Welcome to the first NFL column of the year here at Digital Dads. If you’ve read this column in the past, you know that I’m a diehard Browns fan and there are certain teams that I absolutely hate. Today, we’re going to talk about one of those teams. You should be able to figure out which one that is from the context.
We’re going to do something a little bit different this year for the pre-season preview. First off, there is going to be one column per division leading up to the season, so that means there will probably be two columns a week. Or something like that. I’m also not going to be talking about last season except where it really matters, like for teams that I propose will repeat. Also, I’m not doing the math on the records this year, I’m just guessing. So deal.
Are you kids ready for some football? On a side note, I could use some more eyes on this column, so don’t be shy about sharing it like a mad fool every week. You know it’s the second best NFL column on the internet, so that should be a no-brainer. Let’s get started. Today, we’re taking a look at the NFC South, the division closest to my home in Central Florida but furthest from my heart.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don’t know how websites predict things like projected receiving yards and passing yards. That’s got to be some bullshit doesn’t it? CBS Sports says Freeman will have 3,866 passing yards, yet a projected record of 3-13. I know the Bucs, I hate them with a passion, but if they aren’t winning games then they are going to give QB additions Dan Orlovsky or Brett Ratliff a shot. They aren’t going to pretend it’s another rebuilding year or some shit. If Freeman isn’t winning games then he’s sitting.
I like the drafting of Doug Martin out of Boise State and the addition of Vincent Jackson, even though he’s getting a bit old to run the out route too often. Greg Schiano takes over from Raheem Morris, not an improvement at all. The Bucs have some of the right pieces in place to build a good defensive system back up, but they have too many young players to really get a coherent mesh on defense. That defense needs a leader and I don’t see one right now.
I’m not going to pretend that the Bucs are going to be any better on the field than they are on paper. They are a young team with a coach that has proven to be able to make decisions too late. Unless Freeman really steps up to lead this team, they are fucked.
Projected Finish: 3-13
With Cam Newton at the helm and Steve Smith out there collecting his passes when he throws, it’s hard not to just toss these guys into the playoffs. But there are some caveats. Can Cam repeat his success, even after teams started to figure him out? Newton had 14 rushing touchdowns last year and he’s hard to stop at the goal line, plus he can still throw. Adding Mike Tolbert to the backfield with Williams & DeAngelo suggests that they’ll be looking to confuse the shit out of defenses as all three can catch the ball as well as run.
So what about the defense? Well, drafting Luke Kuechly out of Boston College at inside linebacker was a good addition, and Chris Gamble is one of the best corners in the league. They’ll have to work harder to be better than the worst if they want to really compete in the division this year though. Giving up yards to run heavy teams isn’t going to help Cam Newton get the wins he needs to make a serious playoff run.
The Panthers took a chance not completely overhauling the defense, but a lot of players were out last year due to injury. If they can possibly avoid getting hurt (and with the Saints not gunning for players, that might be possible) then I think the Panthers can seriously compete this year and since I hate the Bucs so much, I can only hope good things for Cam Newton and crew.
Projected Finish: 8-8
Coach Mike Smith has not won a playoff game with the Falcons, even with Matt Ryan becoming one of the most explosive QB’s in the game. That’s some bullshit right there. They just tend to implode in the playoffs, especially defensively. This year though, Mike Nolan comes over from the Dolphins (who impressed on defense last year) to run the defense. I think we’ll see a marked improvement there.
More on the defense, John Abraham is back as well as the addition of Asante Samuel from the Jets, one of the best corners in the league. The key for the defense, especially in the NFC South is pressuring the QB. Those two games against the Panthers, they have got to push around Cam Newton, they’ve got to flush out Brees into coverage and well, for Freeman and the Bucs, just let them destroy themselves.
The Falcons didn’t make any huge draft moves, as they had some money tied up in some other deals that were questionable. Either way, picking up Peter Konz out of Wisconsin will be a good addition at the guard position. Matt Ryan is going to have a good year, with the same targets as last year and Mike Smith really, really wanting a playoff win. Support from the defense is important, and I think Nolan will produce one of the best defenses in the league.
Projected Finish: 14-2
New Orleans Saints
Well, this should be an interesting season for the Saints. Let’s recap shall we? Brees signed a nice long-term deal that will keep him around for another five years, that’s the good news. Bad news is that he’ll have to coach the damn team as coach Sean Peyton is out for the year due to the whole bounty hunting thing. Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma are suspended for at least half the season, nearly killing the defense. Yes, those two are that important.
Thankfully, Gregg Williams pretty much got suspended forever. He’s the douche that started this whole bounty thing, and his career is rightfully fucked.
Also thankfully, Brees still gets to throw to the best tight end in the league, Jimmy Graham. He’s also got Colston, Henderson, Lance Moore and Ingram to throw to, and Thomas and Sproles in the backfield. This team still has a lot of threats on offense and if there is one QB who can pull out the needed miracles to get the win, it’s Drew Brees.
Projected Finish: 12-4Pin It