2013 Season Outlook: NFC South
It is time to take a look at the outlook for the 2013 season for the NFC South division teams. This is the 2nd part in an 8-part series that will comprise all 8 divisions. The NFC North 2013 season outlook was posted on Sunday.
Before the signing of Steven Jackson it would have been an easy call to say that convincing Tony Gonzalez back for another year was the most impactful move Atlanta had made throughout free agency. What Gonzalez does for the Falcons’ offense is immeasurable. While receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are making opposing defenses swarm to the edges of the field, Gonzalez is taking advantage of all that open real-estate over the middle. He is Matt Ryan’s safety valve and an extremely important piece when talking about moving the chains to convert 1st downs, and he is a dangerous red zone target when Atlanta drives deep into enemy territory. However, Jackson is the bigger signing simply because he allows Atlanta to close out games by controlling possession and running out the clock. Not to mention Jackson is a great option in short yardage situations where a 1st down or touchdown could be crucial. On defense the Falcons lost John Abraham and cornerback Brent Grimes remains unsigned. If they can minimize the damage to the defense by coaxing Grimes back to the club the Falcons should be in prime position come draft day as well as opening weekend.
2013 prediction: 12-4, Division winners
Poor Carolina. The Panthers were so strapped for cash this offseason that it was hard to imagine them making any significant moves during free agency. Sure enough they did not, as the most notable name they signed was cornerback Drayton Florence who, by his own right has the potential to fit very nicely with the Panthers, but he will not be a game changer for a team that desperately needs talent on both sides of the ball. The bright side is quarterback Cam Newton is entering his 3rd year in the league, which is widely thought to be the year that young players finally start to put everything together. Everybody saw Newton light up the league in his rookie season as broke the record for passing yards by a rookie in a single season (until Andrew Luck broke his 1 year old record in 2012), but now Newton will be expected to at least carry Carolina to a winning season. Those expectations might be a little unfair as the team has yet to put a solid supporting cast around him. The team is still overloaded at the running back position with Deangelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert and it still needs a receiver to complement/take the place of Panthers great Steve Smith. Perhaps the draft will help the Panthers load up on young talent it desperately needs.
2013 prediction: 6-10, miss playoffs
New Orleans Saints
Who Dat Nation came out of free agency with one significant loss and an equally significant addition. New Orleans lost starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod to the Chicago Bears which could mean that quarterback Drew Brees may be under a bit more pressure in 2013 than in years past. However, with a draft class loaded with offensive linemen the big signing the Saints made surely overshadows the loss of Bushrod. Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis joined the team this offseason and he is filling an area of great need for the Saints. Ranked 31st in passing yards allowed in 2012, New Orleans desperately needed a playmaker at cornerback and they found one in Lewis who had by far a career high in pass deflections last season with 23. As long as Brees is running the show on offense the Saints have a shot to be contenders and he will get some extra help in 2013 in the form of tight end Ben Watson. Watson joins the supremely talented Jimmy Graham to make the Saints’ tight end situation very cozy. In my opinion, the Saints go as far as Brees and their defense take them.
2013 prediction: 9-7, miss playoffs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers strike me as a team with a great opportunity in 2013. Last season new coach Greg Schiano started the process of creating a new culture around the team. This season he is armed with lots of young talent who have all had a year to absorb what he is all about. The addition of Dashon Goldson at safety is a big step up for the worst secondary in football last season. The team could still use a cornerback as they wait to see what comes of their talks with the Jets about Darrelle Revis and the loss of Michael Bennett at defensive end could hurt their 1st ranked run defense from a season ago, but they are obviously not too worried as the draft has plenty of options along the line. On offense they are loaded with talent in the form of players like Doug Martin at running back and receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. They also signed Kevin Ogletree to be their slot receiver who should be a big upgrade over Tiquan Underwood. If the Bucs can find a suitable starter at cornerback and if quarterback Josh Freeman can finally put it all together, watch out for this team to make an impressive run next season.
2013 prediction: 10-6, miss playoffs
Follow me on Twitter: @BrigantiJoeXLJ