Crossing the Line: 2010 NFC South Predictions

DEANGELO WILLIAMS PHILLIP BUCHANON

It’s that time. The time of year where I stake my reputation, my credibility — I love that one — gets called into question, and take heat from anyone who disagrees with me. Not that I mind, because in the end, it’s a matter of opinion. And we all know what “they” say about opinions. With about 69 days remaining until training camp, I decided to make these predictions a little earlier than last year.

Unlike last year, I’m going to look at both sides of the coin, being both conservative with teams’ outcomes and liberal — I promise that in no way is this piece political, outside of the realm of football. I don’t get into the over-analytical, dissecting, chemical tests, and whatnot that real writers and such get involved with.

Instead, I’ll be going with the logical, not-so-factual approach — still reserved — which I used last year.

Last season, the division noticed a change, which once again was a worst-to-first as it’s been in years past. In 2008/2009, the division wrapped up with the Carolina Panthers on top, the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers sandwiched in the middle, while the New Orleans Saints brought up the rear in the division.

So which team, by the past trend should have finished atop the division in 2009? The Saints, of course — if you’re a bigger believer in trends and stuff that really has no bearing on how athletes play, coaches coach, and what events transpire during the offseason, but the Saints were the clear-cut winner of the division, and went on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

The Falcons finished with their first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history, while Carolina broke the trend of a losing season after a winning one, scraping by with mediocrity at 8-8.

The Bucs simply had a rough season. I won’t open old wounds.

Once again, this year looks to be different in the NFC South. The playing field has been leveled in a sense. The Saints lost some players to free agency, thus by statistics, should take them down a peg or two in terms of being a force of reckoning. Don’t get upset Saints fans, I’m not saying New Orleans is going to stink it up this year. No team can maintain a dominant force on a yearly basis. Too much changes in the NFL landscape during the offseason.

The Atlanta Falcons didn’t do much to improve it’s defensive secondary, but it maintains a stout offense with a healthy Michael Turner returning to the field for the 2010 campaign. The “Dirty Birds” drafted probably the most exciting linebacker of the draft in Sean Weatherspoon.

I really don’t know what the Buccaneers did during the draft. Prior to the draft, they decided to let wide receiver Antonio Bryant leave, later replacing him with an unproven rookie in Illinois’ Arrelious Benn. The Bucs still have a ways to go before they become serious contenders. Perhaps not as long as some might think; barring multiple miracles, I say on the outside of two years.

Which brings me to our Carolina Panthers. There’s a lot hanging in the balance of this delicate system. Depending on whose story you believe; John Fox‘s future or lack thereof, a very young team where the average age dropped from 30′s-ish to like 25, uncertainty at quarterback, multiple unknowns beyond wide receiver Steve Smith, no bonafide run-stopper at the defensive tackle position, new Sam and Will linebackers, and semi-big shoes to fill at defensive end, where once stood Julius Peppers. But given the team’s offseason free agent moves, Carolina should have one heck of a return game on special teams. Oh yeah, and that “wasteland” at the tight end position. I know Carolina doesn’t have a Jeremy Shockey or Tony Gonzalez at tight end, but that was a low-blow dealt by Yahoo’s Jason Cole.

Now to the part that gets me in trouble every year: End-of-season predictions.

I’ll go from worst-to-first. Otherwise you won’t read which team finishes last if I go in the opposite order. I know I never do.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will have an improved season over last year. They obviously won’t win the division, but they have the potential to surprise any unsuspecting team as they do every year.

Barring significant injury to their division rivals, I predict Tampa Bay wins two games against division oppponents. There’s potential for the Bucs to beat the Panthers in one game, and the Falcons in another. I can’t see them beating the Saints once.

Now for the liberal prediction, the Bucs win three inner-division games, splitting games with Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans, finishing 3-3 in the division.

For it’s season-long record, Tampa Bay goes 5-11 conservatively; 6-10 liberally.

