Tuesday, July 9, 2013

FOURTH & FOREVER: Previewing the NFC South

Johnny J

The NFC South is a fantasy owner's dream. Why? Well it's because that division has a lot of players who put points up almost on a regular basis. I'm talking about players such as Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton just to name a few. All good quarterbacks and they help other players on teams produce. So with that said, lets take a look on how these teams in the "dirty south" stack up against each got better. Will the addition of Steven Jackson, make the Atlanta Falcons unstoppable? The return of Sean Payton will definitely help after a one-year suspension for giving the okay to hurt opponents for money. I didn't even mention, "Revis Island" Darelle Revis making the trip to Buccaneer nation. Ron Rivera and the Panthers are relying on Cam Newton to help make them a playoff team. Coach Rivera needs you Cam! Think about his family!

Break it down for them Johnny!

Steven Jackson has arrived in Atlanta after they finally got rid of inconsistent running back Michael Turner. Although he did have a total of 11 touchdowns, he only averaged 3.9 yards a carry last season. So now with the highly anticipated Steven Jackson in the Georgia Dome, the running game will pick up. Jackson averaged a little more with 4.1 ypc and he ran for over 1000 yards last season. This will make quarterback Matt Ryan and the offense more dangerous, with wideouts Julio Jones and Roddy White looking up at 1000 yards receiving. Old man tight end Tony Gonzalez is still trucking along. A definite threat in the red zone. "Matty Ice" just became Matty Icier. The weapons, oh the weapons! On the other side of the ball, They released veteran defensive end John Abraham and replaced him with an end that has a couple of Super Bowl rings. Osi Umenyiora produced 75 sacks and 32 forced fumbles in nine seasons with the NY Giants.  I would say that's a good veteran swap. Although he can't stay healthy. But if he can stay on the field, he will definitely help that line. The secondary  is looking up as they still have cornerback Asante Samuel and they drafted Desmond Trufant out of Washington with the number 22 pick. Yeah, I know it's the Pac-12, but they were second in their conference in pass defense at 188.9 yards allowed.  I'm sure he had something to do with that.

The Panthers are looking to rebound after taking a step back  in quarterback Cam Newton's second year. Last season they scored 22.3 ppg and gave up 22.7. The defense is decent due to a few playmakers, but the offense needs to put points up on the board. They averaged 360.7 yards, but they fumbled the ball a lot. Between Newton and both running backs DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart they fumbled the ball a total of 14 times. They average 1.3 giveaways a game. They need to see a specialist on how to carry the ball and take hits without putting the ball on the ground. I do like tight end Greg Olsen, who had a great year for the Panthers, he had 843 yards receiving. The Panthers have to find good receivers. Steve Smith is old and I can't even remember the number two receiver, which means he is one drop away from being dropped. On defense, they gave up 22.7 points a game. It ranks 19th, so it is decent, but needs improvement. Linebacker John Beason is a tackling machine, at least he was in 2009 and '10. He missed all of 2011 and only played in four games last season due to injuries. If healthy, he can gobble tackles up like Pac-Man. Defensive end Charles Johnson is another one that is worth more than a quarter for a hit. His $72 million dollar contract proves it. The front end of the defense is solid, its just the back-end that is in question. They ranked 26th in INTs.

New Buccaneer Darelle Revis is coming off of a torn ACL injury, but looks to rebuild. "Revis Island," is in Tampa. When healthy, we know what this guy can do besides demand bigger contracts. He covers one whole side of the field by himself, without any safety help. He disrupts great receivers and has built a reputation on it. This was a smart move, as the Bucs ranked dead last in giving up 300 yards in passing, not to mention an average of three touchdowns a game. In other words, the defense sucks. Revis should help, but they need more from the linebackers and defensive line. Can you name one Pro Bowler on their defensive line? Exactly. Now on offense, this is John Freeman's contract year. I'm sorry I meant to say, "this is his last year." My money says he's gone because he is not a quarterback you build a team around. Besides his 10 fumbles last year and 36 total in four years, his QBR was best at 95.9 in 2010. It was 81.6 this past season. His accuracy was just over 50% and he threw 17 INTs. If I had to choose between him and Jay Cutler, I would want to know who the third string quarterback was. They do have a few weapons in wide receiver in Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin.  Martin is amazing, running for almost 1500 yards his rookie season. Not bad for a middle round pick-up. Rookie quarterback, Mike Glennon might eventually take over for Freeman. His numbers wont blow you away, but with the right coaching he can be a much more solid quarterback. Teams don't waste high draft picks on back-ups. WAKE-UP CALL!

Now for the Saints, who are looking to make the playoffs after missing it last season for the first time in four years. Sean Payton is now back at the helm for the Saints, who have I believe the best offense in the league. Even without Payton, the offense ranked third in points and first yards per play at 6.2. Anytime you have a great passing quarterback in Drew Brees, your team is definitely a trigger-happy team. The only team who might pass the ball on every first down. Coming off of a 43 touchdown and 19 int season, Brees is looking to continue finding his targets with the help of a sixth overall ranking offensive line. Yes, the Saints were terrible last year, but it was because of the defense. The offense did their job and the line held up, as Brees only got sacked 26 times compared to the Philadelphia Eagles gave up a total of 118 sacks. Tight end Jimmy Graham should be motivated after getting snubbed on the NFL Network's top 100 players of 2012. He only had 982 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Nothing special. I didn't believe it when Baltimore's Dennis Pitta was on the list. Anyway, Graham will be the top tightend off the board in fantasy football. The Saints still do have a three-headed running game in Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles. Remember this is a passing team and they will see their few touches a game. A fantasy football owner's worst nightmare; a pick that doesn't produce. The defense gave up 28 points last season, ranked last in almost every category, points, yards per game and sacks. That should change with Rob Ryan as the new defensive coordinator, who is switching the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Expect players to feed off of Ryan's energy and Payton's presence.

The NFC South is a division that will be exciting to keep an eye on.  The Saints, Falcons and even the Panthers will be battling the whole year for the division crown. I don't see the Bucs being a good team this year. I just see those three teams fighting to make the playoffs. The NFC so it won't be an easy road to the playoffs. If you remember my ,"Falcon-Punched," story, it describes how, "Punks jump up to get beat down." Not this year's Falcon team. Oh the weapons, the weapons oh! Cam will do his best to help the Panthers and he can if him and the running backs put duct tape around them and the ball. They will be a good team. The Bucs are in a rebuilding process. They have very few weapons and a bad quarterback and defense. Even Revis is going to be throwing his hands up at times, screaming "new contract please!" The Saints' defense is still going to have to prove a lot. I can't see that defense being solid in their first transition of switching schemes. We know what the offense can do, maybe they'll just try to outscore everyone by putting up 40 point games. I can see that happening.

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