After a great beginning to the season, the NFC South crown seemed as if it had already been handed to New Orleans. But nearing the end, Carolina shocked the NFL community by snatching what was thought to have already been won. In order to get the crown back, the Saints have to build their team to compete within this division.
The NFC south has shaped up to be one of the best divisions in football. The Carolina Panthers currently sit as the NFC south champions, and this coming season may turn into the toughest yet as the Atlanta Falcons, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect to rebound from a less than stellar season. I'm going to take a look at New Orleans' competition to once again be NFC South Champions, and what can be done this offseason to ensure a chance to win at home, as well as on the road against these three teams.
It's hard to imagine the Falcons having another bad season with the recent success of Mike Smith's regime. One of 2012's most explosive offenses should rebound this season with the return of
Julio Jones. While this team may have many skill position threats on offense, a good pass rush can break this offensive line if holes aren't filled this offseason. The defense suffered last season with injuries to Kroy Biermann, and Sean Witherspoon just to name a few. Attaining a young pass rusher may be on the Falcons to do list, but this will still be driven by its explosive offense.
The Saints would have extended success against Atlanta with the addition of another above average cornerback. This would be key to slowing down the Falcons offense making it difficult for Atlanta to keep up in a shoot out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Buccaneers have had a great start to the offseason by landing one of the most sought after defensive minded coaches in Lovie Smith. Anyone who can lead a team to the Superbowl with Rex Grossman as their starting quarterback knows a little bit about coaching the game of football. Smith should be spending this offseason acquiring pieces on defense to get the wheels rolling again. While it's unknown if Mike Glennon will be the starting quarterback for next season, there are plenty of pieces already in place to have an offense that can put up some points. If Mike Glennon or whoever the quarterback might be, ends up panning out well, the Buccaneers are in a great position to be successful.
New Orleans matches up fairly well with Tampa Bay, but with what should be a much improved defense, some beefing up of the offensive tackle spot may help to keep the offense running smoothly on the road. As long as the offense can continue to be successful at home and on the road, the Saints should fare well against Lovie Smith's new team.
While these two teams are looking for a come back season, the Carolina Panthers are resting as the most recent NFC South champion. It seems Cam Newton has proven critics wrong, showing that he can lead a team to a winning season and be the face of the franchise. Newton has a bright future ahead of him, but may need some additions to his supporting cast in the near future if they want to bring that offense to the next level. Though the offense is not what this team is known for, it is still very successful and can put up points if need be. This team does, however, have one of the scariest defenses in the NFL. Every position on this defense has talent, starting in the middle with the young linebacker, Luke Kuechly. His speed is unmatched for most linebackers in football. Couple that with a strong defensive backfield and top notch front four and Carolina has put together a defense that can be mentioned among the likes of Seattle's and San Francisco's. The Panthers will make a strong case in 2014 to return the NFC south crown to Carolina.
Last seasons games against the Panthers were polar opposites. The Saints dominated at home but fell short when traveling to Carolina. Buffing up the Saints exterior offensive line will help to keep the offense going on the road. Carolina has a tremendous pass rush and slowing this down will help to keep the ball rolling, enabling the Saints to keep up with Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.
Drew Brees has been a leader on this team since 2006 and the team has been centered around this explosive offense. In such a diverse division with talent on offense and defense, the Saints must be prepared to put up points with the Falcons and attempt to stop their wide array of talented receivers as well as a much slower paced game with the Buccaneers and Panthers. These two defensive minded teams are built to slow down the explosive offenses while still having the firepower on offense to be able to put up enough points for a shoot out. This offseason should be a good one with so many different directions the Saints could go, depth they could add, and holes they could fill.