3. Carolina Panthers / Atlanta Falcons

Rather than have a list a mile long, I’ll condense.

I do believe the Panthers have the potential to finish as low as third in the division, but they could also finish second, and maybe contend for first, but considering the tangibles, first place is a long-shot at best at this point. But to keep it real, I’ll stick with second or third in the division.

As I stated earlier, there are many unknowns on this now young Panthers’ squad. Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore will compete for the starting job at quarterback, though most fans — myself included — feel strongly that Moore is “the guy” in Week One, and barring injury, Clausen will be relegated to the bench.

There is a huge amount of unproven depth at the receiver position beyond Steve Smith. However, there are 10 candidates with the potential to land one-of-four receiver jobs.

About the only two areas I have unquestioned confidence in at this point, are the offensive line and “Double Trouble;” DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

The Panthers have the potential to win four division games: Sweeping the Buccaneers, and splitting between Atlanta and New Orleans.

Carolina also has the potential to split the division and go 3-3.

As for it’s season-ending record, the Panthers have the potential to finish 10-6 liberally, or repeat last year’s performance of 8-8 conservatively.

2. AtlantaFalcons / Carolina Panthers / New Orleans Saints

It looks confusing, I know. Imagine how I feel navigating through this — my own thoughts, even!

But this is where and how the division has become more of an even playing field than it was six months ago.

As stated earlier, Atlanta did very little to address it’s needs to solidify — even improve — it’s defensive secondary in the draft. It made a solid pick in linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but defensive secondary was a bigger need than defensive line — much like the Panthers’ biggest need was at receiver than quarterback.

On the conservative side, I can see the Falcons finishing with four wins in the division: twice against the Bucs, once against Carolina, and once against the Saints. Liberally, the Falcons could win five: two against the Bucs, two against Carolina, and one against the Saints.

For it’s overall record, the Falcons could finish as low as 9-7 — a repeat of last year, or as strongly as 12-4. Some pundits have the Falcons as a 13-win team. While it’s not impossible, even that is a little too liberal for me.

1. New Orleans Saints / Atlanta Falcons

Which brings us to the “last-but-not-least” segment. The argument of which team wins the division?

Despite it’s player-personnel losses, the Saints are still a very strong team. However, injury is every team’s biggest foe.

Barring significant injury to important players, the Saints can win the division with a 6-0 sweep. How’s that for liberal? Conservatively, the Saints might only win four: two against the Bucs, one against Atlanta, and one against the Panthers.

For it’s season-long record, the Saints could go 11-5, yet they could also have a strong season and finish with a 13-3 record.

So there you have it. Agree or disagree — I’ll keep my finger on the pulse of the comments section — please give me your thoughts of where you believe your team will finish within the division.

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  • kepickle

    I’ll agree to say the bucs finish last & the falcons might push for 1st against the panthers
    but this is because Injuries & will end up hurting the saints season

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      I can live with that; I don’t necessarily agree, but nothing’s outside of the realm of possibility when making predictions.

      Thanks for your contribution, K.

    • http://yahoo Richard Chaney

      I believe the New Orleans Saints will win 14 or more games and go to the superbowl 45 in dallas,tx. in 2011 and face the A F C team San Diego Chargers . The saints will come on top[ again & win by 48 or more points.

      • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

        OK…

        Keep your fingers crossed that the Madden Curse doesn’t befall Drew Brees…Who’s the backup QB in NO now? Whoever he is, I’ve never heard of him.

