New Orleans 12-4
Is this finally the year that the arm of Drew Brees can finally lead the Saints deep into the playoffs? The Saints real downfall last year though was certainly not the offense, it was the defense. I see no plausible way that the Saints defense doesn’t seem some mild improvement. The addition of Michael Jenkins at corner, and the maturation of Sedrick Ellis at DT plus a healthy Will Smith and Charles Grant, and the Saints defense should be much improved. If it is, an NFC South title is in the cards.
Atlanta Falcons 10-6
Before I talk about the things that I love about this Falcons team, I must start this rundown with the real hole of this team, the secondary. Brent Grimes, Tye Hill, Thomas Decoud are suspect starting corner and FS options for the Falcons. The pickup of Brian Williams and the maturation of Chris Houston should help at corner, but the secondary is definitely a weak spot. The offense on the other hand, is fantastic. I love the line, the receivers, the addition of Tony Gonzales, and the eventual superstardom of Matt Ryan. This should be a playoff team once again in 2009.
Carolina Panthers 9-7
The Panthers were one of the real success stories in the NFL in 2008, but can repeat in 2009? The running back tandem of Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and the linebacking corps led by Jon Beason is as good as there is in the NFL. I still think that Jake Delhomme is suspect, that after Steve Smith, their receiving core is suspect, there Dline is not what it used to be, and their DB’s are suspect. Because both sides of the ball have one A+ unit, the Panthers should be a little above average, hence the 9-7 prediction.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13
Where should I begin? Any fan of this site knows I was not a fan of the firing of Jon Gruden, wasn’t now, and still aren’t. I thought the release of our veterans though was a bit overblown by the media. Cato June, Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn were all replaced by younger, better players in my opinion. Quincy Black and Geno Hayes should both have big years for the Bucs in 2009. I finally got over the firing of Jon Gruden and the hiring of Raheem Morris and was especially fond of the staff that Raheem put in place to lead this team in 2009. Last weeks’ firing of Jeff Jagodzinski and the inept look of our offense afterwards has me with real low hopes for 2009 though.
I’m not sure that just a running attack will save this team’s offense from looking terribly inept this year. It’s real unfortunate that a player of Jay Cutler’s caliber was available for a couple draft picks (draft picks that we spent on a TE and a raw QB) and we passed on that opportunity. Josh Freeman is not ready and Byron Leftwich is not good enough. It’s sad considering how good the Oline and running backs have a chance to be.
Our one saving grace could be our defense. I think Elbert Mack, Quincy Black, Geno Hayes, Aqib Talib, Roy Miller and Sabby Piscatelli will shortly show the rest of the NFL that they are upper echelon NFL defensive players, some Pro Bowl caliber.
The newness of regime, the unsettled nature of our offense and the quality of the competition in the NFC South as well as the schedule will prevent the Bucs from being anything of relevance in 2009. I look at the schedule and see potential wins @ Buffalo, Miami, home against the Jets and a home game vs a divisional opponent. It’s doubtful with such low hopes that we win 2 games on the road, and there you have my 3 game win prediction. Sorry optimistic Bucs fans!