Go Back   New Orleans Saints - blackandgold.com > Main > Saints
Shop Horizontal

NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://espn.go.com/nfl/columns/pasqu...n/1575863.html By Len Pasquarelli ESPN.com When they reapportioned the NFL in 2002, parsing the league into eight pie pieces as the key element in realignment, observers perused the quartet of franchises in the NFC South and summarily declared the division ...

Closed Thread
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 07-04-2003, 03:07 PM   #1
The Dark Overlord
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: dirty south
Posts: 3,449
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

http://espn.go.com/nfl/columns/pasqu...n/1575863.html



By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com


When they reapportioned the NFL in 2002, parsing the league into eight pie pieces as the key element in realignment, observers perused the quartet of franchises in the NFC South and summarily declared the division the Tampa Bay Bucs' uncontested fiefdom.

It was, the pundits insisted, a division featuring one powerhouse and three paupers, one in which the Bucs would forever be supreme. To the eyes of most beholders, the NFC South was the equivalent of an antebellum mansion relocated into a trailer park. It was alleged to be, at least on paper, one team's treasure trove nestled in the middle of three landfills.

OK, so credit the experts for getting it half-right, with the Bucs winning the NFC South by three games, the second widest margin in any division, and then proceeding to secure the franchise's first Super Bowl championship under the wily stewardship of Jon Gruden. But what was supposed to have been a stroll along the beach for the Bucs, expected to run roughshod over their NFC South brethren, was more a swim through a shark tank.

"If anything, the competition in our division really (steeled) us for everything else, to tell the truth," said Tampa Bay defensive end Greg Spires in the wake of the post-Super Bowl celebration. "Everybody thought we were just going to walk over the other (NFC South) teams. But those are good teams, man, and nothing came easy."

Indeed, a division that was purported to be one of the NFL's weakest links turned in a pretty impressive chain of accomplishments, in retrospect.

No division had more aggregate regular-season wins than the 37 victories for which the Bucs, Falcons, Saints and Panthers combined. The division was one of only two in the league that included two teams that each scored over 400 points. The NFC South was the lone division with three teams that surrendered fewer than 20 points per game. And every one of the four teams improved its record over the 2001 campaign.

The NFC South fashioned an estimable 25-14-1 record, a gaudy .638 winning percentage, in games outside the division. And in non-conference matchups, the division fared well, posting a 10-5-1 mark. Further testimony to the mutually destructive competitiveness: The Bucs beat the Falcons twice, but the Falcons beat the Saints twice, and New Orleans bested Tampa Bay in both of their encounters. Carolina's only victory in the division came in the season finale, a win at New Orleans that knocked the Saints out of the playoffs.

Now the scary part: The NFC South, perceived as a "have-not" just a year ago, might be the league's best division in 2003. Certainly there is little reason to believe the advances made in 2002 won't be built upon. And it will not be surprising if the NFC South churns out three playoff teams this year.

While the Bucs have lost a few starters, one of the residuals of winning a championship it seems, the nucleus of the Tampa Bay lineup remains intact and Gruden in his second year possesses an even better feel for his roster now. The Falcons have generated a new level of excitement in their home precinct and nationally as well. New Orleans has taken steps to avoid the treacherous late-season collapses of the past two seasons. And Carolina, still likely one more year away from playoff contention, has a defense that keeps almost every game close and makes the Panthers a nettlesome opponent.

"There aren't any 'gimmes' in the division, I don't think, and that isn't how the outsiders were looking at the NFC South a year ago," said Panthers second-year head coach John Fox. "I think it's a tremendous division. From a geographical standpoint, you have great potential for rivalries, and there's competitiveness on the field. It's a division, where it seems teams are developing some (enmity) for each other, and that makes it interesting. Even with us having the Super Bowl champion in the division, I don't think it's all that lopsided, really. The gap isn't one that can't be overcome."

In fact, from a talent standpoint, the Falcons and Saints may actually have a few more athletic playmakers than do the Bucs and, of course, Atlanta has the league's emerging icon in quarterback Michael Vick. The third-year veteran, whose publicly-stated goal is to find a way to overcome the Tampa Bay defense in 2003, is the man for whom every other franchise in the division must plan.

And in that regard, the copycat component for which the NFL is so notorious has been evident, as everyone else attempts to fashion a Bucs-type defensive unit. The rationale is that NFC South teams are going to have to face Vick twice annually for the next dozen or so seasons, so they better have an antidote, and the Bucs have presented a formula.

