Geneaut Posted August 25, 2011 Share Posted August 25, 2011 http://www.morrisdailyherald.com/blogs/entries/2011/08/23/62032120/index.xmlNFL Preview: NFC SouthPart 7 in an eight-part, division-by-division look at the upcoming NFL season.ATLANTA FALCONSThe good — I thought the Falcons badly overpaid for the right to draft Julio Jones, but if he is what he's supposed to be, he and Roddy White could be among the NFL's best WR pairings already. ... QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner lead an offense that hasn't made a lot of big plays, but it does take care of the ball with the best of them. ... Ray Edwards probably isn't worth what the Falcons are paying him, but if he can get to 8 sacks, which he's done the last 2 years, he and John Abraham will spearhead a good pass rush.The bad — Turner's 2008 debut with the Falcons was sensational, but he was banged up the following year and averaged 0.8 fewer yards per carry in 2010. At 28, Turner's best days may already be behind him. ... The offensive line has to replace Harvey Dahl. It still features aging C Todd McClure and oft-injured LT Sam Baker. Could be some problems up front. ... Curtis Lofton is solid in the middle, but otherwise the team's biggest defensive weakness could be its LBs. Sean Weatherspoon must make great strides for that not to be the case.The verdict: 11-5 — I've always like QB Matt Ryan, but it's about time he stopped being a game manager and started making some plays down the field. With White and Jones on either side of the field, I think Ryan will make it happen. He'll be flanked by a defense that won't dominate but should be pretty solid from top to bottom. Unless Ryan stumbles, the Falcons should be good again.CAROLINA PANTHERSThe good — DeAngelo Williams might not average above 5 yards a carry as he did in 2008 and 2009, but between a healthy Williams and Jonathan Stewart (not to mention Cam Newton), the Panthers should formulate an above-average running game. ... LT Jordan Gross and Pro Bowl C Ryan Kalil are a pair of outstanding pieces to start with if you're trying to open holes for Williams or trying to protect a rookie QB like Newton. ...In Jon Beason, James Anderson, Thomas Davis and Dan Connor, the Panthers have four pretty good LBs to fill three spots.The bad — Newton has the talent to prove me wrong, but I don't think there's much chance he leads an NFL passing attack that's competent, let alone productive, in 2011. The addition of TE Greg Olsen or even a Steve Smith resurgence won't be enough to change that. ... I'll believe Charles Johnson can replicate his 12-sack season when I see it, and there isn't a whole lot else to like on this defensive line. ... The secondary could be worse, as Chris Gamble is the most recognizable name from a young group, and his 2010 was widely considered a poor one.The verdict: 4-10 — The Panthers shouldn't be as inept as they were against the Bears — and a good number of their other opponents — in 2010. I do like the running game, parts of the offensive line and the LBs. But there are too many holes elsewhere to expect too much in a tough division, particularly with a rookie QB that's as raw as Newton may be at the helm.NEW ORLEANS SAINTSThe good — QB Drew Brees has throw for over 4,000 yards in 5 consecutive seasons, and with a deep pool of targets that includes WRs Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson and TE Jimmy Graham, it may take a major injury to prevent No. 6. ... The drafting of RB Mark Ingram (and the subtraction of Reggie Bush) might finally lead to a running game that rivals the Saints' passing attack. ... Great free-agent pickup Aubrayo Franklin could push a defensive line that includes Will Smith, Cameron Jordan, Sedrick Ellis, Shaun Rogers and Alex Brown.The bad — The only thing that could, or at least should, stop this offense is the offensive line. When you're bringing in C Olin Kruetz to be an upgrade at this point in his career, it's telling. ... It was probably the right time to cut ties with Darren Sharper, but the defense is going to be lacking his presence in the secondary. ... Around excellent ILB Jonathan Vilma, the Saints plan to start Scott Shanle and Will Herring. Sounds like a pair of marginal starters on the outside, at best.The verdict: 10-6 — I was thinking I might pick the Buccaneers to pass the Saints, and the Falcons to stay way in front of them, in 2011. Then the Saints added Franklin. So much for the defense looking as weak as I thought it might. This offense is still too good for a defense that has a line like this one not to be adequate for a playoff run.TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERSThe good — If DEs Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers pan out, it's just more talent up front for a defense that already has Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller outside. ... I like QB Josh Freeman's future more than I like his present, but he, Kellen Winslow and WRs Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn could team up to form a pretty potent passing attack in 2011. ... LeGarrett Blount will make it a relatively well-rounded offense if he comes close to equaling his 5-yards-a-carry average from a year ago.The bad — At CB, the Bucs are relying on the likely-to-be-suspended Aqib Talib and the born-in-1975 Ronde Barber. Things could get really ugly in pass coverage. ... I'm not much more sold on what the Bucs have at LB, where a rookie third-rounder (Mason Foster) is scheduled to start inside of Quincy Black and Geno Hayes. Black and Hayes have multiple years as starters under their belts and neither's hit 90 tackles. ... I'm not someone that's too worried about character, but between Talib, Blount and Winslow, it's a legitimate concern in Tampa Bay.The verdict: 8-8 — I do think the Bucs are a legitimate team on the rise, not just a fluke that finished 10-6 on a wing and a prayer. So why am I picking a two-game regression? Part of it's the Talib situation. Part of it's that I think Freeman is a year away from really figuring it out. Part of it's the fact that the NFC is tough. Anyway, I wouldn't be shocked if I'm wrong here. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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