  • Anthony

    I think this a fair way to look at the teams…now i know I am like every other fan in believing their teams can win it all. It IS hard to predict how good my panthers will be with all the new rookies at important spots. The Special Teams is going to be WAYY better than last year and some people dont realize how important ST really is…field position is EVERYTHING. EVERYONE knew we was going to run the ball the past 2 years and yet we STILL dominated on the run. Now with Matt Moore as QB or even JC they will stack that box till they prove they can sling it (and Im confident they will) then when the secondaries start backing up WATCH OUT for Double trouble. WE ALWAYS give the saints a fight even last year..we swept them in 2008 and SHOULD have in 2009 even with our injuries. Atlanta is going to be stout. I DO NOT like Atlanta BUT im trying to be fair and they are a good team. I dont think their run game is as good as ours and MARK MY WORDS, carolina WILL throw the ball this year. Our defense is now our weakest link. but we have a FAST and STRONG defense just young. So I dont see ANYONE breaking big plays down the field on us often (20+ YPP) IMO its going to be a TIGHT race between, Carolina, Atlanta, and New Orleans, I think the Saints are overrated IMO except for brees. I say…1: Carolina 2:Atlanta 3: Saints (yes the saints can be 3rd) 4: Bucs…the Saints remind me of the steelers when they won the SB look what the steelers have done since…NOTHING.. I think in most part the PANTHERS have a very good shot at winning the NFC south, and if they do I will be sure to post this link at the end of the year :)

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Overall, I like what you have to say Anthony, even though I’ll be considered a homer, but screw it. Can’t argue with fact and logic.

      However at this point, while I do agree this season has the makings of being a three-horse race, I believe the division is up for grabs between the Falcons and Saints. Second place finish could fall to any of the three teams, as could third.

      The only thing keeping me from really “homering” (is that a word?) is the laundry list of unknowns on the Panthers.

      Thanks for the read and comment; good stuff!

  • zakk

    ill be like an editor to this article considering u dnt exactly have ur facts right. Not to be rude, u usually do, but….
    The Tampa Bay Bucs finished 9-7 and the New Orleans Taints finihed 8-8 in 2008 season. Also, the backup QB doesn’t hold the ball for John Kasay, it is usually Jason Baker.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Thanks for the corrections, albeit minor, Zakk. To be quite honest, I really didn’t feel like looking up the records from two years ago. I trusted my memory, which proved to have a couple errors, lol.

      Thanks for the read and comment! Now let me go back and correct your spelling errors, much like an editor would do. Not to be rude of course, it just irritates me. ;) :D

      • zakk

        i see what you did there…but i can make any spelling error or mistake i want bc im not the one writing the article

        • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

          Obviously, you missed the joke…You were playing the part of editor. In that setting, you’re supposed to set an example for me to look up to. ;) It’s all good.

  • Moddyd

    The Falcons didn’t do much to improve their secondary? Kidding me right? And you panthers fans think yall are going to win the South? LMMFAO!

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Maybe you feel that the Falcons did a lot to improve their secondary? That’s fine, Mod; however, I have it from insiders that the Falcons really DIDN’T do much to improve the defensive secondary. Everything’s subject to conjecture. I guess the more important question, which is what the main idea of this piece is about — are you in agreement or disagreement with where I predict the Falcons to finish?

      Thanks for the read and comment!

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      By the way, SI’s Peter King looks at the Falcons and sees “medicrity.” He ranks the Falcons at 16 in the league, and the third-best team in the division. FWIW…

      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/peter_king/05/16/ranking/index.html

  • realheavyd

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Saints will repeat as NFC South Champs again this year.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      I’d say that’s a safe limb to go out on, Real. The Saints earned my respect last season.

      Thanks for the read and comment!

      • realheavyd

        No problem brother! Best of luck to your Panthers this year. They always give my Saints a good run for the money no matter what the final outcome of the game is year to year.

        • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

          Best of luck to your Saints too, bro. If you go way back in the archives here at Cat Crave, you’ll see where just before and after the Saints won the Super Bowl, I was commending their efforts. Regardless of any offseason changes, the Saints are still a strong team.

  • realheavyd

    It amazes me that die hard fans of such intense conference rivals as the Panthers and the Saints can be this civil to one another in a blogging environment while I just got myself banned from the Daily Norsmen web site by their Blog Master himself who went as far as to call me just about every name in the book and throw out comebacks to my comments to him (which he had just banned me from replying to) on one of his articles about why he thinks the Vikings will defeat the Saints in the 2010 season opener in New Orleans on September 9. You can check out what’s left of my posts and his here: http://www.dailynorseman.com/2010/5/16/1474199/what-if-the-minnesota-vikings-lose

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      I’ll definitely check both links out.

      Thank you for your comments, Real. You’re always welcome here at Cat Crave as a reader and to voice your opinion.

  • realheavyd

    Here is the one I started at CanalStreetChronicals (blogging home of the Saints) on the same subject of the Vikings blogger’s article:

    http://www.canalstreetchronicles.com/2010/5/16/1474754/a-vikings-blogger-is-making-claims

    • Saintsfan

      Good stuff said on here Eric. This is the way a blog should be run. Talking about the division and the predictions for next season. We’re a tough division and have good rivalries.

      As far as the Vikings bloggers? They’re the most whiniest crybaby fan base in the league. They make sorry excuses and fictional nonsense when they lose.

      They hate us and we hate them.

      Good luck in 2010 Brother

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  • Saintsfan

    Thanks Eric. The Panthers have been a thorn on our side for a while. Ya’ll have been tough to play these past years. But some great games like the one at the dome in 2008 and others.

    That’s what divisional rivals are all about. They’re always tough and the records don’t matter.

    Tampa Bay beat us in the dome last season. And that one still stings since they had only won 2 games up to that point. That goes to show you records don’t mean a thing. And Tampa always plays us tough at the dome.

    And when we play Atlanta, those are some of the wildest games in history!

    Thanks again Eric! I can’t wait till September!

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      To me, when an NFC South team is playing another team within the division, they are almost always intense. The Panthers have always seemed to have a lot of close ones against the Bucs more than any team in the division. Of course there are times when regardless of which team Carolina’s played, they’ve been blown out of the water, or sometimes — on rare occasion — the Panthers would shellack the Falcons, Bucs, or Saints. Not often, but it’s happened a couple times, lol.

      Records don’t matter per se, but they do mean everything when vying for a playoff spot. But you’re right on. Regardless of a team’s record, never look beyond your opponent. because at that time, they are all that matters.

      Anytime, Saintsfan. You’re always welcome back, too! I’m looking forward to September, myself.

  • Saintsfan

    You’re right on there Eric! And you’re welcome on canal street chronicles as well anytime!

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Thank you for the invite. I’ll have to check your site out soon. Have a great night! I’m out.

  • Rickn3car

    Ask yourself are the NFC South teams better or worse following last season?

    Altanta: Only marginally better (if Ryan goes down they are DOA…Turner is a one hit wonder with bad health and weight issues, Gonzo is aged)

    New Orleans: Worse, key components gone, if Brees were to go down…they are doa as well…a few odd injuries to key players do not bode well

    Tampa: incremental upgrades on defense, but years away

    Carolina: Vastly superior product in 2010…there will be the single best tandem of running backs in the NFL returning and Tyrrell Sutton has just scratched the surface…

    As far as the QB goes..Matt More played better in the last few games (NY, Minn especially)than Jake ever did…CHECK THE RATINGS…and those were games that mattered and the Panthers dominated!

    Also, the Saints win was a win afterall…Hell, we had more 2nd and 3rd stringers playing than they did!

    The defensive line is now much better equipped to play the kind of defense Meeks is known for. It may not look like it but there is young, very skilled, but little experience on the d-line squad…I am surprised they allowed Meeks to bring in Johnson from Indy (he has all types of issues the Panthers do not generally take on…)

    The receiving corps is a situation where the Panthers have 10 guys they will have to chose from in order to find just two semi playmakers (a 5-10 td per year guy) …That is not that hard to do with all they have. if it got doen to brass tacks the team just needs one player who can spread the field and make a safety bite on a route, that is all.

