Super Bowl XLIV Champion New Orleans are the obvious odds on favorite to win NFC South. They're better, deeper and maturing quickly. They should have no problem as repeat division winners unless they haven't stopped partying.
1) New Orleans Saints Saints take dead aim at back to back titles. Solid draft netted a future starting CB (Patrick Robinson, FSU), future starting TE (Jimmy Graham, UM) and local DT from LSU Al Woods. None figure to be immediate impact players but they'll fit right in with a very deep and talented squad. Brees' targets are maturing nicely. Running game may need a boost to help give the defense a rest. Defensive players are ball hawks. These guys swarm to the ball and create turnovers (26 int, 15 fumbles). They ran off to a stunning 13-0 record. Saints have the 27th hardest (6th easiest) scheduling heading into 2010. 14 wins is a possibility.
2) Atlanta Falcons After an 11-5 finish in '08 and additions to key positions on offense heading into '09 Falcons fans had high hopes. Atlanta soared early before crash landing mid-season. 4-1 quickly turned into 6-7 before rebounding to finish 9-7. Team needs were met in the draft with the selections of LB Sean Weatherspoon (Mizzou) and DT Corey Peters (Ken). To help protect oft pressured QB Ryan Atlanta tabbed 2 guards, Alabama's Mike Johnson & Joseph Hawley (UNLV). Atlanta has all the tools to return as a playoff challenger. Solid talent at most positions. Falcons middle of the road defense holds the key to success or failure.
3) Carolina Panthers I was a bit off last year in one of various NFC synopsis. I expected Carolina to put the naysayers to rest and make the playoffs. Their 8-8 record is quite deceptive. Offense scored 10 or fewer points five times. Play selection was miserable which was no help to Jake Delhomme who looked weak armed and lost while posting career worst numbers. Panthers really needed to better position themselves before draft day. Their first pick came in round 2, 48th overall. A very questionable pick taking Notre Dame's QB Jimmy Clausen. Many question marks heading into training camp covering all bases from starting qb to health issues with runningbacks. 2010 will be a transition season unless questions are answered early and new role players step it up.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa production on both offense and defense ranked near last in all categories. They're a long way from climbing back to championship status. QB situation was a revolving door before Josh Freeman took over. Weak running game produced only 5 td's. Bucs gave the ball away 34 times. Offense scored 10 or less six times. Another long year awaits but there's light at the end of the tunnel if fans can be patiently supportive. They had a great draft. 3rd pick of the NFL draft was Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma. 2nd round pick UCLA's DT Brian Price. Their presence will be felt immediately and should mature into fine players for years to come helping restore Tampa's reputation for no nonsense defense. 4th rounder Mike Williams (WR, SYR) might turn out being the steal of this draft if he can straighten out personal off field issues. 2010 will be filled with ups and downs. No reason this team can't win 5-7 games.