As we have touched on in the past, the New Orleans Saints are right on par with the Atlanta Falcons as far as the chase for the NFC South Championship goes in 2013. That being said, the Saints are far superior to both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers in 2013.
Of course, we can’t just make these claims without backing them up. Saints fans know exactly why we feel the way we do in regards to the potential of the New Orleans roster next year. Drew Brees is still the quarterback, so the offense will be fine. A re-tooled defense under the guidance of one of the NFL’s best defensive minds in Rob Ryan means the unit can’t be any worse than last year’s, which was the worst statistical unit in NFL history.
With those brief thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the Buccaneers and Panthers.
It’s hard to bash the Panthers too much going into next season considering the horrific financial hand the franchise was dealt. The Panthers front office did knock the 2013 NFL draft out of the park by addressing its biggest need, which was at defensive tackle.
Speaking of the defense, the unit may be much better next season than most realize. Rookie Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short will free up star linebackers such as Luke Kuechly to make play. It will also give stellar defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy even more room to get to the quarterback. Unfortunately, that’s the end of the positives as the secondary remains a mess.
Offensively the Panthers are hard to gauge. Cam Newton hit a serious slump last year. How he responds will decide the team’s fate.
All in all, Carolina is still a few years out from being competitive. The pieces are certainly in place, but New Orleans has an advantage on them at this moment.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If there’s one team that could surprise the Saints this year, it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, it may be questionable at this point to even say the Saints are “miles” ahead of the Bucs, but it all comes down to one thing—quarterback play.
Look at it this way. If the Bucs were confident with incumbent starter Josh Freeman the team probably wouldn’t have selected Mike Glennon in the third round. He’s competition whether folks want to admit it or not. The Bucs can be an offensive juggernaut thanks to running back Doug Martin and receiver Vincent Jackson, but not without a quarterback.
Defense is where the Bucs will win games. As you’ve probably heard, the team has a new cornerback in Darrelle Reivs. His healthy and play will determine just how good the unit can be with rookie Johnthan Banks needing groomed. The secondary is boosted by one of the best safety tandems in the NFL in Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson.
Tampa Bay could surprise, but there are still too many question marks to say they are close to the Saints level at this point in time. Only the 2013 season will prove otherwise.