    Did I mention we have depth at the one position that has killed this team for the past 2 years? There are now options at QB and you can bet your rear end there is no Jake-Fox loyalty going on with Moore etc..If Moore stumbles around he will be pulled…If Jimmy folds…Pike or Hunter will get in..If not them then a vet will be brought in….This is an “all-in” moment for Fox…not a qb development year.

    All-in-all the cats may well sneak up on teams. With Smith, Williams, Stewart, Beason, etc…you have to pay attention to this team. Just do not be fooled. Moore is good. Lafell can play. If Hardy stays healthy he could easily have a huge impact this season. Plus T-Davis is back, James Anderson, Norwood, Williams are all players…BTW Vegas has the Cats at 7.5 wins…I am shipping 10k on the over and I will cash in January. Seems that everyone is forgetting there are 8 cupcakes on the schedule….

    Ratings for the South and easy for me to call…

    1st Carolina
    2nd New Orleans
    3rd Atl
    4th Tampa

    • realheavyd

      RE: “New Orleans: Worse, key components gone, if Brees were to go down…they are doa as well…a few odd injuries to key players do not bode well”

      How do you figure “Worse”? Tell me what “key components” are gone aside from one starting OLB from last season in Scott Fujita through free agency to the Browns please! That’s it!

      Maybe you missed the news that Darren Sharper resigned with the Saints rather than taking more money offered to him by the Jaguars because he feels that playing another season with the Saints gives him the best opportunity at putting another Super Bowl ring on his hand, huh?

      Did you know that they also only have 3 Restricted Free Agents unsigned at this point? They are RB Pierre Thomas (who should get a long term deal done some time before training camp starts in July), SS Roman Harper and WR Lance Moore (who both also have yet to sign their tender offers from the Saints).

      And, with regard to your comment about “a few odd injuries to key players do not bode well”, name me one team that they do bode well for in this league! The Saints are deeper than most NFL teams at many, if not all, of the key positions on the field. They proved that last year when both starting corners were out late in the season and they still ended the season at 13-3 as the #1 seed in the NFC. They will be arguably deeper this season, IMO.

      I don’t know what facts you are basing any of your predictions on here fella, I really don’t.

      As far as your prediction that the Panthers will have a “Vastly superior product in 2010″ is concerned, I can only presume you are basing that guess on their draft picks this offseason, right? You do know that all of those rookies still need to earn roster spots for themselves and that they have not played a single snap against professional players yet, right? Good luck with that prediction!

      I do like your enthusiasm, but I think you’re wearing the rose colored glasses a little bit too much and you might want to put them down for the rest of this offseason and reevaluate your team again after training camp. It would be wise for you to do so, I think!

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      All good points, Rick. Thank you for the comment, but keep in mind there are other teams in the league as well as two very strong teams in Atlanta and New Orleans within the division…Tampa Bay, though a couple years away, still should never be overlooked, either, on a game-to-game basis.

      The Panthers made improvements via the draft, but that still has to transition to a playing field in a real game time situation.

  • nightshade

    From Rickn3car “New Orleans: Worse, key components gone,”

    Which key componets are you talking about? Last I looked the only player the Saints actually lost was Scott Fujita,and while his locker room presence and leadership will be missed, but on the field he was slowing down and starting to become injury prone due to age we already have his replacement. Charles Grant was cut and replaced by Alex Brown which at worst is a parelell move, Jamar Nesbit was cut but he was down to being a backup guard who spent the latter part of the season as a game day inactive. Im not trying to start anything but I would like to know who you think the key compnents are? Also I agree with RealheaveyD this is how a blog site should be run keep up the good work and good luck this year.

    Oh yeah dont over look Tony Pike he will make it interesting for yall in camp.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Thank you for the read and comment, Nightshade. Good luck to the Saints, as well.

