NFC South Preview: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons

Once upon a time the New Orleans Saints were the dominant force in the NFC South, but that is no longer the case with the other three teams breathing down their neck.

 

Source: Stew Milne/ USA Today Sports

Source: Stew Milne/ USA Today Sports

 

New Orleans Saints

 

With ‘Bounty Gate’ well and truly behind them, the New Orleans Saints and Head Coach Sean Payton will be looking for a big 2014 season.

 

After dominating the NFC South for the past five years, the Saints now have the Carolina Panthers hot on their tail.

 

Even though they lost long time running back Darren Sproles, expect the Saints offense to keep putting up points as long as Drew Brees is leading them on the field.

 

Famous for dunking over the cross bar after scoring touchdowns, keep an eye on Saints Tight End Jimmy Graham and whether he will risk heavy fines after the league outlawed his trademark celebration.

 

After Denver went on a recruiting spree to bolster their defense for the upcoming season, veteran free agent Champ Bailey decided to move on and he signed with the Saints.

 

Expect him to bring plenty of experience to their defensive group.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

After being a somewhat irrelevant franchise in recent years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set for a much improved 2014 season.

 

Along with the signing of former Minnesota Vikings coach Lovie Smith as their new Head Coach, the Buccaneers also went out and signed Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown.

 

With Cutler on the sidelines last season, McCown showed plenty of promise and this prompted the Buccaneers to sign the free agent.

 

Along with Vincent Jackson, McCown will have rookie wide receiver Mike Evans from Texas A&M to throw the ball to this season.

 

While they will be looking to score more points, Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will be looking for improvement from their defense.

 

If they are able to do this, expect Gerald McCoy, Mason Foster, and Mike Jenkins to have great statistical seasons.

 

Carolina Panthers

 

A great run into the playoffs last season has the Carolina Panthers set to challenge the Saints for the Division title and they could be a smoky for a possible Superbowl berth.

 

Under the watchful eye of their coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers have been on an upward trajectory over recent seasons.

 

But their offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who is in his second year with the franchise will have his work cut out for him with a virtually brand new receiving group to work with.

 

He will be looking to rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State to have a big year.

 

Coming off ankle surgery, expect quarterback Cam Newton to take a bit of time to gel with his brand new receivers before he gets back to his best form.

 

Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly will once again lead the Panthers defense into battle this season.

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Coming off a great 2012 season, the Atlanta Falcons struggled to get any sort of momentum in 2013, and they will have their work cut out for them in a tough division this season.

 

The man at the centre of the struggle was quarterback Matt Ryan, but if he is able to stay healthy you can expect a much improved effort from him.

 

While a lot of the scrutiny focused on Ryan, his case was not helped by injuries and poor performances from the men that he was throwing the ball to down the field.

 

With weapons like Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Stephen Jackson at his disposal, new offensive coordinator Mike Nolan will know that if he can get them firing, then they could be a challenger in the NFC South this season.

 

They will also need an improved output from their defense if they are to beat the Panthers or Saints.

 

Written by: Joe Schwab @Meadowswidget

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