1. New Orleans Saints: 13-3
The Saints finally have a somewhat normal season. Sean Payton is back, the fiery Rob Ryan is taking over the defense, and there are not any contract talks impeding the success of the team.
They lost a handful of players through free agency, but the main contributors were Chris Ivory and Devery Henderson, both of which tapered off last year. They added cornerback Keenan Lewis, one of the best corners in the league as far as passes defended and completion percentage, tight end Ben Watson, defensive end Kenyon Coleman, and tackle Jason Smith.
The draft was fruitful, adding behemoth John Jenkins, safety Kenny Vaccaro, and offensive tackle Terron Armstead. Expect the Black and Gold to score at will on offense and improve significantly on defense. The Saints take the first seed of the NFC playoffs.
2. Atlanta Falcons: 13-3
That's right. The Falcons and the Saints both finish with the same, wonderful record. There's no question that the Falcons have the more talented team as a whole. But the Saints, in my opinion, have better coaching. Their offense is scary. They have three main threats at receiver in Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, this season they brought in Steven Jackson to carry the load at running back, and they also have Matt Ryan, a more than capable passer. The defense is more of the same. With Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babineaux, Sean Weatherspoon, and Stephen Nicholas leading the front seven, offensive coordinators will definitely be scared. The secondary will be their "weak spot" even though it isn't very mortal. The Dirty Birds finish with the fifth seed in the NFC.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-5
The Bucs did a decent amount of improving this off-season. Notably they added two ballhawks to the secondary in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. But they did lose Ronde Barber, E.J. Biggers, and Michael Bennett (all from the defense) which will definitely hurt. The front four contains Da'Quan Bowers, Gerald McCoy, and Adrian Clayborne, three players whom haven't burst on to the scene yet. The offense is capable of doing great things with Doug Martin, Mike Wallace, and Vincent Jackson, but I don't think Josh Freeman is "the guy." One more year and this Bucs team could be a Super Bowl contender.
4. Carolina Panthers: 9-7
Super Cam has done a great job of adding the shock factor to the Panthers' offense. So why haven't they had as much success? Turnovers. Cam Newton himself gave the ball away thirteen times last season. That may not seem like a lot, but it is amplified when he is only responsible for 27 touchdowns as a quarterback. The Panthers didn't really do anything to improve the team through free agency. They drafted two defensive tackles in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, though. Their running game is a pretty big threat to opposing defenses, but if you can stop the read-option, then you're halfway there. The Panthers' front seven on defense is threatening, but they will be torched by passing teams. Don't expect for them to do a lot of damage this year, especially with the hardest schedule in the league.
What are your thoughts on the NFC South for 2013?
More from Canal Street Chronicles:
- New Orleans Saints Defensive Line 2012 vs. 2013: Did They Improve?
- Sean Payton's Return is Bad News for Atlanta Falcons
- New Orleans Saints Rookie Run-Down: Terron Armstead and Johnathan Jenkins
- New Orleans Saints Roster 2013: Defensive Line Preview
- New Orleans Saints' Roster Top 25 Players: No. 22, Ben Watson