      I’m quite interested to see how Tony Pike transitions to the League. Prior to the Draft taking place, I was hoping for Golden Tate with our first pick — I didn’t care how they went about getting him — and I figured Tony Pike in a later round. At least I got one-out-of-two correct, lol.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  • http://www.gamergodz.com x626xBlack and Gold

    I also have to question the comments I keep reading. “key Components Gone’?
    While we will miss Fujita, he was solid but not un-replaceable, he was last in tackles out of our 3 LB’s, and 32nd over all in the NFL.

    Who else am I missing? Bell? Not a major loss. Grant, needed to go.

    I do not see losses at any position. I see gains.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the Panthers in “worse” shape, having lost Julius Peppers, Chris Harris, Brad Hoover, and some of the not-so-old vets?

      I hate to call out a fellow Panthers fan, but putting all your eggs in one basket, and predicting any rookie who makes the team a success before they’ve played a real down in the NFL, is rather premature.

      Thanks for the read and comment, Black and Gold…Me thinks this is going to become a Saints site soon, lol. ;)

      • http://www.gamergodz.com x626xBlack and Gold

        I have but two words to accent your comment “putting all your eggs in one basket, and predicting any rookie who makes the team a success before they’ve played a real down in the NFL”

        JaMarcus Russell

        • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

          Oh, ouch! GREAT point!

  • realheavyd

    RE: “Me thinks this is going to become a Saints site soon, lol. Cheers!”

    Ha ha! I did spread the word pretty successfully to fellow Saints fans about your blog here Eric my friend. I did notice that the Saints overtook the Panthers in the poll voting after I first cast my vote for the Saints at I think a total of 8 votes for the Panthers and 5 for the Saints back then…

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Haha, that’s quite alright, RHD. That’s why the poll’s there, to be voted in. I’ll probably close the poll this coming Sunday which should give all visitors a fair chance to vote.

      I signed up at Canal St. too–waiting for my account to become active. It said last night it takes a day, so I’ll be visiting soon!

    • http://www.gamergodz.com x626xBlack and Gold

      I am still looking for this voting poll. What am I missing?

      • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

        It should be on the home page and in any article you open up. The poll is on the right side of the page, about midway to three-quarters down. It’s a Who do you predict will win the division poll.

        • http://www.gamergodz.com x626xBlack and Gold

          Found it. Thanks

          • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

            You’re welcome.

  • realheavyd

    Why am I the only person posting comments in here with a picture of myself for an avatar? I feel like a freak or something.

    • http://www.gamergodz.com x626xBlack and Gold

      Your the only one Purty nuff.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      I’m jealous. I want to use a pic to put a face with the name, but don’t know how, lol.

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  • Michael

    I think the Saints repeat with 12or 13 wins. The top offense for the last 4 years is virtually unchanged and the defense will be better in the second year under GW. I think the South as a whole will have inflated records based on playing the NFC West so ATL and CAR could both end up with 8-10 wins. If Tampa plays like they did the second half of last season they could 6, maybe 7 if they put it all together. They have Det and could steal one or two in the division.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Nothing at this point is impossible.

      Thanks for the read and comment, Michael.

  • Monkey Poop Battle

    Hey Eric,

    Love the site. Found the link through Canal Street Chronicles. I like your reasoned analysis, and love the respect you have with your comments.

    As a Saints fan, I have to say that I (unfortunately) think you could include the Saints as a potential 3rd place team and the Panthers as a potential 1st. I also wouldn’t put it out of the question that Carolina could be 4th with Tampa sneaking into 3rd if Freeman shows some solid improvement and a lot of their young players step up. Of course, that would mean I would list Carolina as possibly ending up anywhere from 1st to 4th in the division! I would stand by that assessment, though, as I believe they are the biggest wild card in the NFC South. You guys have a lot of solid pieces, good coaching, but some question marks at key spots (most notably at QB).

    Couple questions for you, Eric.

    1.) Who do you consider to be Carolina’s biggest rival between the Saints, Falcons, and Bucs? It seems everyone has a different opinion on this for all the teams in the NFC South.

    2.) Who is your least favorite team out the division? New England because of the Superbowl loss? Washington, because of their proximity to you guys? Dallas, because they’re Dallas? Or some other team?

