We conclude our Divisional Prediction series with the NFC South; home of the future first seed in the NFC playoffs.
1. New Orleans Saints: 13-3
Not only will the Saints likely have a top five offense in 2014, but they very well could have a top five defense as well. Adding three time All-Pro safety Jairus Byrd, future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a corner with a lot of upside, gives the Saints what looks to be the best secondary in the NFL. Couple this with one of the top pass rushing front sevens in the league and you have a defense that can hold its own against anyone. Offensively the Saints' will carry a lot of firepower in 2014 as well. All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, the best wide receiver in NFL history to never make the Pro Bowl, and Brandin "Lightning" Cooks are of note. The only group that still needs work on this roster comes at the inside linebacker position, but Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne are still quality players. Given the plethora of talent on this roster and a very manageable schedule, the Saints will win the NFC South and will take the first seed in the NFC side of the playoffs in 2014.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-7
Grabbing Mike Evans (who will play opposite of Vincent Jackson) with their first-round pick in the draft this year gives the Bucs a very formidable tandem of receivers. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was selected in the second round, just adds to the fact. However, the Bucs lost two key pieces on the offensive line: tackle Donald Penn and most recently former All-Pro guard Carl Nicks. Having to choose between Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at quarterback isn't necessarily desirable, either. Lucky for them, though, they will field a stiff defense in 2014 that features Adrian Clayborn, Lavonte David, Alterraun Verner, and Dashon Goldson. The Buccaneers have a very solid all-around team that will be ready to do some damage in the coming years after a little more seasoning.
3. Atlanta Falcons: 8-8
A Falcons offense that was at one time capable of putting up 35+ points every week is now very average. First-ballot Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez is finally retiring, there isn't really a running back that Matt Ryan can lean on when needed, and Roddy White just isn't the receiver that he used to be. The offensive line is still a work in progress as well. If you take a look at the Dirty Birds' defense, you might not even recognize a single name. This doesn't mean the potential for a good defense isn't there, but the squad definitely isn't as intimidating as some others in the league. 75 percent of the Falcons' drop off in 2013 was due to an excessive amount of injuries, but another big reason is that the team just isn't as deep or talented as it used to be. That should change with another year or two.
4. Carolina Panthers: 6-10
The Panthers continue the parity of the NFC South by going from first to worst. Until adding Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant (who are both pretty mediocre and old) in the offseason, the Panthers didn't have a single experienced receiver on their roster. I expect Kelvin Benjamin to be a solid target, but he won't benefit from basically being alone. Other than Cam Newton and a select few players on defense, there isn't much to like about this team. While I think the Panthers are capable of better than a 6-10 record, it could turnout to be a generous prediction.
Well that's it folks! Share your thoughts on the NFC South below.