Thursday, September 5, 2013

NFL Preview: NFC South and NFC West

     Here is the last quarter of my NFL Preview!!! It wraps up with the NFC South and NFC West, arguably two of the toughest divisions in the NFL.

     NFC South
  1. New Orleans Saints: The Saints still boast a high-powered offense, led by the likes of Drew Brees. Brees led the NFL in both touchdowns (43) and passing yards (5,177). But this year, the team will be much better thanks to the likes of coaching staff changes. Sean Payton is back in as head coach and Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator for the Saints. Granted he won't fix up everything, especially considering that New Orleans has plenty of key linebackers out with injuries. But Payton should be enough of a boost to get the Saints to the playoffs (I don't know about Ryan. He could be hit or miss). The secondary has to do better as well; this unit ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed (292.6 ypg) and were in the middle of the pack in the NFC in interceptions with 15.
  2. *Atlanta Falcons: The NFC South will come down to two teams: The Saints and the Falcons. So don't be surprised if one of these two teams finishes atop of the division. Atlanta retooled their running game by acquiring Steven Jackson and drafted corner Desmond Trufant (41 tackles, 2 INT in his final year with the Washington Huskies). Matt Ryan will also be thankful for Tony Gonzalez coming back; the tight end had 93 receptions, 930 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year. Throw in receivers Roddy White (92 receptions, 1,351 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) and Julio Jones (79 receptions, 1,198 receiving yards, ten touchdowns) and you have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.
  3. Carolina Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly (165 tackles last season) had a great rookie season last year and is just a part of a great front seven that includes defensive ends Charles Johnson (41 tackles, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles) and Greg Hardy (61 tackles, two forced fumbles, 11.0 sacks). The Panthers also realized late last year that they had some great pieces in their offensive running game with the likes of Can Newton and DeAngelo Williams. The attack will be bolstered even more once Jonathan Stewart comes back.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs acquired Darrelle Revis in the offseason, who will improve the secondary. But this is a make-or-break year for quarterback Josh Freeman. He has legitimate targets in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, so there should be no reason for why he doesn't get the job done. The Bucs also have to share a division with Atlanta and New Orleans and those teams are loaded. One thing to watch with Tampa will be Doug Martin, who'll head the rushing attack and will be protected by a strong offensive line. The Muscle Hamster had five runs for 40+ yards last year and ran for 1,454 yards on 319 carries and 11 touchdowns.

     NFC West
  1. San Francisco 49ers: It'll be up to Colin Kaepernick to duplicate his performance from 2012 in which he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl as their quarterback. Losing Michael Crabtree (85 receptions, 1,105 receiving yards, nine touchdowns) for the season and Mario Manningham to the PUP list will be major blows to San Fran. But luckily for them, they acquired Anquan Boldin from Baltimore and still have Vernon Davis. Yes, they aren't as productive as Crabtree and Manningham. But with an outstanding offensive line, a stellar defense, and a great head coach in Jim Harbaugh, the Niners could be going back to the Super Bowl this year.
  2. *Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are another great defensive team in the NFC West. Cliff Avril should be a nice addition to the defensive line. But on the offensive side, Percy Harvin is too much of a injury risk. But the Seahawks will rely heavily on their rushing attack, headlined by Marshawn "Skittles" Lynch. Skittles had 1,590 rushing yards on 315 carries and eleven touchdowns. The question will be if Russell Wilson can avoid the sophomore slump; he had a 62.9% completion rate with 3,118 passing yards and 26 touchdowns passing.
  3. St. Louis Rams: The Rams are the pleasant surprise of the NFC. WR Tavon Austin should be an exciting target to watch and will be a godsend for Sam Bradford. Also, Jeff Fisher proved to be a great head coach who led his team to a division record of 4-1-1 last season. Bradford will also have a retooled offensive line with the acquisition of OT Jake Long.
  4. Arizona Cardinals: The Carson Palmer-to-Larry Fitzgerald combo will be prevalent in the desert this year. But that probably won't be enough for Arizona to compete in the deep NFC West this season. 


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