The offseason emphasis in New Orleans, for instance, was all about improving overall defensive speed. The Saints could have as many as eight or nine new defensive starters, and coordinator Rick Venturi acknowledged early on that the makeover in large part was a reaction to the presence of Vick in the division.

"We wanted to add speed without sacrificing strength, and we've done that, and should be that much better for it," Venturi said. "Look, your first priority always has to be being competitive in the division. That's the first step, right, and everything else flows from it. To be competitive in this division, I think, you've got to have quickness and speed."

Scrutinize the defensive units of all four NFC South teams and speed might well be the most obvious common denominator. The Panthers use it to get to the quarterback, with 33 of their sacks coming from a very quick defensive line in 2002, and they should be faster in the "back end" this year as well. While the Falcons play a 3-4 front, coordinator Wade Phillips lacks size upfront, and compensates with quickness and disguise. Tampa Bay bases its entire defensive design on running around people rather than through them. The Saints, especially at the two safety spots, will be markedly quicker in '03.

On the offensive side, the Bucs and Panthers rely more on the running game, but Atlanta and New Orleans figure to be explosive. The additions of wide receiver Peerless Price and MarTay Jenkins in Atlanta, the Falcons insist, provide Vick the kind of playmakers that were lacking in his first year as a starter. So much so that the Falcons now harbor very real Super Bowl aspirations, an expectation already shared by some media members, who see Atlanta as a chic pick.

Before any of the NFC South teams start conjuring up Super Bowl visions, however, they would be wise to first eyeball the test that confronts them during the regular season. And to mentally dispel the notion that the division is a birthright willed to Tampa Bay as part of the 2002 entitlement.

This was, for sure, a division exponentially more competitive in 2002 than anyone dared believe it would be. In 2003, it will be tougher, NFC South coaches and players agree.

"You have to respect the Bucs, because they've got the rings, and they deserve it," said New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks. "But I don't see anyone (in the division) who is going to back down from them. Or, for that matter, back down from anybody."


pakowitz is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 10:57 AM   #2
100th Post
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Posts: 170
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

Now that the bar has been set. I\'d personally like to see 50 years of competitive football, to erase the riducle that each franchise has had to deal with. The stage for success is only big enough for one team at a time. I truly hope everyone in the South gets the chance to experience the thrills of a championship......

Just not right now.
BucNup is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 11:08 AM   #3
500th Post
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: South Alabama
Posts: 779
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

How many divisions can honestly say its a 4-way toss-up for the title with 1st and 4th probably separated by 2 games?
Maybe the AFC East, but head to head I\'d take the NFC South.
tweeky is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 11:15 AM   #4
100th Post
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Posts: 170
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

Indeed.

It all makes me nervous. Because if you look at maybe 5 years or less even, down the road. Vick should be in full force. And as history indicates a good QB can go a long way. I\'m just happy to have had the chance and I say that in all honesty.

I JOSH around with BC mostly, but it\'s tough not holding on to our success.

I think the NFC EAST will be interesting; the Eagles time may have passed. The Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Skins????? Those names go deep into the NFL history. All of those teams value winning.

But I agree; right now the SOUTH is sitting in the Cat Bird seat..... I remember people laughing when the announced the re-alignment. But who\'s laughing now?

The NFC North looks to be the laughing stocks to me. What do you think?

Week 9: Saints vs. Bucs
http://www.bucnup.com/SBXXXVII.bmp

BucNup is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 11:49 AM   #5
Registered
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 55
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

Indeed.

...The NFC North looks to be the laughing stocks to me. What do you think?
I agree with that. The Packers have got another freebie division title this year. They also got one of the easiest schedules overall also.

The South is one tough division, not only outside the division but within.
The Bucs swept the Falcons & Panthers
The Falcons swept the Saints & Panthers
The Saints swept the Bucs

Batwood is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 12:55 PM   #6
Kinder, gentler
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: dirty south
Posts: 3,889
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

The NFC north is a joke. AFC East will be tougher than some think, they too have 4 teams that will vie for the championship. But the NFC South is the top dog.

