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Green Zone League Articles

GZL14 | NFC South | Dominance Expected (From One Team)
By Matt Spencer
Special to gzl-football.com

GZL DIVISION PREVIEW
NFC South
Wednesday, January 16th, 2014
Matt Spencer, GreenZone Media Committee



New Orleans Saints

Key Additions:
OLB Brian Orakpo | DE Jesse Williams (Draft) | DE Tyson Jackson
WR Dexter McCluster | TE Cameron Morrah | TE Tony Scheffler
CB Jamell Fleming (Draft) | DE Demetruce Pair (Draft)

Key Losses:
QB Drew Brees | WR Devery Henderson | DE Nick Perry
DE Jerry Hughes | TE Tory Humphrey

Strengths:
The Saints have retained a new General Manager, Mr. Dorian Edwards and he has come in and put his stamp on the defensive side of the ball, revamping the squad into what looks to be a very good 3-4 defense. DT Sedrick Ellis is the lone returning starter on a very strong defensive line that includes 1st round selection Jesse Williams sliding from DT to RE and newly signed Tyson Jackson fighting with 2nd Rounder Demetruce Pair at the LE position. Behind those behemoths, theyíve got plenty of athleticism at the next level with newly acquired Brian Orakpo, returning starters DeAndre Levy and Thaddeus Gibson. Brandon Spikes and Casey Matthews should each see time at the 2nd ILB position.
On the offensive side of the ball, it looks like the lone strength of the team will be the Offensive Line and the skill position players. I like the receiving corps headed by Marques Colston, unfortunately for the Saints their weakness may be their undoing.

Weaknesses:
Quarterback. Iím not a believer in Tim Tebow in the NFL, and certainly not in the GZL either. He has been given ample playing time to prove he belongs in the league as a starting quarterback, but has shown no glimpses of brilliance. In my opinion, if this team had a pure pocket passer with good awareness, that theyíd be +2 or 3 wins on my prediction below.

MVP:
HB Jacquizz Rodgers Ė ĎQuizz has been very consistent in his two seasons of the GZL. The 5í6Ē running back isnít the prototypical small scatback, but can pack a punch when he needs to. The Saints will need to rely on him to carry the load for the times that Tebow is running around screwing things up. If Rodgers can bring his game to another level, maybe the 1700 yard mark, then I think this team can compete. If heís right around his career averages, it will be another long season in the Bayou.

Prediction:
6-10: | I really like the defense and some parts of the offense, but I just canít predict more than 6 wins for a team without a Quarterback. I think that this is a very tough division as well and that theyíll probably go 1-5 or so against that competition.


Atlanta Falcons

Key Additions:
DE Everson Griffen | WR Roscoe Parrish | WR Armanti Edwards
CB Leonard Johnson (Draft) | FB Steve Faust (Draft) | DE Michael Buchanan (Draft)

Key Losses:
DE Cliff Matthews | CB Dunta Robinson | CB Jonathan Wilhite
WR Nate Burleson

Strengths:
Ah, Mr. Davis who seems to be MIA a lot in the GZL. Weíll start with that passing attack. Matt Ryan to Roddy White and AJ Green just isnít fair. There arenít a lot of secondaries in the league that can match up to that and Brett Brackett is a very good TE option over the middle. On the other side of the ball MLB Curtis Lofton is one of the best in the league and his partnerís at the Linebacker level, Sean Weatherspoon and (gulp!) Jovan Belcher are very good players with tons of athleticism. The defensive line has stud Robert Quinn coming off the left edge and will likely have newly signed Everson Griffen coming off the right. Jonathan Babineaux will spear the attack in the middle. The three should combine to put plenty of pressure on opposing Quarterbacks.

Weaknesses:
It wonít be a weakness for very long, but the secondary is very inexperienced. Dre Kirkpatrick will develop into one of the leagueís best, but at this point, he, Jose Bell, George Iloka, Bud Cochran and this yearís first rounder Leonard Johnson are very raw with very good measurables. I could foresee plenty of shootouts going down in the Georgia Dome this season.

MVP:
QB Matt Ryan Ė The secondary might not stop much, so last seasonís top passing attack (YPG) will need to continue to dominate opposing defenses themselves. Ryan threw nearly 700 passes last season and may need to do so again for them to compete.

