The NFC South is a topsy turvy division and rarely returns a winner for the second season in a row. Clearly there are two teams here that can win this thing but neither will get through the 2013 NFL season without some trying times.
Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta has been on the rise for three seasons. In 2012 the Falcons were clearly the class of the NFC South. But somewhere along the line the Falcons lost their focus and failed in the playoffs. Again. Something seems to be missing here. Furthermore, we’re going to see a 2013 Falcons team that is markedly different in several key areas. If the chemistry isn’t right the Atlanta Falcons could flounder again. If it is right, they could be battling to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints – Everyone keeps pointing to the return of Sean Payton as a driving force in making the New Orleans Saints a winner again. It should certainly help. But let’s remember what cost the Saints in 2012, which was absolutely no defense. If Rob Ryan can transform the New Orleans defense into just an average NFL defense the Saints offense can do the rest. Drew Brees is a monster and combined with Payton again New Orleans has a dynamic duo waiting to be unleashed. I’m asking if the Saints have enough talent on defense to be even average, and the uncertainty to that question makes them the #2 choice.
Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton is a talent, no doubt. But he’ll be operating under a new offensive coordinator in 2013. Doesn’t Steve Smith have to slow down sometime? Can the Carolina Panthers manage to keep up with the Saints and Falcons on offense? So many questions and not enough answers make us leery of having the Panthers as even #3 on our list.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Banking on Darrelle Revis to stop New Orleans and Atlanta seems like a good move. But you still have to score and that’s going to depend on Josh Freeman, who is standing on shaky ground. The Buccaneers will also find out that their run defense isn’t as good as it seemed to be last season when teams took to the air because it was just too easy. Revis helps that but he’s not going to be a ton of help when opponents are pounding the ball.