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2013 NFC South Preview

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

2012 Common Opponents: NFC East, AFC West
2013 Common Opponents: NFC West, AFC East

Competing against 3 teams that went 7-9 in 2012, it would seem the Falcons have a fast track to the division title in a weak division. But this couldn't be further from the truth. The Saints and Panthers underperformed last year, and New Orleans in particular should make things very difficult for Atlanta as they show all the statistical signs of a big turnaround. In fact, all 4 teams were essentially league average or better in our final 2012 ratings. Most likely, the Falcons and Saints will both move on to the playoffs from the NFC South in 2013.

Atlanta Falcons

2012 Record: 13-3
2012 Rating: 4.2 (6th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 10.1
2013 Division Rank Opponents: WAS & GB
2013 Preliminary Rating: 2.6 (3rd of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 9.2

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
RB - Michael Turner / 80 / FA >>> Steven Jackson / 82 / STL
C - Todd McClure / 84 / FA >>> G Garrett Reynolds / 78 / -
T - Tyson Clabo / 85 / MIA >>> Lamar Holmes / 75 / -
DE - John Abraham / 85 / ARI >>> Osi Umenyiora / 85 / NYG
CB - Dunta Robinson / 80 / KC >>> Desmond Trufant / 80 / rk

The Falcons have posted 3 straight double-digit win seasons, but they really didn't take the next step into the league's top teams until 2012, with a dramatic increase in their passing efficiency netting 3 more points per game. The Atlanta roster in 2013 is largely unchanged, but does include 2 key downgrades on the offensive line which threaten to stall the offense a bit. While the Falcons have a good shot to remain a top team in 2013 and should have no trouble making the playoffs, they're odds of repeating as division winners are being widely overestimated. The Saints massively underperformed in 2012 and a big rebound in 2013 is a near certainty.

Carolina Panthers

2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Rating: 1.2 (13th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 7.8
2013 Division Rank Opponents: NYG & MIN
2013 Preliminary Rating: 0.5 (16th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 7.9

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
G - Geoff Hangartner / 79 / FA >>> C Ryan Kalil / 82 / inj
DT - Ron Edwards / 80 / FA >>> Star Lotulelei / 80 / rk
LB - James Anderson / 77 / CHI >>> Jon Beason / 81 / inj
S - Haruki Nakamura / 79 / - >>> Mike Mitchell / 76 / OAK

The Panthers roster is mostly unchanged for 2013, meaning our 2013 preliminary rating for them should be relatively accurate. Carolina has been a slightly better than average team the last couple seasons, and has been unlucky to finish under .500 twice. While they remain a solid team that could surprise, their placement in a tough division within a tough conference means they are still more likely to miss out on the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints

2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Rating: 3.5 (7th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 9.1
2013 Division Rank Opponents: DAL & CHI
2013 Preliminary Rating: 2.5 (4th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 9.2

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
WR - Devery Henderson / 78 / FA >>> Kenny Stills / 75 / rk
T - Jermon Bushrod / 78 / CHI >>> Charles Brown / 78 / -
DT - Sedrick Ellis / 80 / FA >>> DE Akiem Hicks / 79 / -
DE - Will Smith / 82 / inj >>> Martez Wilson / 79 / -
CB - Patrick Robinson / 79 / - >>> Keenan Lewis / 82 / PIT
S - Roman Harper / 80 / - >>> Kenny Vaccaro / 81 / rk

If there was ever a below .500 team that could legitimately be called Super Bowl contenders the following season without significant roster upgrades, it's these Saints. New Orleans was very unlucky to finish with just 7 wins in 2012, deserving more like 9 with our 7th best team rating. Better yet, our year-to-year regression shows that their 31st rated defense is likely to turn around a bit, while their 3rd rated overall pass offense is the category most likely to stay consistent for 2013, jumping them all the way up to 4th in our preliminary 2013 ratings. While the NFC remains tough, the Saints should find themselves in the playoffs this season, and have perhaps as good a shot at winning the NFC South as the Falcons. If the Saints can turn around the defense, the sky is the limit for this team which is only 1 season removed from our highest ever overall team rating from their 2011 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Rating: -0.1 (18th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 7.3
2013 Division Rank Opponents: PHI & DET
2013 Preliminary Rating: -0.4 (22nd of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 7.4

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
G - Ted Larsen / 77 / - >>> Carl Nicks / 92 / inj
G - Jamon Meredith / 75 / - >>> Davin Joseph / 81 / inj
DT - Roy Miller / 79 / JAC >>> Akeem Spence / 76 / rk
DE - Michael Bennett / 84 / SEA >>> Adrian Clayborn / 82 / inj
LB - Quincy Black / 78 / FA >>> Dekoda Watson / 77 / -
CB - E.J. Biggers / 78 / WAS >>> Darrelle Revis / 95 / NYJ
CB - Leonard Johnson / 77 / - >>> Johnthan Banks / 78 / rk
S - Ronde Barber / 81 / ret >>> Dashon Goldson / 83 / SF

The Buccaneers add a couple of superstars to their starting lineup with the return from injury of G Carl Nicks and the acquisition of CB Darrelle Revis. But those 2 alone are probably not quite enough to make the Bucs competitive in the playoff race. Tampa will likely be a mediocre team stuck in a tough division in 2013.

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

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