Prediction:
7-9: | I may be a couple wins short with this prediction, but Iím guessing the young secondary blows holes into the 2014 Falcons campaign. If Matt Ryan goes above and beyond what he did last season, then this team definitely has a shot at a division title, but Iím thinking he takes a step back towards the mean.

Carolina Panthers

Key Additions:
C Nick Hardwick | FS Chip Vaughn |DE Bjoern Werner (Draft)
FS Kenny Vaccaro (Draft) | CB Robert Blanton (Draft) | MLB Kevin Reddick (Draft)

Key Losses:
FS Sherrod Martin | QB Howard Christensen | WR Roy Williams
CB Ellis Hobbs | DE Charles Johnson | DE Robert Geathers

Strengths:
It all starts up front on the defensive side of the ball for the Panthers. 6th Pick Bjoern Werner will play next to DT terror JJ Watt and a very solid Lawrence Guy. Behind those three will be Jon Beason running sideline to sideline, Bruce Carter continuing his solid development into one of the better MLB in the league. LeSean McCoy leads an offense run by an inexperienced quarterback, but he had a good first season in Carolina averaging better than 4.5 YPC. RT Tyson Smith is one of the better physical specimens in the league at the position and should help keep opposing LEís off of Barkley.

Weaknesses:
The kickers, oh my. Connor Barth missed 11 field goal attempts last season and hasnít hit better than 80% since the 2011 season. Why this team didnít go out and try to steal Atlantaís Josh Day or New Englandís Stephen Gostkowski, I have no clue. I think Barkley is still a season or two away from becoming a reliable passer in the league, and this season they donít have Howard Christensen available to save the day and keep the offense afloat. The Offensive Line outside of Tyron Smith is also very questionable and the secondary outside of Chimdi Chekwa is very inexperienced.

MVP:
DL JJ Watt Ė Watt is quite the disruptive force in the middle. I really couldnít find a guy on the offense that will produce enough to be the teamís MVP. I think rookie Bjoern Werner could out-produce Watt overall, but that the impact Watt will have in taking away blockers from the rest of the defense will outweigh that advantage.

Prediction:
5-11: | Predicting a slip back to mediocrity here for the Panthers as they try to develop Barkley into an elite Quarterback. Iím sure heíll get there eventually, but this wonít be the season that he gets it right. The secondary also is a concern that I donít think the defensive lineís pressure will be able to overcome.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key Additions:
WR DeSean Jackson | FB Patrick DiMarco | QB Brian Hoyer
OT Marcus Cannon | LB Tyrone McKenzie | OT Frankie Gerard (Draft)
DE/LB Dion Jordan (Draft) | FS Brandon Claiborne (Draft) | MLB Jack Pounds (Draft)
TE Gary Dowlings (Draft) | C Leon Scott (Draft) | WR Vin Davis (Draft)
DE Jordan Williams (Draft)

Key Losses:
FB Mike Tolbert | MLB Barrett Ruud | WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Jeremy Maclin | LT Donald Penn | MLB Brian Urlacher
DE Julius Peppers | SS Major Wright | LB Jon Alsoton
DT Shaun Rogers | TE Cornelius Ingram

Strengths:
Where isnít this team strong? Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Mo Claiborne are probably the best tandem in the league. The linebackers are all fast enough to cover any part of the field, and strong enough to support the run defense. Terrence Cody and Gerald McCoy are a beastly pair in the middle and rookie Dion Jordan will likely have a breakout campaign in 2014. On offense itís the Josh Freeman show and his new target DeSean Jackson will likely have his best season in the GZL. LaGarrette Blount hasnít quite been the same back he was in 2010, but heís still a workhorse grinder who is going to get his 20 touches and 100 yards a game.

Weaknesses:
Nitpicking, but not a lot of GMís would be too proud of the OG package on the roster as it stands right now. Also, the 80 KPW at Punter leaves a little to be desired, but AF seems to think that the Inside 20% might be helped by the lower leg strength.

MVP:
QB Josh Freeman | As Freeman goes, so will the offense. If it werenít for a couple of injuries to Freeman last season, AF could be looking at another ring on his hand. The team brought in veteran backup Brian Hoyer to hopefully provide insurance if Freeman goes down again with an injury.

Prediction:
13-3: | Another season at the top for AF and his Bucs. I think this might be the best team that heís had in the GZL if Freeman stays upright and on the field. We just might be looking at the NFC Champs in this team.

Hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for the next edition as we flip conferences and tackle the AFC South.

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