When I consider the NFC South teams, I would put the New Orleans Saints at six, the Atlanta Falcons at nine, the Carolina Panthers at 20 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 26.
Harrison has the New Orleans Saints at nine and this for his explanation:
Bountygate: Medieval Saints: Reeling. Rest of the NFC South: Improved. But still ... Brees > Ryan > Cam > Freeman.
For Atlanta, Harrison has the team at 17 saying:
The Falcons have morphed into a passing team, looking to ride the right arm of their fifth-year veteran behind center. It's hard to believe Matt Ryan has been in the league that long, but it's time this "franchise quarterback" takes the next step. This team has won 42 games in his first four seasons, but really has nothing to show for it. On defense, the onus falls on the pass rush, where Ray Edwards (3.5 sacks) hasn't complemented aging John Abraham the way the club envisioned.
The Panthers come in at 24:
Carolina chose not to grab a defensive tackle or give Steve Smith a viable No. 2 in the early rounds -- a bit of a surprise from draft weekend. What the Panthers did get is a big-time player in linebacker Luke Kuechly. The only pause here is the enormous amount of bad luck Carolina has had at linebacker.Thomas Davis can't stay healthy. The team's best player, Jon Beason, missed almost all of 2011 due to injury. Dan Morgan was a beast, but couldn't stay healthy, either. Let's hope Kuechly lines up 16 and knocks 'em down.
While Tampa rounds up the NFC South just two spots back of Cam Newton and company:
Who are the Bucs? Are they the club that lost the last 10 games of 2011 under Raheem Morris? Or are they a new-look team with a new head coach -- as well as new No. 1 receiver, new guard, new safety, etc. -- that can compete in a division whose champion is knee-deep in turmoil? The answer lies somewhere in between, but if the defensive line plays up to its potential, this is a completely different football team. All four players on the line were first- or second-round picks. Look no further than the Giants to see what a good front four can do for playoff hopes.
What do you think of these rankings? I guessed Tampa spot on, but I'm a bit surprised each of the first three aren't a nod higher. What say you?