Now that each team has played their first preseason game it's pretty clear the lockout had a big impact on the offensive side of the ball. New coaches are at a complete disadvantage because the learning curve is taking longer than expected. The surprise move of the week was the San Francisco 49ers bringing in Daunte Culpepper for a workout. Apparently the Alex Smith experiment is not going as well as Jim Harbaugh had hoped. At any rate, here is how the NFC South will shake out.
Division winner: Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta has surpassed New Orleans as the dominant team in this division and if Philly and Green Bay can't stay healthy the Falcons will find themselves in the Super Bowl. Adding Julio Jones in the draft and keeping their core players intact will pay big dividends.
2nd place: New Orleans Saints. The 2011 New Orleans Saints barely resemble the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago. As with all Super Bowl champions free agency takes its toll on the roster and it's hard to retain talent. They still have Drew Brees however and that's a good start. The playoffs are a definite possibility.
3rd place: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs shocked the world last year with an impressive 10-6 record just barely missing the playoffs. Although they improved this offseason adding size and depth to their defensive line they will suffer the same fate as last year. It's unfortunate they play in such a tough division.
Last place: Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton appears to be the real deal and head coach Ron Rivera is committed to rebuilding this team brick by brick. The Panthers will have some growing pains, but they will give maximum effort every game. Their record will not reflect this however and they will end up with a top 5 pick again. The strength of this division will make them look worse than they really are.