Sunday, August 4, 2013

2013 NFL Previews: NFC South

by Darren Boyd

NFC South 

The NFC South features one of the best teams in the NFC in the Atlanta Falcons, and 3 teams that are hard to get a handle on, The Saints, Bucs and the Panthers.
The Atlanta Falcons were 13-3 and were a few yards away from going to the Super Bowl last year. By adding veterans RB Stephen Jackson and DE Osi Umeniyora, the Dirty Birds are looking to make it all the way to the Big Apple this year for SB 47
The New Orleans Saints went 7-9  last year, mostly due to missing their coach and playcaller Sean Payton last year due to BountyGate. A new DC in Rob Ryan has the Saints hopes high of returning to their winning ways
The Carolina Panthers managed to win 7 meaningless games at the end of the year somehow. Cam Newton looked better but is not surrounded by much talent on either side of the ball.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 7-9 in the first year of HC Greg Schiano. After a big spending spree in free agency last year, the Bucs continued to "make it rain" adding CB Darrelle Revis & S Dashon Goldson to the secondary. But the hopes for the Pewter Pirates still lies in inconsistent QB Josh Freeman
Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons were led by Matt Ryan, who just got a 5 yr - 100+ million buck extension, to a 13-3 season last year. Thanks Miami for passing on him for Jake Long btw. Ryan threw for over 4700 yards and 32 TDs. The Falcons boast the best wide out dynamic duo in the NFL with Julio Jones and Roddy White. They also convinced Future Hall Of Famer Tony Gonzales to give it one more try. Tony might be 37 years old but plays like he is 27. The Falcons replaced Michael Turner with Steven Jackson. Jackson still has some fuel left in the tank as he had over 1000 yards last season with the Rams. Their O-line is a question mark on the right side. They let Tyson Clabo go as the Right Tackle and will be replaced by former 3rd Round Pick Lamar Holmes. Peter Konz takes over the center position.
    The Falcons defense is where the skeptics point to as a weakness. They let their sack leader John Abraham go after a double digit sack year and replaced him with the fading Osi Umenyiora. They were 28th in the NFL in sacks last year with only 29 total. What is more shocking is that they let go of all of their top cornerbacks after collecting 20 INTs last year. This was 5th best in the NFL. They did address the secondary in the draft but one has to expect some growing pains. In the draft they moved up and grabbed my favorite CB in the draft Desmond Trufant out of Washington. They also doubled down on that position by taking Robert Alford in the 3rd round.
    The Falcons loaded up on defense this draft taking 6 out of 8 draft picks who were on that side of the ball . Vegas likes them to repeat as NFC South champs with a 10 total win over/under and 16-1 odds to get to the Super Bowl.  If one can get Steven Jackson pretty early in Fantasy it. He can catch passes out of the backfield unlike Turner. Huge for PPR leagues.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had a historic year, but not in the way they would like. In terms of their "BountyGate" punishment and that they allowed a NFL record 7042 yards against that defense!!!! That's 440 yards a game, which of course was last in the NFL. Of course they get the triumphant return of Coach Sean Payton this season. Drew Brees had an amazing year throwing for 5177 yards and 43 TDs. The Saints will be bolstered by a healthy Jimmy Graham who dealt with a wrist injury for most of last year. The big question mark is their left tackle spot. They drafted Terron Armstead early and also Charles Brown competeing for that job, but neother should inspire much confidence. The Saints running game is non existent. They averaged less then 100 yards a game. They do use Darren Sproles well out of the back field. He caught 75 passes last year. 
    On Defense, where to start. They hired Rob Ryan, who said something like it would take him 5 mins to find a job after getting canned by the Cowboys. Took a little longer then that buddy as the Rams shot you down first.  The Saints are switching to a 3-4 scheme now, but lack true outside linebackers on the roster. Hmm.  The Saints were 32nd against the run & 31st against the pass in the NFL. They did not have a single player with double digit sacks. They did add a mountain of a man, John Jenkins 6'5 360 out of Georgia  at the nose and spent their 15th overall pick on UT Safety Kenny Vaccaro.
    I thought their draft was average. They only had 5 draft picks so 3 must become starters. Vegas likes the Saints to have a turn around with 9 wins for over/under in wins and a shocking 16-1 odds to get to the Super Bowl. I don't see that with their defense. They have so many options in fantasy but stay away from first round bust Mark Ingram.
Carolina Panthers 
Does anyone remember when the Panthers last made the Playoffs. Me neither so I had to look it up. 2008 was the answer, also the last time this franchise had a winning record.  Well at least Cam Newton continues to improve. Although its never a good sign when your QB is your leading rusher too. Their old GM sunk tens of millions of dollars into RBs DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart. They still have 34 year old Steve Smith and my fantasy pick to click WR Brandon LaFell.   Greg Olsen will be a high fantasy tight end taken after 69 catches 843 yards and 5 TDs.  The Panthers O-Line could be the worst in the NFL. 
    The Panthers Defense can get after the QB. 39 sacks last year which was 9th in the NFL. Although Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy had 23.5 of them. I love the DT Star Loutulelei pick in the draft. I feel he has superstar potential in the league. The Panthers secondary was weak. They only had 11 INTs last season and they released CB Chris Gamble, who later retired. The Panthers did little to address their secondary concerns this off season.  Their line backing corps is filled with oft injured players, Thomas Davis and Jon Beason but does have a future superstar in Luke Kuechly.
    I liked their 1st 2 picks in the draft, DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short but only having 5 total picks for a rebuilding team is unacceptable. Vegas sets the over under wins total at 7 and 60-1 odds at the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Bucs 
Coach Greg Schiano came in took charge and ruffled some feathers around the league. But he also took a 4-12 team to 7-9. The big question with the Bucs is what to do with QB Josh Freeman. He is on the last year of his deal.  He threw for 4000 plus yards and 27 TDs but the Bucs fan base also says he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory a few too many times. RB Doug Martin came in and ran for 1454 yards and 11 TDs plus caught 49 passes. Great for you PPR fantasy league players.  Vincent Jackson was a huge free agent pick up with 72 catches 1384 yards and 8 TDs. WR Mike Williams has seem to overcome his knuckle head days at Syracuse to catch 63 passes 996 yards and 9 TDs. The Bucs just gave him a 6 yr 40 Million dollar deal. The Bucs do have the best O-Line in the NFL. Carl Knicks is one of if not the best left guard in the NFL anchors the line.
    The Bucs defense was woeful at getting after the QB.  Their leading sack artist Michael Bennett left to the Seahawks after only 9 sacks last year. The team had 27 total which was tied for 29th in the league. They do possess the number 1 ranked rush defense at only 82 yards per game, but that might because their secondary was so porous last year. They are lead by Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy, he only had 5 sacks but is a run stuffer. They sent their 1st rounder to the Jets to acquire the best corner in the game when healthy  in Darrelle Revis. They also spent their 2nd round pick on CB Johnthan Banks. The spent huge money on free agent S Dashon Goldson to team up with future superstar Mark Barron in the safety spots. The Bucs had 18 INTs last year which was 8th best but have a chance to improve that number with their upgrades.
    Outside of Banks, I hated their draft. If Mike Glennon pushes for playing time this team is in trouble. The rest of their draft featured part time players at best.  Vegas has them at 7.5 wins for the over under and 40-1 long shots to reach the Super Bowl.  Take Doug Martin early in FFL.

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