So, I lied to you. Sure, I said I’d try to double up, but the way work was yesterday I never even got a chance to sit down. In fact, I’m standing to type this in the same job the next day. I digress, but I was also so exhausted and sick when I got home last night I couldn’t even get one of the divisions through. Let’s try to get through as many as we can today, shall we? I start with the NFC South, as the Falcons play tonight:
It’ll be a shame if Matt Ryan and his merry band of compatriots manage to knock off the defending champions in their homecoming game, no? I’d be happy, as a Giants fan, but it’s honestly going to be a tough battle. With one of the toughest defenses, the Eagles are going to have a fine time stopping the likes of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The rest of the season? Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu would love to show that they made the right choice in coming to Atlanta to play alongside one of the best catchers in the sport, Julio Jones. If everyone can stay healthy, they’ll hold their own against the incredible Saints and upstart Panthers. It’s going to be a hell of a year.
The Panthers took a bit of a downslide last year, yet still managed to tie the Saints at 11-5. They promptly lost to their division rivals, looking all the worse for wear. Pundits lamented the once-proud Cam Newton as being prematurely done as an elite QB. I don’t know where they were coming from, as Cam looks like one of the best in the game right now. The weapons at his disposal – beyond his own feet – include old friend Greg Olsen, newcomer Torrey Smith and the elevated Devin Funchess, eager to prove himself. If they can’t get it done, there’s a guy somehow faster than Cam himself – Christian McCaffrey, that Stanford firebrand that looks to light up the southern skies. They even brought in CJ Anderson for good measure. I think this is a team we shouldn’t sleep on, and in a tough (for 3 teams) division, this may be the most exciting of them all.
New Orleans Saints
I didn’t really get into why Atlanta might be better, but that’s mostly because we haven’t seen them against their biggest rival. The Saints are back and bigger than ever, with the ageless Drew Brees hoping for another chance at glory. The running game is sharper than ever, even with a Mark Ingram suspension looming for the first month of the year. Alvin Kamara looks like he could rival David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott as the best running back, but if he falters, Ingram will be rested enough to support when he returns. The throwing options for Brees aren’t as sparkling, but Michael Thomas is underrated and Ted Ginn is looking for a career resurgence after coming over from Carolina. I think on paper this team will ball well, and their rivals will certainly fear the sound that arrives when they come marching in.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What’s left to say about the NFC South? Do you want to have a QB controversy with the suspended Jameis Winston probably ceding way to the journeyman of all journeymen Ryan Fitzpatrick? The front office seems to think the way to go is to ditch their former star, perhaps as punishment, and despite being a big fan of Fitz, it does no one any good to pick the lesser of two drivers. So what does the one-time Cleveland savior have in front of him? DeSean Jackson is still waiting for some relevance, while Cameron Brate and OJ Howard squabble over the tight end spot. Mike Evans is simultaneously underrated and overrated, depending on who you ask, while the runners leave something to be desired. 4 touchdowns between Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers, but the latter has heavy experience leading Atlanta before the emergence of Coleman and Freeman. Is he cooked? Is Tampa totally cooked? I picked Tampa for second last year, thinking they would challenge Atlanta for the top spot. Instead they squeaked into 5 wins. It could be worse this season.
Predictions: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So I’ll keep working on this, see if I can get the other side of the South in before the game starts, or at least before the game ends. Go Falcons?