While the NFC West and NFC North look like the divisions most likely to produce a playoff opponent for the Dallas Cowboys, the NFC South appears to be headed for a down year despite the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers off-season...
While the NFC West and NFC North look like the divisions most likely to produce a playoff opponent for the Dallas Cowboys, the NFC South appears to be headed for a down year despite the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers off-season improvements. The Saints are still recovering on defense from the bounty scandal and losing out on a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft. New Orleans appears to have a problem at one of their tackle spots even if small school stud Terron Armstead starts for them.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have problems in their secondary and an aging offensive line that struggled to open holes in 2012 for a running game that excelled in 2011. It isn't clear if Ted Ginn Jr. and the other receivers can pick up the slack for a declining Steve Smith in Carolina. To top all of these issues off, the Panthers have a very tough schedule to look forward to this season. Until the Panthers can improve their secondary and offensive line, they're likely to struggle. Only Cam Newton playing absolutely lights out gives them a shot at making some noise.The Bucs meanwhile, have put together the best secondary in the division through the draft and by trading for All-Pro cornerback Darrel Revis. While the Bucs' have an excellent running game featuring Doug Martin, their primary problems are uncertainty along the offensive line and quarterback Josh Freeman's turnover-prone ways. In any case Freedman has Mike Glennon pushing him this season so he may perform better than last year.
Season summary: Atlanta appears to have the easiest path to the Super Bowl of any contender -- but that’s why they play the games. The Falcons still have a few depth issues in their secondary and a pass rush that could stand to improve. Nonetheless it’s a passing league and the Ryan-White-Jones combo combined with Stephen Jackson closing out games should propel them into the playoffs once again. The question is will they have the toughness to make it all the way to the Super Bowl. My guess is they lose in the playoffs again, without a return to the NFC title game. Out of all the teams the Cowboys match up well against in the playoffs taking on Atlanta in the Dome would be my preference. 1 09/08 SUN @NO W 34 - 30 1-0Dirty Birds beat their biggest division rivals 2 09/15 SUN STL W 31 - 24 2-0Feisty Rams put up a fight, pressure Ryan until late 3 09/22 SUN @MIA L 27 - 26 2-1Fins pressure Ryan, hand Falcons first loss of the season 4 09/29 SUN NE L 30 - 27 2-2Super Bowl preview? Maybe not 5 10/07 MON* NYJ W 33 - 17 3-2The Jets begin their 'suck for Clowney' campaign 6 10/13 SUN BYE 7 10/20 SUN TB W 26 - 13 4-2Falcons beat down Bucs, pick off Freeman often 8 10/27 SUN @ARI W 24 - 23 5-2Peterson battling Julio Jones all day. Get your popcorn ready 9 11/04 MON* @CAR L 36 - 31 5-3Kitties pull off biggest upset of their season. Falcons stumble 10 11/10 SUN SEA W 33 - 28 7-3Seahawks pressure Ryan in this playoff game preview 11 11/17 SUN @TB W 27 - 17 8-3Bucs just lack the weapons to keep up with Atlanta 12 11/24 SUN NO L 31 - 30 8-4Saints edge Falcons in a barn burner 13 12/01 SUN @BUF W 37 - 23 9-4The Bills suck, badly need more pass rush and E.J. Manuel to develop fast 14 12/08 SUN @GB W 36 - 31 10-4Packers top Dirty Birds in NFC title game preview? 15 12/15 SUN WAS W 29 - 17 11-4Falcons hand Skins a late season loss that hurts their playoff hopes 16 12/23 MON @SF W 34 - 30 11-4Falcons motivated for this one after last year's NFC title loss 17 12/29 SUN CAR W 30 - 26 12-4Panthers are pretty much done by this point with Rivera on his way out the door NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 8-8 2nd place finish, miss playoffs for second consecutive seasonSeason summary: Rob Ryan's 'confusing' defense is the biggest question mark for this team, along with some turnover along the offensive line. The offense should keep humming and in fact might be better in the running game this year. I do foresee a few embarassing losses though, possibly to the Rams or even