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NFC South Preview: Buccaneers Will Rise, Panthers Will Repeat as Division Champions

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be the most interesting team in the NFC South this year. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is tasked with reviving an offense that seemed dead last year.

Although Tampa Bay had Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, the Buccaneers offense was constantly stifled last season, primarily due to their weak offensive line. The injury to Josh McCown was the crippling blow. Tampa Bay turned to second-year quarterback Mike Glennon and the snowball effect started.

The Buccaneers started the 2015 NFL Draft on a high by selecting Winston along with two protectors. Winston’s protection consists of 6′, 6″, 338 pound offensive lineman Donovan Smith (Penn State) and 6′ 4″, 307 pound lineman Ali Marpet (Hobart).

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina anthers are the current favorites to win the division. Dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton (3,127 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 539 rushing yards and 82.1 quarterback rating) will continue to give defenses a hard time. Ted Ginn Jr. returns to the Panthers which will take some of the pressure off of Kelvim Benjamin (1,008 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns).

The Carolina offense was still effective in 2014 despite not having Steve Smith. The Panthers will still light up the scoreboard in 2015.

New Orleans Saints

What will the Saints offense do without Tight End Jimmy Graham? No alarms should ring in New Orleans. Quarterback Drew Brees (4,952 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and a 97 quarterback rating )has center Max Unger to protect him so it was a fairly even trade.

The offense still has dynamic weapons including second year receiver Brandin Cooks and veteran Marques Colston (902 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns).

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons did not have the season to remember. Atlanta was plagued by inconsistency, especially on defense as they gave up 417 points last year.

Matt Ryan was an anomaly in 2014. He threw for 4,694 yards, 28 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 93.9. When anyone looks at that is all too easy to start thinking that the Falcons had an incredible season with at least 9 wins and a playoff berth.

However, faulty defensive efforts and 14 interceptions thrown by Ryan put the brakes on what could have been a  dream season. Inconsistency will continue to plague the Falcons this year and they will face better competition this season. Carolina and New Orleans will perform as the top 2 teams. Tampa Bay looks stronger this year and will likely win both games against the Falcons.

Projected 2015 NFC South Standings

1. Carolina Panthers 12-4

2. New Orleans Saints 10-6

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9

4. Atlanta Falcons 6-10


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