    3.) What results would you need to see this season to justify signing John Fox to another coaching contract. Does he need to make the playoffs this year? Have a deep run? Or simply show that the team is capable of winning in future years even if it is a somewhat disappointing season?

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Hi ummm…Monkey…Love the name, lol.

      I certainly appreciate your compliments and paying a visit to Cat Crave! This is a site where I want fans of all teams to make a part of their daily internet routine, especially Saints, Bucs, and Falcons fans — of course Panthers fans are mandated by me to visit every day. ;)

      I think you’re correct in Carolina could be a first-place team just as easily a fourth place one, depending on various factors, of course — most of which would be out of the team’s control. Obviously the Saints would have to have an off – season and not play as strongly as they did a year ago. So long as the offense stays healthy, and the defense continues to improve, the Saints have the strength and talent to be a dominant force yet again.

      As I said in this piece too, the Bucs are the last team any opponent should overlook. Because that’s when they’ll smack you in the face and likely beat you. They have some promising youngsters on that team, as well.

      As for the Panthers, I’ll stick with my second/third-place — leaning more towards third, since the Panthers do have the better running game and offensive line over the Buccaneers. With those two pieces in place, that allows for Matt Moore to have adequate protection to make passes to Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett (who I think has a chemistry with Moore), and one of the rookie receivers. Our wasteland of tight ends is fairly decent for being rated so poorly, too. I do believe the Panthers are a little better offensively going into the season than the Bucs are. Of course, that can be proven otherwise once the season gets going.

      I’d say our biggest question marks at this point fall on wide receiver (beyond Smith), quarterback, linebacker (aside from Jon Beason), and the defensive tackle position. We’re pretty good at corner, if Richard Marshall will ever stow his greed and sign his one-year RFA tender, and in my opinion, the safety position has remained about the same, even with the loss of Chris Harris. Of course one can’t leave out defensive end, but I do believe the new starters there will learn and while the numbers won’t be reminiscent of Julius Peppers’, it’ll be a fieldable unit.

      To answer your questions:

      1.) Who do you consider to be Carolina’s biggest rival between the Saints, Falcons, and Bucs? It seems everyone has a different opinion on this for all the teams in the NFC South.

      I would say the Buccaneers. Mainly because that’s what’s been drilled into my head for years now, that they are the Panthers’ biggest rival. I think it’s more of a “sexy” rival than anything. Personally, I’d be more inclined to say the Falcons, since they are a lot closer to Charlotte than Tampa Bay is, and there are Falcons fans intertwined with Panther fans in that region. Regardless, every division game is fun to watch.

      2.) Who is your least favorite team out the division? New England because of the Superbowl loss? Washington, because of their proximity to you guys? Dallas, because they’re Dallas? Or some other team?

      I never cared for Dallas. I’d say out of the entire NFL, it would be the Cowgirls…I mean boys. yeah, that’s an appropriate name for a largely immature fanbase (sorry to true Dallas fans, your bandwagoners soil your reputation as a classy bunch). Cowboys, with emphasis on “BOYS.” My most hated division rival I would say is the Falcons. I won’t elaborate on that, as I do like our Falcons’ blogger here at Fansided, lol. And aside from patriots fans, who likes New England? I’m not even sure I can say that I respect the organization after the whole “Spygate” deal, and I can’t stand Eric Mangini, either. He’s forever labeled sniveling a rat in my book.

      3.) What results would you need to see this season to justify signing John Fox to another coaching contract. Does he need to make the playoffs this year? Have a deep run? Or simply show that the team is capable of winning in future years even if it is a somewhat disappointing season?

      I would say all three aspects, and go one further — he might even have to lead the team to a Super Bowl victory to keep his job in Carolina. Realistically, I would say that the team needs to show improvement on a weekly basis without stepping back at all, making the playoffs is a must, and going deep would only help Foxy’s situation, whether it’s here or somewhere else. Charlotte beat writers like Darin Gantt (whose word I hold in very high-regard), seriously doubt Fox will receive a new contract this season. I suppose the jury’s out until the end of the season as to whether or not Jerry Richardson will retain him.

