With weeks to go before any games are played, I wanted to go ahead and give my projections for the 2013 season. The first division I will be projecting will be the NFC South. I will be taking a look at each team’s offense, defense, and special teams and predicting their order of finish.
- Offense: Matt Ryan returns after leading the team to a 13-3 season last year. He passed for 4719 yards with 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions at a 68.6 % completion rate. The receivers are led by Roddy White and Julio Jones who combined for 171 catches, 2549 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez decided to come back after considering retirement to provide Ryan a security blanket over the middle. The running game will be led by Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rogers, who was the 3rd down back, with Michael Turner having been cut.
- Defense: The Falcons lose John Abraham and his team leading 10 sacks. The hope is his production will be replaced by Osi Umenyioura and Jonathan Massaquoi. Umenyioura in particular, is coming in highly motivated after not being brought back by the Giants. They also picked up a couple of players to help with the pass rush in the draft in Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga. Leading Tacklers Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon head up the linebackers. While in the secondary, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford were drafted to help replace Dunta Robinson who was also cut. Thomas DeCoud and William Moore return at Safety with a few players drafted to provide depth like Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael.
- Special Teams: Leading scorer Matt Bryant returns at kicker. Matt Bosher will handle the punting duties. In the return game, Jacquizz Rogers will return kicks with several players competing to return punts.
- Offense: The offense begins and ends with Cam Newton. Newton passed for 3,869 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In addition, he ran for 741 yards with 8 more touchdowns. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart assist with the running attack with Mike Tolbert at Fullback and Kenjon Barner brought on as a third down back. Steve Smith heads into his 12th season still leading the receiving corps. Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon will compete to be the number two.
- Defense: Carolina returns the core of a pretty salty defense. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy bring the pass rush. Dwan Edwards, Star Lotulelei, and Kawann Short clog up the middle against the run and collapse the pocket against the pass. Luke Kuechly mans the middle, with Thomas Davis and Jon Beason on the outside. In the secondary, competition will be fierce for the corner position. Charles Godfrey will be at free safety, after that every other position is up for grabs.
- Special Teams: Graham Gano and Brad Nortman handle the kicking and punting duties as of now. The return positions will be looked to be handled by Ted Ginn and possibly Barner.
New Orleans Saints:
- Offense: Drew Brees headlines an explosive passing offense. The rushing offense still needs work. The 25th ranked running attack lost Chris Ivory, so Mark Ingram will be expected to pick it up in his now third season along with Pierre Thomas. Marques Colston, Lance Moore, and Jimmy Graham are the main receiving threats. Kenny Stills was brought on as depth through the draft.
- Defense: The Saints will be moving to a 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan, with Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan at the Ends and Brodrick Bunckley at Nose. Johanthan Vilma will be the leader of the defense. Curtis Lofton will be probably be at the other inside spot. Several players will battling for time and the two outside line backer positions. Kenny Vaccaro was brought in via the draft to provide competition for Melvin Jenkins and Roman Harper at the safety position. Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer are the corners.
- Special Teams: Garrett Hartley and Thomas Morestead handle the punting and kicking duties. Darren Sproles and Travaris Cadet if he makes the team will return kicks and punts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- Offense: Josh Freeman returns as the starter at quarterback, but is playing for a contract extension and now may be watching over his shoulder with the drafting of Mike Glennon out of NC State in the third round. That situation may bear watching. The “Muscle Hamster” Doug Martin will lead the running game after rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will be the main receivers.
- Defense: The big story on defense was the trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis. The secondary will need to be top-notch against the pass because the Bucs let their leader in sacks from last year Michael Bennett sign with the Seahawks. Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn are expected to pick up the slack here.
- Special Teams: Connor Barth again will handling the kicking duties and Michael Koenen will punt.
My predictions for the division are as follows:
1- Carolina Panthers
2- Atlanta Falcons
3-New Orleans Saints
4-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I think the Panthers will be challenging the Falcons for supremacy in the NFC South. I also feel that the Panthers will be playoff bound because of a punishing running game and a suffocating defense. The Saints and Bucs have a lot of problems on defense which I think will hold them back. What do you think Panther fans? Agree or Disagree, let us know in the Comments Section below.