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Special Edition: NFL Preview: NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons Projected: 12-4
The Falcons had a breakout season in 2010 reaching the top ranks of the NFC. Matt Ryan is back and keeps improving. He has solid accuracy and is working at improving his deep balls. Michael Turner is a beast who doesn't get tackled easily. Jason Snelling is another power back who will be used as somewhat of a fullback. The receiving core was upgraded thanks to the drafting of Julio Jones. He'll team up with Roddy White to make a lethal receiver combo. Tony Gonzalez is on the decline but is still definitely one of the better tight ends in the league. Tackle Sam Baker leads the decent offensive line. The defense is strong and the line and the secondary should improve. Ends John Abraham and newly-added Ray Edwards will constanly make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. The linebacker position has always been a little weak. Young prospect Sean Weatherspoon keeps making plays and Mike Peterson is a threat also. The secondary is still a weak link even with cornerback Dunta Robinson. Kicker Matt Bryant had a good leg and will score points for Atlanta.
2. New Orleans Saints Projected: 10-6
It was kind of a let down season for New Orleans after the team's Super Bowl victory. But they come back with hopes of taking down the Falcons at the top of the NFC South. Drew Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL thanks to his great arm. He has the options to keep his impressive numbers up. The backfield was shaken up when Reggie Bush was removed and the Saints drafted Mark Ingram. Darren Sproles was signed to be the starter but he'll probably split a lot of carries with Ingram and Pierre Thomas. The receiving core is very good with guys like Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and speedy Devery Henderson. Tight end Jimmy Graham will also make plays. The offensive line is very good with Jahri Evans, Olin Kruetz, Alex Barron and many others. The defense is pretty good with a good defensive line. Tackles Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin and ends Will Smith and newly drafted Cameron Jordan will all do damage. The linebacker unit is okay with Jonathan Vilma making plays in the middle. The secondary is also okay with young guys like Patrick Robinson and Tracy Porter improving.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaners Projected: 8-8
Well, that was quick. The Buccaners were contenders when they were suppposed to be rebuilding. Josh Freeman was the reason. In his first true year as starter he emerged as a threat with his solid arm and big frame. The backfield isn't great but its enough to get by on. LeGarrette Blount and Earnest Graham will fight for carries. The receiving core is also somewhat weak but it is improving. Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and Sammie Stroughter are all young and the top options for Freeman along with tight end Kellen Winslow. The offensive line is okay with guys like Jeremy Trueblood, Donald Penn and Jeff Faine. The defensive line is young and is improving. Tackles Gerald McCoy, Brian Price enter their second years while ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers are rookies. The linebacker unit is pretty weak due to the loss of Barrett Ruud. Dekoda Watson, Geno Hayes and a number of others must step up for Tampa Bay. The secondary is growing old especially Ronde Barber but is also young at some places. Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson will make plays and rooke Ahmad Black will also play a pretty large role.
4. Carolina Panthers Projected: 4-12
The Panthers found themselves staring down at a 1-15 season and the number one pick in 2010. Cam Newton won't be a traditional quarterback but he'll be the face of the franchise. Newton will likely start but if he doesn't Jimmy Clausen and Derek Anderson will take snaps. The ground game is the preferred unit with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Williams and Stewart both have good speed and Stewart can run over you if needed. The Panthers hope they have found their number two target finally to Steve Smith whether its Brandon LaFell, David Gettis or tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. The offensive line is an underrated unit with guys like tackle Jordan Gross, Jeff Otah and guard Travelle Wharton and center Ryan Kalil. The defensive line is young and improving. Carolina is hoping resigned end Charles Johnson will be the next Julius Peppers. Greg Hardy and Everette Brown will do damage also. The linebacker core is okay with Jon Beason being the top threat. Rookie Lawrence Wilson and Dan Connor must step it up. The secondary is solid with Chris Gamble, Chares Godfrey and Robert McClain making plays.

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