The Packers have got another freebie division title this year.
The Pack is on the way down, while Minnesota is on the way up. I don\'t think the Pack will be able to fend them off this year.
BlackandBlue is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 01:04 PM   #7
500th Post
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: South Alabama
Posts: 779
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

NFC North:
Packers-One word \"Favre\" , should clinch by week 14
Vikings-Sleeper team on the ascend, will flirt with wildcard
Bears/Lions - Fodder

NFC East:
Philly-Still talented enough to repeat
Giants-Will challenge, but schedule way too tough for 11-5, may be a wildcard
Skins-Sleeper, but need another year
Boys- Need two years but will be scrappy

NFC South:
Bucs- On top of NFL looking down at everybody else, but nervously
Saints- If we had the bucs D, we\'d be on a 3-peat mission
Falcons- Won\'t sneak up on anybody, bucs showed everybody the blueprint (man that hurt to say that). They may regress some considering the speedy defenses they face this year.
Panthers- Tougher team, tougher schedule, will flirt with postseason.

NFC West:
49\'ers-Team in limbo, could go 11-5 or 5-11, but still have talent. Erickson???
Seahawks- Easy schedule, good running game, good WR\'s, great QB when he brings his A-game. May actually win this division if defense improves.
Rams- Old news, about to implode
Zona- \"With the 1st pick in the 2003 draft, Arizona selects Eli Manning\"!

Whether we agree or disagree; its all for Him.
tweeky is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 01:07 PM   #8
Kinder, gentler
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: dirty south
Posts: 3,889
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

we played this game before, didn\'t we?
BlackandBlue is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 01:40 PM   #9
100th Post
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Posts: 170
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL

NFC North:
Packers-One word \"Favre\" , should clinch by week 14
Vikings-Sleeper team on the ascend, will flirt with wildcard
Bears/Lions - Fodder

NFC East:
Philly-Still talented enough to repeat
Giants-Will challenge, but schedule way too tough for 11-5, may be a wildcard
Skins-Sleeper, but need another year
Boys- Need two years but will be scrappy

NFC South:
Bucs- On top of NFL looking down at everybody else, but nervously
Saints- If we had the bucs D, we\'d be on a 3-peat mission
Falcons- Won\'t sneak up on anybody, bucs showed everybody the blueprint (man that hurt to say that). They may regress some considering the speedy defenses they face this year.
Panthers- Tougher team, tougher schedule, will flirt with postseason.

NFC West:
49\'ers-Team in limbo, could go 11-5 or 5-11, but still have talent. Erickson???
Seahawks- Easy schedule, good running game, good WR\'s, great QB when he brings his A-game. May actually win this division if defense improves.
Rams- Old news, about to implode
Zona- \"With the 1st pick in the 2003 draft, Arizona selects Eli Manning\"!
NFC NORTH - I think the Vikings take it; depending on which Bears show up this year. Kordell could give that entire division a shake up, as for as mobility goes.

NFC EAST - I see the Giants and Skins battling for the division. Spurrier has an offensive mind and is it me, but do the Skins have an awful lot of stars on their defense? Cowboys will pull a few upsets as the Eagles will promptly lands after a long off-season fall. Eagles finish in 2nd as one of the teams I anticipate battling it out for the division makes a total collapse.

NFC WEST - Rams are back. (man that hurt to say that.) Rams and 9\'ers will go at it full tilt this year. Seattle fans tire of the failed promises of Holmgren and replace him the next season. Honorable mention: Smith rushes for 726 yards.

NFC SOUTH - Bucs continue to have their critics yet still find ways to win games. Falcons place to much on the shoulders of Vick, he\'s coming but not there yet; Falcons slip to 3rd this year. Saints riding Bucs tight; 12/7/03 game will determine the winner of the South. Panthers still in search of a QB, Davis rushes for 1,000 yards


Week 9: Saints vs. Bucs
http://www.bucnup.com/SBXXXVII.bmp

BucNup is offline  
Old 07-08-2003, 03:50 PM   #10
Banned
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,209
NFC south figures to be toughest division in the NFL


NFC SOUTH - Bucs continue to have their critics yet still find ways to win games. Falcons place to much on the shoulders of Vick, he\'s coming but not there yet; Falcons slip to 3rd this year. Saints riding Bucs tight; 12/7/03 game will determine the winner of the South. Panthers still in search of a QB, Davis rushes for 1,000 yards
That\'s a fair statement. I\'m mean the guy will keep it real.......when he wants to.
BillyCarpenter1 is offline  
Closed Thread

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:48 PM.


Copyright 1997 - 2013 - BlackandGold.com
no new posts