The NFC South is the most underrated division in the NFL. In just 10 years, NFC South teams have appeared in three Super Bowls and have qualified for three wild card berths in the last four years. Another sign of the overall top-to-bottom strength of the NFC South is that no team has ever won the division two years in row. However, I predict that will change in 2012. Take a closer look at my predictions for the NFC South in 2012.
1. New Orleans Saints: 12-4
The New Orleans Saints won the NFC South in 2011 and I predict they will do so again in 2012. Many NFL fans and experts are predicting the Saints will collapse in 2012 due to the bounty suspensions. However, free agent signings at linebacker and the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo will make the Saints' defense respectable in 2012. The instability at head coach may cost New Orleans a couple of games, but I predict Drew Brees and the offense won't miss a beat.
2. Carolina Panthers: 9-7
One of the hardest things to predict is whether or not a successful NFL rookie quarterback will have a sophomore slump. Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton broke numerous rookie records in 2011. But how will he perform in 2012? I believe that Newton is the best young quarterback in the NFC South and his rookie season was not a fluke. I predict the Panthers will overtake the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South and may even earn a playoff berth in 2012.
3. Atlanta Falcons: 8-8
As a Saints' fan, I primarily find myself watching this NFC South rival on two occasions: when they play New Orleans and when they are in the playoffs. Using that as my basis of judgment, I am literally never impressed by the Falcons. Until quarterback Matt Ryan proves he can play well and be a leader in big games, I predict the Falcons will continue to be good in the NFC South but not great. 2012 will be a pivotal season for the Falcons in the NFC South.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-11
Except for the Indianapolis Colts' performance in their 62-7 loss against the Saints, the worst effort I saw out of any NFL team last season came via the Buccaneers in an NFC South battle with the Falcons. The Buccaneers were atrocious late in the season and Tampa Bay did the right thing in firing Raheem Morris. I predict Greg Schiano will return Tampa Bay to relevance in the NFC South but that won't happen in 2012.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of the New Orleans Saints. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
"NFL and Pro Football League Encyclopedia," pro-foootball-reference.com
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