2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC South

Posted on 02 September 2014


 

A tough division and difficult schedules for the entire division spells trouble for all the teams in the NFC South.  Don’t expect any of these teams to go deep into the playoffs.

 

New Orleans Saints (10-6)

 

The Saints once again should be in the playoffs and in contention for a Super Bowl berth.  Drew Brees runs Sean Payton’s offense to a T, and Payton is always willing to push the envelope and take gambles that usually pay off.  Jimmy Graham is a matchup nightmare whether at tight end or split out wide.  Speed merchant Brandin Cooks (4.33 second 40 yard dash) is a new toy for Brees to an already loaded receiving core with big physical receivers Robert Meachem (6’2”, 215 lbs.) and Marques Colston (6’4” 225) along with second-year game-breaker Kenny Stills.  Mark Ingram needs to be healthy and consistent, especially now that Darren Sproles is in Philadelphia.  Jahri Evans is still an elite guard in the league and is the anchor for the offensive line.  The defense is nothing spectacular but does what it has to, since the offense can pick up the slack for the defense.  In today’s pass happy league, the Saints strength is their secondary and that should suit them well this season.  Keenan Lewis (6’1” 208) has the size needed to be the number one cornerback he is, and look for new addition Champ Bailey to move to safety to cover up for his diminished athleticism at his age (36).  Jairus Byrd is a nice addition at safety as well, and second year man Kenny Vaccaro is a big hitter at safety.  The Saints play the North divisions of both the NFC and AFC, both pretty deep divisions, along with the 49ers this season.  This schedule should prevent New Orleans from stacking up enough wins to get home field advantage deep in the playoffs, which will make the road to a title difficult for this team outside of their comfort zone at the Superdome.

 

Atlanta Falcons (8-8)

 

Expect a bounce bag season from Atlanta this year.  Sometimes, a season can get away from any team, and that is what happened last year.  Mike Smith is a quality coach who doesn’t tolerate mistakes of any kind.  Matt Ryan has been a solid quarterback his entire career and, with Julio Jones and Roddy White, they will have a quality air attack this season.  Jacquizz Rodgers is a small guy (5’6”) at running back who, like a Darren Sproles, can be difficult for defenses to find and get hits on.  Steven Jackson at 31 leaves more questions than answers.  First-round draft choice Jake Matthews and veteran Sam Baker have to be solid at tackles for this offensive line to succeed.  Last season’s top pick, Desmond Trufant, had a solid rookie season and needs to make the usual progress corners make in their second season.  Sean Weatherspoon gets the job done at linebacker, and Tyson Jackson coming over from Kansas City should provide quality play to the defensive line unit.  All NFC South teams face a tough schedule this year so it will be difficult for this team to make the playoffs.  But, expect this team to be back on track for contention this season.

 

Carolina Panthers (8-8)

 

The Panthers should come back down to earth this season.  The retirement of Jordan Gross at left tackle has been much publicized and has caused some movement to different positions for the remaining lineman.  Byron Bell will move from right tackle to left tackle, and Nate Chandler will now fill the void at right tackle.  Anytime there are questions with a quarterback’s blind side, it could be a problem.  But, if the tackles can get it together with Ryan Kahil at center, the line shouldn’t be as much a problem as others would have you believe.  Cam Newton has all the abilities to be great, but when the team is not winning, he has shown a tendency to be disengaged.  This team likely will not be winning games like they did last year, so that will need to be evaluated throughout the year.  First round pick Kelvin Benjamin is a big (6’5” 240 lbs.) and will look to fill the void from the departures of both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell.  DeAngelo Williams is 31, so look for the younger Jonathan Stewart to get the bulk of the carries at the running back position (Newton will get yards rushing as well).  Defensively, Carolina is strong on all three levels.  Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson are double-digit sack guys at defensive end, and Star Lotulelei draws blockers from the two ends at tackle spot.  Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are quality linebackers as well.  Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud are not only nice additions at safety, but both come from NFC South rivals (Saints/Falcons respectively).  Carolina plays a tough schedule like everyone else in this division, but also plays first place teams Seattle and Philadelphia that no one else in the division plays.  The schedule and the losses on offense means no playoffs for Carolina this year.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)

 

Even with Greg Schiano no longer coaching this team, don’t expect much improvement this year.  If you remember a few seasons ago, a bad season was blamed on then coach Raheem Morris and letting him go didn’t solve the problem.  That being said, Lovie Smith is a fine coach and should eliminate whatever problems there have been with coaches this team has had of late.  Career backup Josh McCown gets his shot as a full time starter.  If he is indeed worthy of being a starter in the NFL, he has no excuses with weapons like running back Doug Martin and receivers Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans (out of Texas A&M).  Newly acquired Logan Mankins will shore up the offensive line.  Alterraun Verner is a nice addition at cornerback and along with rising star Mark Barron at safety, this secondary is the strength of the defense.  Tough schedule and playing in a reasonably tough division will make it highly unlikely Tampa Bay makes any noise this season.  With Lovie Smith at head coach, at least the team will be professional and competitive.

 





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2 Responses to “2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC South”

  1. Bradly Sloop says:

    Thanx for a very informative article.

  2. Marilyn Franzel says:

    Thanks for this outstanding analysis.


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