Unless you live in a cave and have been hibernating for the winter then you probably know all about the Saints off-season misery. Sean Payton is suspended for a year, their GM is out for eight games (I hear he's interning with the CIA as a spy), one of their assistants is out for six games, they lost a second round draft pick this year, linebacker Johnathon Vilma has been suspended for the entire season and Will Smith is out for four games (I think he's taping the sequel to that awful Hancock movie). Sounds tough to overcome, right? Did I mention that Drew Brees is still a contract holdout?
With the Saints misfortunes, it seems that the door has been kicked wide open for the Falcons. But not so fast my friend, in the NFL turnarounds can be quick. Atlanta experienced one when they went from 4-12 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008. That being said, the last three years has shown us that the Falcons and Saints have been the cream of the crop of the division and they don't appear ready to surrender their thrones.
NFC South 3-Year Trend
Team Wins Losses Win %
New Oreans 37 11 77.08
Atlanta 32 16 66,67
Tampa Bay 17 31 35.42
Carolina 16 32 33.33
Tampa Bay hasn't won the division since 2007 and they did so with just a 9-7 record. The last time Tampa won more than 10 games was 2005. That doesn't sound like too long ago but in the NFL it's ages. Tampa will also be breaking in a brand new head coach in Greg Schiano. Schiano was a decent college coach but never really struck me as an elite coach at that level. It will be interesting to see what type of impact he has in the NFL, especially with the history college coaches have at this level. I expect the Bucs to be better this season, I just don't know how much.
I expect Carolina to be a little bit better this season as Cam Newton grows but I don't see them getting any better on defense and they gave up the third most points in the NFC last season. The biggest question I have about Carolina is can Cam carry them to victories? They went just 3-9 last year against the NFC and I wouldn't bet on them being much better this year.
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That leaves us with the Falcons and the Saints battling it out again for division supremacy just like they have for the past three years. The Falcons and the Saints have traded division titles the past three years with the Saints taking two. It's easy to count the Saints out because of the off-season they've had but I wouldn't count my chickens just yet. All of the bad stuff has happened to them early in the off-season, which gives them time to adjust and prepare. If they can get Brees back in the fold without too much ruffling of feathers, he's the type of guy who can quickly right their ship with his leadership skills. The division will come down to the Falcons and the Saints but let's not celebrate a division title just yet. In order to be the man, you have to beat the man. Believe it or not, the Saints, with Brees, are still the team to beat in the NFC South.
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