Throughout the month of August we here at the Sports Script are going to answer the 5 key questions regarding each division in the NFL. We have gotten together 3 of the Sports Script writers Ricky Valero, Matt Wincherauk & special guest Mandi (@dvnmsm) to answer the questions. These will lead up to the ultimate reveal of everyone’s prediction for the NFL season. Today we start off with the NFC South.
1. Which player needs to step up the most this year?
Ricky: Josh Freeman: This is a make or break year for him. I believe he needs to take this team to the playoffs if he plans on being the starting QB for the Bucs next season.
Matty W.: Matt Ryan: Ryan may have finally gotten over the one playoff win hump, but he’s not out of the fire yet. He’s got to give more than just one playoff win with such a good regular season team. Ryan is on fire in the regular season, but he needs a Super Bowl appearance to validate that success.
Mandi: Matt Ryan. Last season he finally took a solid step into the leadership role on his team, and this season he needs to take that last step. The fans expect it. He’s more than capable.
2. Which coach has the most pressure to win this year?
Ricky: Ron Rivera: He is 13-19 as HC of the Panthers. I think he has to make some serious strides in order to keep his job this year.
Matty W.: Sean Payton: After serving his one year suspension as a result of bounty gate, Payton has returned and is being hailed as the Saints savior. If he can’t provide playoffs and some wins, he’s going to be looking at a hot seat.
Mandi: Sean Payton. Since the Saints tied for second place in the division with the Bucs and Panthers, I think most fans equate his return from suspension as a return to the team’s winning ways.
3. Who is the Sleeper player to watch in the division?
Ricky: Darrelle Revis: I believe the health of this man can determine whether or not the Bucs will contend this year. If they get a healthy Revis they have a real shot at making some noise in this division.
Matty W.: Lance Moore: He may not be the biggest name weapon on the Saints behind Coltson and Graham, but he’s one of Brees favorite targets. And in what should be a huge bounce back year for Brees, I expect Moore to look fantastic alongside him.
Mandi: Call me crazy, but I have to say Jacquizz Rodgers. There is something I like about him. Now that the Falcons have an every down back who can also catch passes (Steven Jackson), Jacquizz will have the chance to make some noise when the D is focused on Jackson. The key is that he has to take advantage of those opportunities…
4. Which player means the most to their team’s success this year?
Ricky: Matt Ryan: Ryan goes down this team has no chance at making the playoffs.
Matty W.: Cam Newton: Cam Newton has all the makings of a star, and has showed the ability, but the problem is he’s surrounded by such a lackluster group. With overpaid running backs, an aging star receiver, and a mediocre defense, Newton is going to have to shoulder a lot just for the Panthers to make a dent in the NFC South.
Mandi: Hmm. That’s a toss-up between Ham…er…Cam Newton and Josh Freeman. Both of these guys seemed to fade into the woodwork last season. They each need to make loud statements through their play this season.
5. How will the division play out?
Atlanta Falcons 11-5 – The Falcons have a tough schedule ahead of them this year and if they lose a couple of games I have them slated to win they may miss the playoffs this year. But with the addition of Steven Jackson this team could go all the way.
New Orleans Saints: 10-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-7
Carolina Panthers: 5-11
Atlanta Falcons: Once again I think the Falcons win this division as they have the most complete team. At a mark of 11-5, it seems like a bit of a regression, but the fact is this division won’t be pushovers like they were last year.
New Orleans Saints: 9-7
Carolina Panthers: 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-9