Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NFC South

NFC South

Carolina *
New Orleans *
Tampa Bay

Carolina- I usually don’t like coaching change, but Dan Henning was awful, replacing him is a good thing, despite the learning curve. Carolina was the only team that I put in the playoffs last year, that didn’t make it. A lot of people (including ESPN) had Carolina as a major super bowl contender going into last year.

I hear a lot of people that think that David Carr will end up replacing Jake Delhomme by the end of the year and I disagree. Delhomme might not be the best player in the world, but Carrs pocket presence is terrible. Delhomme would be a poor mans Brett Favre, while Carr would be a poor mans Jake Plumber. I wouldn’t mind David Carr as a backup (like when Jake Delhomme was injured last year), but I wouldn’t want him to be the starter and anything more than a fill in. Gary Kubiak knows what he is doing, and he ditched the David Carr project early on because it’s just not worth the sacks and the telegraphing his passes.

One of the reasons why I like Carolina is because I love their front 4. They have a huge natural advantage over pretty much any other team in the NFL. They can consistently rush 4, and drop 7 and still create pressure. Julius Peppers is probably the most valuable non quarterback in the entire NFL (up there with Champ Bailey and Jason Taylor). He isn’t just a good pass rusher that causes pressure, but he’s a true playmaker. The guy is a threat to score touchdowns. Mike Rucker is a defensive end that would get a lot more attention if he were “the guy” on another team. The Panthers have too bookends, but they also have a defensive tackle with amazing physical attributes. This comes back to Bill Parcells “planet theory”. There aren’t many people on the planet that are 300+ pounds, and can dunk a basketball. Kris Jenkins is one of those people and is a true monster in the middle.

I think Carolina has a chance to have a pretty good linebacking crew too. It was iffy in the past, but they have a chance to be pretty good. Dan Morgan is a good player that has been hurt, Jon Beason is a physical freak, and Thomas Davis was a high draft pick as well. Then you consider the horses they have in front of them, and it will give these athletic guys the ability to make plays.

Carolinas draft made a lot of sense. They bring in the offensive line stud they need with Khalil, Beason to play big play LB, and Dwayne Jarret to replace Keyshaun Johnson. It is interesting that Dwayne Jarret out of USC replaces the guy that everyone compares him to ( Keyshaun Johnson out of USC). Not only that, but Keyshaun said that he shouldn’t have come out this year, and he was even covering the draft when his team drafted Dwayne. Now Dwayne took his job.

The main problems I see are the offensive line, and having a second target to throw to. Even if Dwayne Jarret is a carbon copy of Meshaun, it will still probably take some time to turn learn the offense and the coverages. Last year Delhomme basically threw to either Steve Smith, or Meshaun, with the occasional deep ball to Drew Carter.

The other problem I see is the offensive line. The line wasn’t good at run blocking, it wasn’t good at pass blocking. A lot of people think that Delhomme is actually underrated for the job he did with that line. I think drafting Ryan Khalil is the right step.

Carolina has been a team in the past that thrived in the underdog role, and they lose as favorites. It drives gamblers insane.

Carolinas early schedule is @ Stl, Hou, @ Atl, TB before their week 5 showdown with the Saints. They could very well be 3-1 or 4-0 going into that showdown. After that, they get @ Ari, Bye, Indy, @ Ten, Atl, @ GB and then another showdown with the Saints. They could be 7-3 before they host the Saints for a big divisional game.

New Orleans- was the only team in the NFC that I did not correctly pick to go to the playoffs last year… then again, nobody really did outside of Saints homers. Drew Brees taking the saints out of the dumps had to remind you of the year he just clicked and took the Chargers out of the dumps. The chargers just kept winning, and everybody was waiting until it would stop and they would come back down to earth. Brees has more than proved himself, and by the end of last year, people believed in this team. Now the Saints are one of the favorites to go to the super bowl next year.

I don’t see the Saints going to the super bowl. Naw Awlans more reminds me of those non - super bowl high scoring rams teams. I think the defenses the Rams sported were underrated and better than what the saints have now. I really don’t like this saints defense. The linebackers don’t scare me. Mark Simenau wasn’t good enough in Philly, but he’s good enough here for what reason? The D-Line with Grant and Smith is pretty good though and Hollis Thomas (steroids and all) was a pretty good run stopper.

People love to dog on Fred “toast” Thomas. Thomas doesn’t get embarrassed for a lack of athleticism or speed, he gets burned because he stinks at the skills of the positon (turning his hips, reading the routes, falling for double moves etc.). A guy like Mike Rumph is a flat out lost cause to me, but Fred Thomas was burned over and over, but it seemed like a lot of that stuff was correctable (although he probably never will be able to correct all that). Thomas moves to a backup spot, but who knows.

Last year one of the things I questioned about this team was the coach. Sean Payton certainly proved me wrong last year, but can he do it again? I don’t like the defense. Also, who will Brees receivers be? Colston, and Henderson, but I don’t think Terrance Copper is any good. Meachum is a rookie and will have to learn the offense.

The Saints also don’t have the luxary of a last place schedule this year. Their first 10 are @ Indy, @ TB, Ten, Bye, Car, @ Seattle, ATL, @ SF, Jac, STL, and then @ Carolina for what could be the divisional showdown. The Saints could realistically be 5-5 at that point. Maybe better, maybe worse, but I see Carolina having an easier schedule and winning the division.

Tampa Bay- The first thing I always think of with the Bucs, is just how bad that offensive line was. The Bucs defense we all think of is aging and leaving with the departure of Simeon Rice. Brooks and Barber are the two main guys still holding down the fort.

I know Jon Gruden is on the hot seat, but I do think he is a good coach. I believe he knows and understands the west coast offense, and if that line can give Garcia time, they will improve a lot. That passing game could also open up the run game for Cadallac. Last year when I was watching the late round rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, I couldn’t help compare him to Jeff Garcia. He reminds me of Garcia, and now he will ironically be backing him up this year.

The Bucs start of the year is brutal with games @ Sea, NO, STL, @ Car, @ Indy. They could start the year off 0-5! Maybe you predict 1-4, I’d be happy if they started out 2-3, but anything more is really wishful thinking. The good thing is that the schedule does get easier, but geez. Their season could be a tale of two teams, starting off poorly, and then picking up wins against those easier teams in the middle and end of the year. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

Atlanta- It’s not so much that Harrington is a downgrade from Vick, there is just so much going on, I wonder how the team will focus. It’s almost like if this team completely tanked, nobody would really take the heat or get blamed. Vick would still the scapegoat for putting this team in a horrible position. How focused will the players be?

I think they have some good D-Lineman with a healthy Abraham, Rod Coleman and Grady. They could have had a fiery Patrick Kerney too for a very formidable line, but he was critical of Mike Vick before he packed his bags for Seattle. Those people that always want to play “what if” with Vick, can look no further than the Patrick Kerney comments. Vick was just a lazy child that wouldn’t work hard, but just show up, and was never the hard working leader this team needed. Then he would flick off fans, and throw all of his coaches and teammates under the bus.

Everybody wants to have the Falcons picking at the top of next years draft, so that Bobby Petrino could bring in his boy Brohm. I see the Falcons as having too much adversity to finish anything but last place in this division.

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