The NFC South is a difficult division to predict. Everybody’s pick – the Panthers, are good, but how good? The Bucs and Dirty Birds are impossible to understand. They could just as easily go 13-3 as they could go 3-13. Then there are the Saints. With King Bush, the Saints either got the next football Messiah, or a bigger bust than (your favorite blonde actress here). He can’t possibly be that good, can he? It would be so great, for the game, if he is. Then there’s Michael Vick. He is, season in and season out, the most overrated player in football. With all his potential and God-given talent, he should be the next Steve Young and Randall Cunningham rolled into one. Thus far, he is a scrambling Kordell Stewart. Come on Mike, you’re better than that. How will the teams finish? Here is what I think.
WINNER – Carolina Panthers. Even though I can only name two of their players (Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith) they are great. Smith may be the best WR in the league. He is the flipside to the Michael Vick overrated coin. Nobody knows about Steve Smith; maybe its because his name is more common than a Pittsburgh Pirates losing season. Still, they will easily handle the division. Jake, Steve, and all those other people on the team will finally get some (overdue) household recognition this year. Record 13-3
SECOND – Atlanta Falcons. This is it. This will be the year that Michael Vick goes from overrated to amazing. He will finally live up to the potential. He will no longer be just a one-sided quarterback. He will pass with the grace of Montana. He will be as accurate as Manning. He will lead like Elway. He will dominate like Marino. He won’t run as much because he won’t have to. He will be more comfortable with his role as QB. He will read defenses like a magazine. He will have 4 times as many passing touchdowns as rushing ones. People will shake their heads in disbelief as they watch him execute the 2-minute drill effortlessly. He will finally do all of this and more. Of course I said all of these same exact things at this time last season. Record 11-5 Wildcard
THIRD – Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is the one team in the league that best defines the word ‘bubble’. They are on the bubble. They could continue to expand and grow, or they could burst. They are sticky. They are an enigma in that I cannot tell what they will do next. They could go 15-1 and sweep through the playoffs like the 2006 Steelers. They could, just as easily, go 2-14 and take Brady Quinn with the first pick in next year’s draft. Neither would surprise me. Really, it wouldn’t. For that reason, here is my bold prediction. Record 8-8
LAST – New Orleans Saints. I really, really, really, really want to be wrong on this pick. Nothing would be better for football, or devastated New Orleans, than for the Saints to be the biggest surprise in football. Too bad they have such a long track record of not playing well. Year in and year out, they stink. Am I just going to think that all of this will instantly change with the addition of LeBron James…I mean Reggie Bush? I can’t. Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron may be the only athlete with more publicity and hype, to start their career, than Reggie Bush. So far LeBron is really good, but wouldn’t you pick Dwyane Wade first if you were starting a team? Bush (and LeBron) is an amazing talent, but talent needs help in football. And I just don’t think that the rest of the Saints will be helping too much. I’m not ready to call the Saints a playoff threat, maybe next year or so, but with Reggie, they will no longer be called the Aints. He needs to have a breakout year. He needs to rush for about 1500 yards and then maybe the team can sign some free agents next year to help him. Reggie Bush is a keystone, a building block, a solid foundation. Upon this rock a team can be built. Record 5-11