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NFC South Preview
AP Photo courtesy Bill Feig

NFC South Preview

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Raphael Haynes

Owner, Editor, Writer at The 3 Point Conversion
Atlanta, GA
Raphael Haynes
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The South Division could be described as embarrassing when you think of the play last year within the division. Every team had a losing record while no team had any significant injuries last year. Every team looks to prove that it was a bizarre year and a fluke. This division could be the best quarterback led division. Expect a lot of high scoring games. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record in 2014: 2-14

Key player: Quarterback- Jameis Winston

Player to watch: Running back- Doug Martin

For a division that was full of teams with losing records, The Bucs showed a particular knack for losing. With key additions through the draft and free agency they look to improve on an NFL worst 2-14 record in 2014. Lovie Smith looks to improve the 32nd ranked defense ( in total yards 2014) and with little to no movement on that side of the ball, the team will lean heavily on their offense in 2015. The team is banking on 1st overall pick Winston to improve on their below average offensive numbers (30th in total yards, 25th in passing) from 2014. If he can stay poised in the pocket and naturally progress from the superstar QB he was at Florida State then the sky is the limit for the bucs offense. The last two seasons Doug Martin has played only 17 games total and hasn’t sniffed the same kind of production he did as a rookie. With a less than reputable offensive line and defense that hasn’t improved that much the Bucs will need Martin to be close to that rookie RB. With a good running attack, it will take pressure off the young quarterback and hopefully help build leads the defense can hold. Prediction: 6-10

 

Carolina Panthers

Record in 2014: 7-8-1

Key player: Linebacker- Luke Keuchly

Player to watch: Wide receiver- Devin Funches

The Defending NFC South champions had an average record in 2014 finishing with a 7-8-1 on the season. Cam Newton who played 14 games despite breaking vertebrae in his back (as a result of a car accident) was given a hefty $103.8 million extension this offseason. Last year’s rookie standout Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL will be out for the year. Their top 10 defense (ranked 8th in total yards) is a ball swarming bunch that seemed to diffuse drive after drive with relentless pursuit. The team was ranked 2nd with 24 forced fumbles in 2014. Luke Keuchly, possibly the best player at his position, led the NFL with 153 total tackles last year and seemed to either make or help out every in play. Ron Rivera will lean heavily on Keuchly to anchor another top 10 effort this year. Rookie wide out Devin Funchess was thought to be the KO punch the offense needed. Now with Benjamin gone, Funchess will have to exceed expectations and step into the role as Cam Newton’s main target and produce big numbers as a rookie. Prediction: 8-8

 

Atlanta Falcons

Record in 2014: 6-10

Key player: Wide receiver– Julio Jones

Player to watch: Linebacker- Paul Worrilow

The Falcons come into the season with a fresh look on football life. New head coach Dan Quinn looks to bring a championship standard to the team. Atlanta had a 5th ranked passing attack last season. Julio Jones needs to stay healthy in order for the Falcons to win games. In 15 games most of which he played hurt, he had 104 catches for 1,593 yards which help earn him a new five-year $71 million contract. Easily a top five WR, Jones will need continue to shred defenses and be an open target for Matt Ryan. On the defensive side, Paul Worrilow ranked 5th in the NFL with 143 combined tackles last season. Worrilow has a workman like attitude when it comes to open field tackles. With the exciting rookie linebacker Vic Beasley providing his tenacious approach to the QB, the Falcons will need the defense to play steady if they want to stop drives and win games. Prediction: 9-7

 

New Orleans Saints:

Record in 2014: 7-9

Key Player: Quarterback- Drew Brees

Player to watch: Linebacker- Stephone Anthony

The Saints traded All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham for center Max Unger and lost wide receiver Kenny Stills to free agency and just like that, 148 of Drew Brees’ completions from last year are right out the window. Drew Brees just missed his 5th season with at least 5,000 yds passing. (4,952 yards and 33 TDs). The 36 year old QB is showing little to no signs of slowing down. He will have to continue to spread out his passes amongst the whole squadron of receivers on the team, most of which are young and inexperienced. The team added veteran running back C.J. Spiller to give them a nice receiver and play maker out of the backfield. Cornerback Brandon Browner and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe are veterans with playoff experience and should help the defense improve this season. The Saints took linebacker Stephone Anthony late in round 1 and already they feel he can be a defensive presence. In pre season games the coaching staff has enough faith in him that they had him calling plays at the line of scrimmage on the defensive side. The Saints will need the both sides of the ball to collectively play the way the head coach Shaun Payton expects them to play. Prediction: 9-7

 

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About Raphael Haynes

Atlanta, GA

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