New Orleans Saints: The defending Super Bowl champs will not make it back to the big game, but they have enough firepower to repeat as NFC South champions. Drew Brees leads an impressive passing attack while the running duo of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush rounds out a high-octane offence. New Orleans’ weakness is on the defensive side of the ball, where a unit that forces turnovers at a high rate will have to play more consistently in order for the Saints to make another deep playoff run.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons boast one of the NFL’s most powerful offences, led by ever-improving quarterback Matt Ryan. Atlanta’s rushing attack cannot be overlooked, as the combination of Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, and the explosive Jerious Norwood will cause problems for opponents all season long. Linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Erik Coleman lead a defence that thrives off its cohesiveness. If the Falcons can improve on stopping the pass, the team will challenge the Saints for the NFC South crown.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are coming off a disappointing third-place finish last season, and the team’s 2010 season will not be any different. The loss of defensive end Julius Peppers will sting, while quarterback Jake Delhomme’s departure signals a new era in Carolina. It will be interesting to see how quarterback Matt Moore performs with rookie Jimmy Clausen breathing down his throat. But the Panthers are a long way from returning to the post-season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers have not made the playoffs since 2007 and that trend will continue into 2010. Offensively, Tampa Bay is led by an average quarterback (Josh Freeman) and the mediocre running combination of Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward. While the offence seems shaky, the defence is abysmal at best. Gerald McCoy was a solid pick in the draft, and expect the Bucs to receive a further top-five selection this season after another embarrassing campaign.