This division is loaded from top to bottom with explosive offenses, so let’s take a brief look at all four of them, and see what they may look like in the NFL odds this season, and see if any deserve an ‘A’ for their offseason additions.
Atlanta had a stellar 2013 season, and while it may have been their best year since the 1999 Super Bowl run, the Falcons fell to the 49ers in the NFC Title game. While we will never know who would have won in a Falcons vs. Ravens Super Bowl, Atlanta has loaded back up for yet another run. They resigned Tony Gonzalez and signed Steven Jackson and this offense has amazingly gotten better once again this offseason. The big question is can they take that next step to the Super Bowl? The NFC South and the NFC as a whole will be much improved this season, and the Falcons will likely need at least 12 wins to get another bye week in the NFC playoffs. However, their offseason addition if Jackson and the retention of Gonzo makes it another standout year from one of my standout students.
My Grade: A
The Saints were quite literally screwed from having a great season in 2012, but that should only fuel their fire in 2013. Even though Sean Peyton is their biggest offseason addition/retention, it should be enough to make the Saints a winning team once again. The biggest concern heading into 2013 is probably the running game. Darren Sproles was mismanaged last season without Peyton, and Mark Ingram was good at times, but ended with only 600 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Pierre Thomas is still there, but he has likely reached the end of his effectiveness. They need Ingram to step up and live up to where he was drafted. If the Saints can’t at least run the ball and pick up four to five yards on the few times they do run, it could hamper the upside of Drew Brees and the passing game. I need to see more during the preseason to add them to my NFL picks.
My Grade: B
It was the tale of two teams a year ago in Carolina. The Weeks 1-11 Panthers were awful on both sides of the ball. Cam Newton looked like a one-hit wonder, and the offense was getting nowhere. Then there was the Weeks 12-17 Panthers, who won five of their last six games SU, Newton was once again his old self, and the Panthers’ offense looked like a budding unit. The only real question is which offense are we going to get? There is also some concern with Jonathon Stewart’s health, as he will likely miss some, if not most of training camp. However, the Panthers have added some WR depth to their offense, and that was the other major area of offensive concern. There is still room for improvement, but I like the NFL odds of them staying as the Weeks 12-17 Panthers from 2012.
My Grade: B-
The Bucs were hampered by the inconsistency from quarterback Josh Freeman in 2012, and after an offseason with little offensive focus, the Bucs are once again questioning the leadership and playmaking ability of Freeman. Freeman completed less than 55% of his passes in 2012. Luckily, rookie Doug Martin was a revelation at running back, powering to 1454 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. He wore down a bit towards the end of the season, but I expect him to recover nicely as a 24 year-old. However the offense in Tampa looks similar to 2012 (no real additions other than rookie QB Mike Glennon) and if Freeman struggles, it really hampers their upside in the NFL odds.
My Grade: C+
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