      I like Fox, I think he’s a very good head coach. I don’t always agree with some of his methods, but it’s a part of who he is and what he does. For the past eight or nine years, being a Panthers fan hasn’t been bad by any stretch, and it speaks well of Fox, Marty Hurney, and ownership.

      I hope that answers what you’re looking for, and I’ll be over to Canal Street this evening. I just registered there the other night; username THECatCrave. Thanks for the read, comment, and good questions!

      • Monkey Poop Battle

        Thanks for the responses! You had a pretty nice breakdown of the questions on your team. Even though you guys are my team’s rival, I’ll be looking forward to watching Brandon LaFell play next year. Yeah, I’m an avid LSU homer, so my bias may cloud my judgment, but I suspect he’ll be a very good player for you guys. He put up some very good numbers for us the past couple years even with subpar QB play. You guys actually had one of the better drafts in the league this year (at least on paper), which is pretty impressive without a 1st round pick.

        I went ahead and bookmarked your site. Look forward to stopping by in the future!

        • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

          Thank you for the compliment.

          As a semi long-time LSU fan — yet attending Penn State (go figure) — I was excited with the addition of an LSU receiver. That and drafting, signing, or trading for Penn State linebackers really excites me, lol.

          LaFell did some very good things on the field at LSU; I just pray his knee is good to go and he has no major lingering side effects from it.

          Thanks for bookmarking the site! You’re welcome here anytime!

  • William Mainor

    It should be obvious from the way Carolina rolled over the league’s top contenders at the end of last year that they will be much more competitive than given credit for in this article.I predict a division championship with a sweep of New Orleans,Atlanta and a split with Tampa Bay.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      They should be just as competitive; so far on paper, it looks good.

      Thank you for the prediction, read and comment, William.

  • Saintsfan

    Alot of good things being said here. 2010 season will be a new season which means 2009 is history. I believe it will be a huge battle between Saints Atlanta and Carolina. But “Do Not” overlook Tampa Bay. I don’t think Tampa will make playoffs next season but they will be tough to beat.

    But you never know, we’ve seen 3-13 teams shock the NFL the next season. This is what makes the NFC South interesting…never overlook your divisional opponents no matter what the records are. The Saints underestimated Tampa last season when Saints were 13-1 vs 2-12 Tampa.

    And that loss stung quite a bit. The most exciting divisional rivals in the NFC.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Thanks for the read and insightful comment, Saintsfan.

  • realheavyd

    There are obviously way too many homers in here voting in this poll for any real NFL fans, let alone Saints fans, to keep the results anywhere even close to being realistic.

    Are you kidding me? 53% Carolina to only 40% New Orleans is an absolute fantasy Panthers wet dream world if you ask me.

    Post this same poll in a blog that involves fans from the whole division or the entire league and I would be willing to bet you that the Saints get more than 50% of the total votes and the Falcons or the Panthers would come in a fairly close second and third either way.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      HA! Thank you for reaching out to a couple other sites, D. I don’t get around too much, as my time is consumed here (not that I mind) and at a couple other sites. I really DO want a realistic looking final result, though. No favoritism, PLEASE!

      Also, on a personal note: go here and you’ll see my email address. Shoot me an email, as I feel I’ve made a good friend with a fan of a division rival. Thanks again, RealHeavyD!

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Besides that, the sole two voters for the Bucs could be the lone winners, so long as the worst-to-first within the division holds true yet again this year.

      There is no qualification for how much “worse” a team has to be; just finish last in the division, and almost as if by guarantee, said team wins it the following year.

  • realheavyd
  • realheavyd

    Ok, I also created it and advertised for this one over here:

    http://www.faniq.com/poll_results.php?poll_id=1279372&rnum=