NFL Preview Bonanza: NFC South

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Last Season: 8-8

This Season: 10-6, NFC #3

In a division that’s become tougher and tougher, it’s about time the Saints justified their 2006 breakthrough. Drew Brees is still the best quarterback in the NFC by a wide margin, he has a ton of weapons in the receiving corps, and Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are an excellent running back duo. Offense hasn’t been the concern in New Orleans for some time, though. The defense, however, should be good enough—and by that, I mean, just slightly worse than the league average—to allow the Saints to consistently outscore teams.

Is Brees the greatest quarterback in Saint history? I’d be interesting in seeing how New Orleans fans rated him next to Archie Manning. I think Brees beats the infamous Billy Joe Tolliver and even Bobby Hebert.

Tim’s favorite player in New Orleans Saint history is…: One of my favorite nicknames of all-time belongs to the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.

Of the Zest commercials? Oh yeah, of the Zest commercials.

A Great and Recent Saint Game: What the Mike Piazza home run was to New York, the Steve Gleason blocked punt was to New Orleans.

What about the lateral game? That was great too. Until, you know, they lost.

As a Giant fan, what other Saint game stands out? You mean the one that helped us get to the Super Bowl in 2000? That one stands out a lot. (We were toast against the Rams in Round 2.)

If the Saints were a Star Wars location, they would be: Cloud City. Everything’s a little bit different there, and if Sean Payton wants to get to the big game, he’s going to have to sell a part of his offense-only soul Lando Calrissian style to get there.

Did you know? The Saints have two playoff wins in their history.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Last Season: 12-4

This Season: 8-8

Carolina definitely has a solid core, but two things really concern me: 1. Jake Delhomme; 2. Julius Peppers’ happiness. Not many quarterbacks can bounce back from the kind of performance Delhomme had last year in the playoffs, and it’s becoming more apparent that he’s no longer the guy who can lead a team to the Super Bowl. Peppers, meanwhile, isn’t happy with his contract, and that could limit the effectiveness of the Panthers’ most important defensive player. Also, this team has never made the playoffs in back-to-back years.

Tim’s favorite player in Carolina Panther history is…: The best: Wesley Walls.

A Great and Recent Panther Game: Surprised not to find any highlights of the 14-3 suffocating of the Eagles in the 2003 NFC Championship on YouTube.

None of the rabid Panther fans put it up there? Yeah, I guess that explains it.

What about that Super Bowl? We’ve got that, thankfully.

Poor Ricky Proehl. That guy can’t catch a break against the Patriots.

Should John Fox have been fired for his 2-point conversion strategies in that game? Looking back? Yes.

Remember when we considered Muhsin Muhammad better than Steve Smith? The good old days, am I right?

You know what might be underrated? The choke job done by John Kasay on that last-minute kickoff. That’s the Nick Anderson of football chokes.

If the Panthers were a work of American literature, they would be: Native Son. Because there’s something about it that makes you think it’s going to get worse as it goes along. In the book, it’s the moralizing on communism. For Carolina, it’s Delhomme.

Did you know? The Panthers’ logo is supposedly a rough sketch of the states of North and South Carolina.

Did you know 2? The Panthers have scored exactly 29 points in four of their last eight playoff games.

Did you know 3? John was once–briefly–a Panther fan.

John (half-hypothetically) on the Panthers: “Come on! Rodney Peete! That 3-0 start! How could you not pull for these guys? And that running back duo! I’ll defend that tandem to the death. You know, the one with that guy who was always injured, and that other guy, who was similarly injured.”

ATLANTA FALCONS

Last Season: 11-5

This Season: 8-8

I’m willing to put all my credibility on my belief that the Atlanta Falcons will not make the playoffs. Everything broke right for the Falcons last year, and I can’t see it all happening again for Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. The schedule is tougher, I don’t trust Mike Smith, I don’t trust John Abraham. Something tells me to stay away from them.

Tim’s favorite player in Atlanta Falcon history is…: Before Michael Vick, was Jamal Anderson the most iconic Falcon ever?

The Dirty Bird! Oh yes, the Dirty Bird.

Can you imagine that happening today? What, a team with Chris Chandler at quarterback in the playoffs, or a team dance becoming culturally relevant?

A Great and Recent Falcon Game: The game that cemented Matt Ryan as a legit NFL quarterback in Week 6 against the Bears last season, complete with a crazy ending.

Wow, what a comeback! And maybe not as good as this one.

And you don’t think that guy’s great? I don’t know why. I can’t picture Matt Ryan as an NFL MVP. Apologies.

It’s the vomiting, isn’t it? Yeah, you got me.

How does Jeff Jagodzinski not have a job? You got me again on that one.

If the Falcons were a character from Greek mythology, they would be: Icarus. Because they were flying, but a little too close to the sun.

Did you know? Atlanta is apparently a football town, but that’s probably by default.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Last Season: 9-7

This Season: 3-13

Worst team in the league. The defense will be worse without Monte Kiffin or Derrick Brooks, the offense will be terrible without Jeff Garcia or Joey Galloway. Byron Leftwich, Derrick Ward, and a by-mid-season surly Antonio Bryant aren’t going to scare anyone, and Josh Freeman is even worse. I don’t think firing Gruden was the wrong move, but they didn’t make too many right ones during the off-season.

Tim’s favorite player in Tampa Bay Buccaneer history is…: While I’m tempted by all the great quarterbacks who once donned the cream and white (Young, Spurrier, Testaverde, DeBerg, Dilfer, etc.), or all-time great Lee Roy Selmon, or longtime linebacker Hardy Nickerson, when you think of the Bucs, you think of Mike Alstott.

Can we get some Mike Alstott highlights? Sure, why not?

Greatest fullback ever? Very debatable. Lorenzo Neal and Larry Centers—for entirely different reasons—are contemporaries who are in the conversation with Alstott.

A Great and Recent Buccaneer Game: It would be easy to go with the Super Bowl win, so I’m picking a regular-season thriller over the Redskins in a playoff preview in 2005.

Where are the Bucs in the NFC Team of the Decade conversation? Being one of only two NFC teams to win the Super Bowl, you have to have them no worse than third behind Philly and the Giants and ahead of Seattle. It’s weird to realize how prevalent the Bucs were earlier this decade.

And last year. Yeah, they totally choked down the stretch.

Can you believe Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl? No, no I can’t.

And Shaun King didn’t? That’s right, Shaun King! Remember that guy?

What was the score of that ’99 NFC Championship Game? 11-6. Can you believe that?

How did they hold them to 11? That was a hell of a defense.

Those were great Rams’ unis: I didn’t appreciate them at the time, but now….

If the Buccaneers were a member of Destiny’s Child, they would be: That one they kicked out.

Did you know? After starting 0-26 as a franchise in 1976, the Bucs were in the NFC title game by 1979, where they lost to, guess who, the Rams.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on September 11, 2009 at 5:07 PM

    Mike Piazza’s home run was important to Mets fans, not “New York.”

    Reply

  2. Umm, John, I’m gonna rely on the testimony of the native New Yorker on this one. OK?

    Reply

  3. Posted by John S on September 12, 2009 at 1:42 AM

    Whose testimony is that? Gary Cohen’s?

    Reply

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