In the final day of our daily divisional NFL debates, we argue about the NFC South. This is a division that has been dominated by two teams in recent years: The Saints, and Falcons. While the Falcons improved heading into the season, the Saints got significantly worse, and opened up the door for the young Panthers. The Panthers have a tough, exciting team, but will they be able to overtake the Falcons and win the NFC South? Read below to find out.
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[one_half] By: Baily Deeter
In Week 1, Matt Ryan looked as good as ever. His arm strength is much improved, and he’s making great reads and throws. Ryan has a few great targets to throw to, which include Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
Jones is an athletic receiver who can beat you with his speed but can make incredible catches. Jones caught two touchdown passes in Atlanta’s season-opening win over the Chiefs (who are a good team), and Ryan scored a total of four touchdowns. White also knows how to get open and catch passes, and Gonzalez has tons of experience. He has great hands and knows how to break tackles.
If that’s not enough, the Falcons have Michael Turner at running back (and capable backups in Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling). Turner is a bruising back with lots of experience, and he can run the ball well. Atlanta won’t run the ball as much as they used to, since their passing attack is much better. Ryan is now one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he may have the best receiving weapons in the NFL.
On the defensive side of the ball, Atlanta also has talent. Sean Weatherspoon is a great linebacker, John Abraham has talent and experience at defensive end, Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel are solid corners and Thomas DeCoud is a capable safety. The Falcons forced three turnovers by Kansas City in the season opener (two interceptions and a fumble).
Atlanta ranked in the top half of the league (12th) in total defense last year, and they certainly seem poised for another great season on defense. Against the Chiefs, the Falcons looked like a team completely ready to contend for and win a Super Bowl title.
And, thanks to the improvement of Matt Ryan, the development of Julio Jones and the all-around talent, the Falcons are a team that’s ready to contend for and win a Super Bowl title.
In the last few years, Atlanta has played second fiddle to the Saints. However, the suspensions of the Saints coaches and the drama with the players has definitely hurt the Saints, who lost their season opener at home to the Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Panthers, who were also expected to compete, didn’t look sharp at all in a loss at Tampa Bay.
Atlanta, on the other hand, looks better than ever. Ryan has lots of experience, and he has proven targets to throw to and a proven running back. The Falcons’ defense is sharp as well, and they seem completely ready to make a run at the Super Bowl. The NFC South almost looks easy for them to win this year, and with Julio Jones being much improved, the Falcons defense being a lot better and Matt Ryan taking the next step towards greatness, I don’t see any reason why the Falcons won’t win the NFC South this year.
[one_half_last] By: Garrett Baker
The Carolina Panthers should win the NFC South. It’s been awhile since the Panthers had a roster as talented as it currently stands.
Led by Cam Newton, the offense has the potential to be a juggernaut through the air and on the ground. The Panthers basically have an unprecedented four top runners, with Newton, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and new signing Mike Tolbert leading the charge.
Newton’s versatility makes him one of the most feared players in the league, and the presence of Steve Smith gives Newton a downfield option that cornerbacks and safeties have to deal with all game. Greg Olsen gives Newton a safety net, and makes the offense as well-rounded as any in the league.
The defense gets an enormous boost from the return of linebacker and team leader Jon Beason from an achilles injury, along with first-round pick Luke Kuechly, who was a tackling machine at Boston College.
This is a good team, with a great coach in Ron Rivera. With the Saints in flux, there will be fierce competition for the division, but I think Cam will lead the Panthers to the top.