TAMPA, FL - MAY 4: Quarterback Jordan Jefferson #7 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs upfield during a rookie practice at the Buccaneers practice facility May 4, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
We've looked at how the Falcons will do next year overall. What we haven't thought about yet, except in passing, is how they might fare against the NFC South.
It's an interesting question, given the way the division has shifted dramatically in the course of the last few months. There's no way, for example, that the Panthers will be as bad as they were a year ago. Simple maturation, a quality draft and a little luck going the opposite way will ensure that.
Or take the Buccaneers. They haven't, in my eyes, turned into a playoff team overnight, but they'll be mighty tough after a good off-season. And the Saints probably won't aspire to the same heights without Sean Payton on hand and having lost a couple of integral pieces, but they're the Saints. They're not going away.
So this won't be easy, even for a quality team like the Falcons. Then again, I don't think any of us expected it to be.
Personally, I'm willing to bet the Falcons go 4-2 in the division. I expect them to lose a game to the Saints, because that's just sort of a tradition. I also expect them to split the season series with the Panthers. Even with their improvements, though, I expect the Falcons to own the Buccaneers in 2012. Call it a hunch.
How do you see this turning out?