaMont Jordan and Chester Taylor, Turner caddied for 4 years, towing the company line until he got his shot. Both those guys topped 1,000 yards in their first season starting for a new team - and just like Turner, both of them joined a pretty bad team. Matt Ryan has the size, arm, and smarts – and since Dimitroff was around a pretty good QB for the last 6 yeas in New England, we have to believe Ryan will succeed. He might be thrown in immediately so the road could be bumpy early.
The Falcons defense is in rebuild mode. They lost DB DeAngelo Hall to the Raiders, and they have aging stars in DL John Abraham, LB Keith Brooking and DB Lawyer Milloy. In 2007, they were last in standard-scoring Fantasy leagues. One thing that could improve Atlanta's defense is the addition of rookies Curtis Lofton, Chevis Jackson and Thomas DeCoud, who could make an impact right away. New coach Mike Smith, the architect of the Jaguars defense, has his work cut out for him.
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