It's time for a brief look at the NFC South so far this year, and how it jibes with my predictions for the year (note: predictions not made on this site). Let's begin with the first place team and work ourselves down, shall we?
New Orleans Saints: 6-3, 229 PF, 197 PA. I'd rather slam my foot in a hot waffle iron than admit it, but the Saints are the class of the division this year. Drew Brees has been monstrous at QB, Deuce Ex McAchina is running all over the place, and Marques Colston is one of the most impressive rookies I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Their defense has even been above average for much of the year, although it is showing signs of backsliding. There's no reason to think that the Saints won't win this division if their offense continues to play at its high level, though, especially if Reggie Bush decides to stop doing his best Ki-Jana Carter impression. It's theirs to lose.
Predictions: Original 7-9, Informed Guess 10-6
Atlanta Falcons: 5-4, 180 PF, 181 PA. We came into this year with high hopes, and it's too late to entirely write them off, of course. But this is a team wracked by the I's: injuries, ineptitude, and inexperience. The coaching staff is still assuming they can put Vick in the pocket, where it's been clearly established that he simply cannot put together consistent success. The running game is still quite effective, but Dunn isn't getting enough carries at this point. The receiving corps has been average outside of Alge Crumpler. The defense has been very good up front with limited resources, but the secondary is inconsistent too. If you look at the PF/PA comparison, this is a team that's right around where it deserves to be.
Predictions: Original 10-6, Informed Guess 9-7 w/ possible Wildcard
Carolina Panthers: 5-4, PF 161, PA 173. Like the Falcons, the Panthers have been plagued with inconsistency. This is a talented team. Delhomme has some problems but is a workable option, and Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson make a great receiving tandem. DeShaun Foster has been pretty awful, however, and the coaching staff refuses to use the bright young DeAngelo Williams. The defense has been unusually inept at times, especially in the first half against teams as bad as Tampa Bay (more on them in a minute). This team could very easily be 3-6 right now, so they owe a lot to luck. At the same time, this team has too much talent to bomb the rest of the season.
Predictions: Original 9-7, Informed Guess 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-7, 112 PF, 197 PA. This team has steadily declined the past couple of years, and now they're just plain bad. They might not even have two wins if not for the game play of Bruce Gradkowski, who might have better luck with better receivers and a better offensive line. Cadillac Williams looks more like a Pinto (bet you've never heard that joke before!) and Clayton and Co. just aren't getting that much done. The defense is a hollow shell of what it used to be, and as a result I don't see this season getting much better for the Bucs. I didn't have high hopes for them coming in, and I think they'll finish up right about where I figured they would.
Predictions: Original 5-11, Informed Guess 5-11