The NFC South by far is one of the most talented divisions in the National Football League. Coming into the 2014 regular season, everyone thought that the New Orleans Saints would run away with the division title along with a possible second trip to the postseason since the “Bounty Gate Scandal” that occurred during the 2012 season.
However, the Saints dreams of a second Super Bowl Title did not come to pass as they suffered a 7-9 season and missing the postseason for the fourth time in the Sean Payton era. The Saints were not the only team in the division that had high expectations in 2014. In this post, we will break down every team in this division and explain their downfall.
Carolina Panthers: The Carolina Panthers did win the NFC South Title. At what cost though? They became the second team in NFL History to win a division title with a losing record. The other team was the Seattle Seahawks. Out of all the teams in the NFC South, the Panthers were expected by many to finish dead last in the NFC South because they lost so many weapons on offense that contributed to the success of quarterback Cam Newton during the 2013 season.
For the most of the season the Panthers vaunted defense was almost nonexistent in 2014. That fact came to the past when the Panthers suffered a 38-17 beat down by the Green Bay Packers. The game was pretty much over in the first half. They did not score until the second half of this contest. However, the Panthers would rally in the final games of the season to win the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record.
Atlanta Falcons: It has been said that Falcons have always had the better team on paper than the New Orleans Saints. For some odd reason, they continue to fall short against the Saints and every other contender in the NFC. The Falcons could never seem to find any rhythm during the 2014 season. They would have stellar performances against Super Bowl contenders but the following week they would falter against teams of the lesser competition. One of the main contributors to the Falcons down in 2014 was their aging defense that give up 398.2 yards per game which ranked dead last in the National Football League.
The offense also suffered setbacks as well when star wide receiver Julio Jones suffered a late-season hip injury. Despite the injury Jones still managed to have a stellar season by having over 1500 yards receiving and 104 receptions. However, that is still not an excuse for the “Dirty Birds” downfall. The Falcons had the NFC South Title within their reach when they defeated their arch rival the New Orleans Saints 30-14 in a heated Week 16 showdown. The following week the Falcons would choke in front of their home crowd against the eventual NFC South Champion the Carolina Panthers 34-3.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected to contend for at least a wildcard spot in the NFC. We all thought that the pieces were finally in place however they weren’t. The Bucs struggled to find their identity in 2014 as they went 1-8 in the first ten games. The pieces are there, but they failed to put them together.
At the end of the season, the Bucs decided to cut ties with quarterback Josh McCown, who everyone thought was the final piece of the puzzle for the Buccaneers to be successful in 2014. Due to their awful season the Buccaneers now have the number one pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. They most likely will draft quarterback Jameis Winston out of Florida State University. Will Bucs fans have the patience in the development of Winston in 2015? We will find out sooner than later.
New Orleans Saints: Last but not least we have yours truly the New Orleans Saints. The team that everyone had represented the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl located in Glendale Arizona. The Saints lost their swagger in the hostile Mercedes-Benz Superdome when they lost three consecutive games against some of the league’s best teams.
We all know about the Saints struggles on the road but not at the dome they never lose at home especially on prime time television. The same Saints defense that was ranked 5th in the league a season ago dropped to a dismal 31st in the league. However like the Falcons it was still no excuse for why the Saints did not win this division. They had the Falcons on their home turf but fail to deliver as the Falcons dominated the Saints in front of their home crowd.
Conclusion: Do you know what all of these teams have in common. They all lost nail-biters during the 2014 season. They have the pieces to compete with the big boys of other divisions, but they just could not put it together 2014. This division should have had at least three teams in the postseason just like the AFC North had. Aside from the Bucs this division has three high caliber quarterbacks in Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton. These three along with the possibility of Jameis Winston starting for the Bucs will head into 2015 with high expectations. I expect the fan base of these franchises to feel the same.
Photo Credits By: Seahawks.Com