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A less cynical look at Buccaneer rivals


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Okay okay. So I've been a bit of an *** in the past week, particularly in my criticism of ATL and N.O.

When you guys aren't winning, you're a bit easier to handle. Anyway, here's a less cynical look at each foe, Carolina included.

I'll start it off with ATL. Leaps and bounds improvement over last year. Best draft of the NFC south by far with Ryan and Baker. Ryan has shown amazing poise and confidence for a rookie. He may be a force to be reckoned with in future years to come, perhaps eventually rivaling Brees' ability (speculation at best). The real story to tell is the improvement of the offensive line. From everything I hear, Baker's been a stud. He's not the only one who's stepped up, though. The Falcons are what, like, #6 in giving up sacks? Very impressive indeed. Even more impressive is the running game. Who would've known Turner would continue to be impressive? It wasn't just the air in San Diego (or backing up a star NFL running back, either). I'm still not understanding the lack of touches from Norwood, though. There must be some legitimate reason. The only area of improvement for this team is the D. Aside from Abraham and Boley, they leave a lot to be desired imo. Revamping is needed. But if we've ever identified Atlanta as any sort of franchise, they've been a running powerhouse (and continue to be, under Smith).

Next up we've got the Carolina Panthers. Same tough team we've known in past years. With the addition of Muhammad, their receiving corps received (no pun intended) a huge boost. Jake Delhomme recovered from his surgery better than could be expected and returned to the above average QB he's always been (Can't say he's pro-bowl caliber, but he's solid). Their rushing attack ranks up there with Atlanta's, Williams and Stewart providing a lightning and thunder attack that can strike fear into opposing defenses. Their D, however, is playing on an elite level. At this point in the season they're something like #5 (I can't be bothered to look up exact stats right now), and are stifling opposing ground games. If there's another defense in the NFC south I fear for my Bucs when they play, it's Carolina for sure. Always solid, always dangerous.

New Orleans. Brees has been as solid as we all thought he would be (at least the vast majority of us without our homer goggles on). The disappearance of Bush may not be such a bad thing. I've always seen Deuce as the better runner, which I imagine most New Orleans fans believe too. Yet when entering the Red Zone, Payton takes Deuce out and puts Bush in. To me, this signals the offensive intent. Yes, we're going to pass. The thing is - not many defenses can actually stop that. So it works, yes, but in passing so much you don't establish ball control or a running game. I think if New Orleans' offense can dictate the pace of the game, they'll win more games. Don't get me wrong, the D is a big culprit - but I think scoring too quickly can also be a detriment to the defense. Keep them off the field longer and you may see a boost. Off of that tangent, I think New Orleans D has too much talent to play at the level they've been playing. The acquisition of Vilma and Ellis was supposed to boost the rushing defense and has done anything but. Heads need to roll if the coaches can't get this fixed. When it's no longer a lack of talent that's the problem, then you point to the coaching staff.

Anyway. My two cents. Take them for what they're worth.

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