NFC South Preview

USA Today - Sports/Chuck Cook)

Written by: James Braswell

It’s finally here, ladies and gentlemen! The NFL Preseason is at bay! This upcoming Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the NFL Preseason. There’s a lot of excitement to be had, and let’s continue that excitement with a NFC South preview!

It is now time to look at the division that was last year the 2nd worst sports division of all time:

Atlanta Falcons

2014 Record: (6-10, 5-1)

The Atlanta Falcons were interesting last year, but not in a good way. Despite having the best divisional record in the NFC South, the Falcons  remained at home for the post-season after losing to the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. This led to the firing of Coach Mike Smith, and the arrival of new coach and former Seahawks Defensive Coordinator, Dan Quinn.

In the offseason, the Falcons didn’t make a big splash in free agency. Rather, they made small pick ups to better compliment the team. Something that Coach Quinn is familiar with in Seattle. Many Falcons fans are hoping Coach Quinn can make a Legion of Boom of his own. Whether that will happen is hard to tell, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The only loss worth mentioning is former Wide Receiver Harry Douglas, who served primarily as a slot receiver. Douglas stepped up when starters Julio Jones and Roddy White had their injuries. Maybe Devin Hester can step into a similar role this year?

Prediction: (9-7, Wild Card-spot)

Carolina Panthers

2014 Record: (7-8-1, 4-2)

The Carolina Panthers are once again looking to repeat as NFC South champions, hopefully this time with a winning record. After starting off the season 3-8-1, Panthers won four straight games and became the first team in the NFC South to repeat as champions.

As Cam Newton continues to develop, so will the Panthers. With the release of franchise rushing leader DeAngelo Williams, Newton will have to step up as a dual-threat quarterback. But not too worry, Jonathan Stewart is still around to get a majority of the carries.

The Panthers let Greg Hardy leave during free agency after accusations of domestic abuse, but still have the two of the best middle linebackers in the league, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

Prediction: (11-5, NFC South Champion)

New Orleans Saints

2014 Record: (7-9, 3-3)

I am going to be blunt. The New Orleans Saints are going to be in for a rough year. Last year, the Saints struggled to get wins, losing twice to it’s biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons. This year should be about the same, if not worse.

The Saints traded away one of Drew Brees’s biggest assets, tight end Jimmy Graham. With the loss of Graham, Brees will be looking towards the younger guys on his squad for support. It also hurts that Brees isn’t getting any younger.

Prediction: (6-10)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2014 Record: (2-14, 0-6)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of promise in the 2015 season. After finishing with the worst record in the league, the Buccaneers drafted Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Winston has already been named the starter for the Buccaneers.

By no means, do I expect the Buccaneers to have a winning record; however, I do believe they will progress with Winston under the helm. In the past Winston has had some slight character issues, but maybe that will change now that he’s in the league.

Biggest game to watch on Week 1 will be the match up of former Heisman Trophy winners. Winston and Marcus Mariota will be leading their perspective teams, in what should be an interesting game for both rookies.

Prediction: (5-11)

As the season progresses, be sure to check out my NFC South Power Rankings. You can also follow me on Twitter @JamesGSTV for Atlanta sports and Georgia Southern news.

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