- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Last season: 10-6 (lost in NFC title game)

Coach: Sean Payton (10-6), second season

Story line: Can Drew Brees and Deuce McAllister carry the Saints to their first Super Bowl?

Power game: Brees and McAllister are franchise offensive players. Wideout Marques Colston was a seventh-round draft steal. Defensive end Charles Grant is a top pass rusher.

Achilles’ heel: The secondary lacks a shut-down cover corner. Their linebackers are susceptible to getting beat by tight ends down the field.

On the hot seat: Running back Reggie Bush. It’s unlikely he’ll be an every-down running back, so it’s up to him to become a better receiver.

Bottom line: Some think the Saints will be in for a reality check. But with Brees and McAllister, New Orleans will again score a ton of points and repeat as division champions.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Last season: 8-8

Coach: John Fox (49-38), sixth season

Story line: Fox took his team to a Super Bowl four seasons ago, but his job could be on the line if the Panthers disappoint a second straight year.

Power game: Defensive end Julius Peppers (13 sacks in 2006) is a dominant player. Wideout Steve Smith produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Achilles’ heel: QB Jake Delhomme is prone to careless throws. A lack of depth throughout the roster makes it vital the Panthers stay healthy.

On the hot seat: Delhomme. Despite his inconsistency last year, he still has the support of the coaching staff and front office. That won’t last forever, though.

Bottom line: Being in this division helps: Tampa Bay and Atlanta will struggle. But even if the Panthers make the playoffs, they won’t last long.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Last season: 5-11

Coach: Jon Gruden (77-67, 37-39 with Bucs), sixth season

Story line: Playing for his fifth team in as many seasons, QB Jeff Garcia attempts to return the Bucs to the playoffs.

Power game: Garcia is a play maker, plain and simple. Running back Cadillac Williams looks to bounce back from poor second season. Cornerback Ronde Barber is a solid player.

Achilles’ heel: Lack of depth at receiver after Joey Galloway. Defense is aging.

On the hot seat: Gruden. Tampa Bay hasn’t won a playoff game since Gruden’s first season ended in the Super Bowl.

Bottom line: Even with Garcia and the Cadillac, this isn’t a very good team.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Last season: 7-9

Coach: Bobby Petrino, first season

Story line: With Michael Vick, the Falcons projected to be awful. Without him, are they the league’s worst team?

Power game: Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood are a dependable 1-2 running back combo. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has shut-down ability.

Achilles’ heel: This is only part of the list: Joey Harrington, the receivers, uncertainty all over the place on defense.

On the hot seat: Owner Arthur Blank. Since Vick is done, Petrino gets a free pass for this year. It’s up to Blank to right the franchise.

Bottom line: Cue Roger Goodell: “With the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm.”

PREDICTED FINISH

1. New Orleans 2. Carolina 3. Tampa Bay 4. Atlanta

MVP candidate: QB Drew Brees, Saints

Best coach: John Fox, Panthers

Top newcomer: QB Jeff Garcia, Bucs

Most missed: QB Michael Vick, Falcons

Top rookie: Defensive end Gaines Adams, Bucs

Best stadium: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide