NFL: NFC South season preview

We take a look at each division before the start of the 2014 season, with this feature examining the NFC South

New Orleans Saints

With the exception of one 7-9 season in 2012, the Saints have maintained their dominant style of football which has seen them lose no more than five games each year since 2008. This season looks set to be much like the others for the Saints as they stay true to their identity of an accurate passing game and dominant defence. Any team that starts the season with Drew Brees at the helm is in with a decent shot at making a run for the title. To help Brees, New Orleans were able to retain tight end Jimmy Graham and the rest of their receiving corps seems mostly intact, with veterans Marques Colston and Robert Meachem still reliable options. If New Orleans is a team capable of winning a second Super Bowl then they have to be more than a team that can only please its fans at the Superdome. In each of the last 17 regular season games that the Saints have lost, 13 of them were away from home, a pattern that was repeated when they took on the Seahawks at CenturyLink field in the postseason. The question is not necessarily whether New Orleans will make the playoffs this year, but whether they’ve won enough games to stay at home throughout the postseason as they remain a team constricted by its away form.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New head coach, new quarterback, even new uniforms. Change is in full force in Tampa, Florida after what can only be described as a disastrous campaign under Greg Schiano last season. Former Bears head coach Lovie Smith was one of the most sought after candidates this offseason. Smith is renowned for building top quality defences and after the Schiano tenure which included a quarterback, cornerback and MRSA scandal, Smith appears to have brought stability back to the franchise. New quarterback Josh McCown has now been given his shot to prove he’s starter after an impressive understudy performance in Chicago, however his success can largely depend on the offensive line in front of him. Throughout the preseason, the Bucs offensive line has been worryingly poor, something that will be hard to get away with through a 16 game season. Nevertheless, Vincent Jackson gives McCown a safe pair of hands should he be constantly under pressure often. With such a strong division however, Tampa Bay will find it tough to make a playoff spot even with Lovie Smith at the helm.

 

Carolina Panthers

Tampa Bay was not the only team in the NFC South to see change this offseason The Carolina Panthers were virtually forced by their salary cap situation to see a lot of players walk out the door. Nearly their entire receiving corps was let go, including Steve Smith, Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell. Quarterback Cam Newton led his team to their first playoff appearance since 2008 and in doing so proved to the league that he is an up and coming talent. However this is likely to mean nothing should he not have an offensive line capable of blocking for him this season. Only one potentially starting offensive lineman was a starter last season and two undrafted free agents are likely to be the starting tackles for this year, one of whom is yet to play the position in the NFL. Newton is an athletic and nimble quarterback, but there is only so much that can be asked of him should his protection falter. Fortunately for Carolina, the backbone of the team last season was their defence, which has so far remained relatively unchanged. Their front seven appears to be stronger than ever with defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy returning. The hope for Carolina will be that their defence once again carries the team through the season.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons will be aiming to prove that last year’s 4-12 record was an anomaly that should be easily forgotten. Having lost as many games last year as they did in the three seasons before that combined, Atlanta having been fixing the positions they were not famous for over the last few years. Playmakers is not the issue, Matt Ryan leads an offence that contains both Julio Jones and Roddy White, arguably the best receiving duo in the league. Both players suffered injuries last season which undoubtedly contributed to the teams’ woes. However, Atlanta is not the team it was two years ago and they have attempted to address this with changes along both their defensive and offensive lines. Matt Ryan is not necessarily the be all and end all of the team, but if he gets sacked as many times as he was last year (44 ), then a place in the playoffs looks unlikely. The Falcons weren’t much better on the other side of the ball either, only sacking opponent quarterbacks 32 times. The Panthers in comparison recorded nearly double the amount of sacks Atlanta did. Competition within the divison still remains high so if the Falacons’ changes do pay off, they still have the necessary playmakers to win the divison.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before