Three Team Race In NFC South
By Dave Ford
While the Atlanta Falcons will be the feature story of the upcoming NFL season in the NFC South, it will come down to a race between three teams. As long as third-year starting quarterback Cam Newton continues to pout on the sideline like he did not get his allowance for the week, the Carolina Panthers are going nowhere.
The Falcons, led by rising elite quarterback Matt Ryan, will be the favorite to once again take the division. Having finished 2012 with a 13-3 record (9-3 versus the NFC), Atlanta returns nearly every important piece of its championship model to make yet another run at the Super Bowl.
The New Orleans Saints, another pass happy team (in fact, the most electrifying aerial attack in recent memory) will once again be led by quarterback Drew Brees and offensive mastermind Sean Payton. Since the two came to the Crescent City in 2006, the Saints have never ranked lower than fourth in the NFL in passing yards. In total, they have put the ball in the air 4,406 times – by far the most of any team in the league. And considering the New Orleans defense of 2012 will go down as one of the worst of all-time (ranked 31st overall in opponent passing yards and 32nd overall in opponent rushing yards), Brees will need to dramatically add to the 33,571 yards he has passed for over the last seven seasons.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a different team altogether from their peers inside the division. Entering year two under head coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs are seen by most as a team that could make a solid run at the postseason in 2013 based on their young collection of talent and hard-nosed style of smash mouth football. Tampa Bay’s defense will undoubtedly have to anchor the young squad, having finished No. 1 overall in opponent rushing yards allowed in 2012 with 82.5 per game. However, the same defense finished dead last in opponent passing yards allowed per game with 297.4. Welcome to the pressure cooker Darrelle Revis.
There is no doubt the NFC South will be one of the more interesting divisions to watch in 2013.