The truth is the NFC South is ugly, Panther Fans. But there is a pecking order. Power rankings and the NFC South is an oxymoron. None of these four teams are worthy of a playoff spot. However, I decided to break down who I think is the least unworthy to represent the NFC South in the playoffs. And I went ahead and stack-ranked the rest of the division.
1- New Orleans Saints- This team has some components that make them a team that can win on “any-given Sunday.” According to ProFootballFocus.com, they are the only team in the division with a positive overall grade on either side of the ball (11.6 on Offense). Their Defense has been their Achilles Heel though as PFF also ranks them as the worst Defense in the division with a -74 rating. Two other areas they’ve struggled in is pass protection and they have really struggled with the loss of Darren Sproles. I think they sorely underestimated his importance. Without him, I have seen Brees look less comfortable and more apt to force things which has caused costly turnovers. But in the end, they have the best team in the South. Now, hopefully the Panthers can punch them in the mouth on Sunday and turn the division on its ear one more time. But I’m not counting on it.
2- Atlanta Falcons- This team should be better than they are. They have struggled with injuries, but you watch them and they just aren’t making the plays that you know they can make. They have a -50 score on Offense and -51 on Defense (according to PFF). Overall they have the highest rated pass blocking unit in the division at a rating of -15.1. However, they have the lowest rated LT in the League; but yet, they are the second best team in the division. Just like the Saints miss Sproles, I believe this team really misses Gonzales. Their game in Green Bay should be interesting.
3- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- You may ask, “are the Bucs really the 3rd best team in the NFC South?” Let’s face it Panther fans, yes they are. They are playing better ball than the Panthers right now. Only two wins, but their losing streak only stands at two and they took the Bengals to their limit. PFF has them rated the lowest in the division for Offense and Defense. But the Panthers eek past them for the honors of last place based on Special Teams play. The Bucs play the Lions this week and I anticipate another loss in Tampa. But if Doug Martin continues to show up, this team gets a lot better quick. Much like Jonathan Stewart for Carolina.
4- Carolina Panthers- Though we are technically ranked third and are not mathematically out of the race, I see clearly that we are the weakest team in the division as of now. The Panthers are riding a six game losing streak. We had our chance to make a statement last week in Minnesota and we blew it. Coming off a bye week, we had time to heal up and to make a run at the playoffs. However, we proved that from top to bottom, we are not good enough this year to make that happen. PFF ranks us at -82 on Offense and a -34 on Defense. That about sums it up. Add in two blocked punts for TDs, a missed game winning field goal against Atlanta and you earn last place in my NFC South Power Ranking. Here’s to punching NO in the mouth on Sunday and changing things, but until then, we are worthy of last place.
Let me know if you think I got this right or wrong. Leave a comment and I’ll reply.