2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: NFC South (Beazley)
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Here are my 2013 predictions for the NFC South:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10-6
I think the Bucs will win the division in 2013, and here is why:
A. Scheduling - The NFL has done it right with this flex scheduling. Atlanta's two different games are Green Bay and Washington while the Bucs get Detroit and Philadelphia. I think this is a clear advantage for the Bucs heading into the year.
B. Healthy Offensive Line - 2012 free-agent prize guard Carl Nicks was lost for the season with a toe injury in Week 8. Their other Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph tore his patellar tendon in his right knee in the preseason last year and missed the entire season.
C. Doug Martin - I have Martin, not Adrian Peterson, as my top fantasy running back this season. Nicks and Joseph are two of the big reasons. Head Coach Greg Schiano loves to run the football, and Martin is one of the best in the NFL.
D. Darrelle Revis - Having a shutdown corner is absolutely huge in the NFL. They can leave Revis in man coverage on the majority of the WRs in the league. This frees up the defense for added pressure blitzing, or picking up the slack elsewhere by doubling another WR/TE. Just his presence on the field will make the Bucs better. The Bucs run defense was No. 1 in the NFL last year only allowing 82.5 yards per game. (New Orleans ranked last 147.6 YPG.)
2. Atlanta Falcons: 10-6
The Falcons will be projected division champs by probably 75 percent of NFL writers this year. I do like them to make the playoffs, but I think Tampa Bay really matches up well against this team. The Falcons still aren't great defensively, but their high-powered offense certainly makes up for it. Adding Steven Jackson was a huge upgrade over Michael Turner. Tony Gonzalez coming back for one more year will definitely help as well.
3. New Orleans Saints: 9-7
I think Drew Brees can break all sorts of records this year, and he is currently my No. 1 QB on the board right now. The return of Sean Payton will be huge for this offense. The one question mark they have on offense is at RB. Mark Ingram surprisingly has led this team in carries the past two year, but he still hasn't looked like how he did in college.
Defensively only the Titans (29.4 PPG) allowed more points than the Saints (28.4) last year. Drafting Kenny Vaccaro, a playmaking safety, definitely should help their secondary a bit, but I just think there are two teams better than them.
4. Carolina Panthers: 5-11
Some teams do it right in the draft/free agency, and then there is the Carolina Panthers. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was definitely a steal on draft day, but the Panthers are a team that needs to fill based on needs rather then BPA. They failed moving either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart last season, and are stuck with both on the roster again this year. They have yet to draft a big-time WR to help Cam Newton out. Of the four teams to draft QBs in the first round of the 2011 draft, only Carolina hasn't helped their QB's case by surrounding him with talent through the draft/free agency: Locker - Wright/Hunter, Ponder - Jennings/Patterson, Gabbert - Blackmon.
The Panthers have one of the best groups of LBs in the league, and their front-seven is very underrated, but their defensive backfield is in absolute shambles. I think Vaccaro would have been a better fit for Carolina, and Lotulelei would have been a better fit for the Saints, but it didn't work out that way.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.