NFC South 2009 Preview
1. Carolina Panthers 9-7 #4 seed
Key Draft Picks: Everette Brown
Overview: The Panthers were one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl in the NFC last year but were torn apart by Arizona in the playoffs. The Seahawks had one of the best running offenses in the NFL last year and this year will be no different. Â Deangelo Williams won’t get 20 TDs again but 16 or 17 is definitely reachable. The Panthers return virtually the same roster that carried them to a 12-4 record in 2008. They’ll be just as good as last year but everyone else around them has gotten better. They’ll sneak into the playoffs via the tiebreakers.
2. Atlanta Falcons 9-7
Key Additions: Tony Gonzalez, Mike Peterson
Key Losses: Michael Boley, Keith Brooking, Domonique Foxworth, Grady Jackson
Key Draft Picks: Everette Brown
Overview: The Falcons were definitely the surprise team of 2008 (along with the Dolphins) but they won’t sneak up on anyone this year. Rookie Matt Ryan showed he was the right fit to replace Michael Vick and Roddy White turned in his 2nd consecutive 1200 yard receiving season, the only player in the league to do that the past 2 seasons. The offense will be improved in 2009 with the addition of Tony Gonzalez at TE, replace a plethora of players who couldn’t fill the role last year. The defense will have a lot of new faces and will lose a step from last season. The Falcons will be good but their schedule is too tough for a playoff appearance this season.
3. New Orleans Saints 9-7
Key Additions: Â Heath Evans, Darren Sharper, Paul Spicer
Key Losses: Deuce McAllister, Dan Morgan, Mike McKenzie, Mike Karney
Key Draft Picks: Malcolm Jenkins
Overview: In 2008 the Saints had one of the worst secondaries this decade, everyone was awful. The additions of Darren Sharper and Malcolm Jenkins will help a lot but the secondary is still suspect. The offense will have no problem putting up points and will keep them in a lot of games. Brees will challenge Dan Marino’s yardage record for the 2nd straight year and could throw for 40 TDs as well. If Reggie Bush can stay healthy the Saints have a chance to put up 500 points this season, but unfortunately the defense could give up 400 and that will prevent them from making the playoffs.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13
Key Additions: Byron Leftwich, Derrick Ward, Kellen Winslow
Key Losses: Derrick Brooks, Phil Buchanon, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway, Jeff Garcia, Cato June, Ike Hilliard
Key Draft Picks: Josh Freeman
Overview: This franchise amazes me as much as anyone this year. They have a good QB in Jeff Garcia but choose to let him leave via free agency and then sign Byron Leftwich for the same money to take over as the starter. If that wasn’t bad enough they also traded for Kellen Winslow, a player who can’t stay healthy and can’t keep his mouth shut. The defense was aging but letting go of 3 starters means this season will be lost. The Bucs have the potential to lose 12 straight games this season and you shouldn’t be surprised if they do. With Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford entering the draft in 2010 it’s a shame they took a QB in the 2009 draft.