NFC South: 'emereging star'' Robert Meachem

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As we wait on more word on the injuries to Carolina's Jon Beason and New Orleans' Jammal Brown and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to name a starting quarterback, I'm going to be spending most of today working on stuff for our massive season-preview package, which will be coming soon.

Part of that package includes all of our writers making predictions for all the teams. Predictions are fun, but they don't really mean a lot. Take last year when I (and a lot of other people) picked Atlanta to finish fourth in the NFC South. The Falcons wound up winning 11 games and making the playoffs.

Predictions also can be dangerous, even when you're right. Last year, when just about every expert was picking Dallas to win the NFC East and a lot of folks were picking them to win the Super Bowl, I went against the grain and picked Dallas to finish third in the NFC East. I threw out a couple sentences about how all the distractions would catch up to the Cowboys.

Within hours of the predictions appearing on our site, I had hundreds of items from Cowboys fans in the mailbag, including a couple of death wishes. Seriously. Guess what? The Cowboys got all caught up in the distractions, finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs. How many notes in the mailbag did I get from the Dallas fans at the end of the season? Zero.

Like I said, predictions are just for fun and don't mean anything. That's why I'm going to overrate the Cowboys this year and have them winning the NFC East, just to inflate expectations, which don't seem nearly as high this year.

That's as much as I'm going to reveal about my predictions. But I will tell you this about what I'm going to do with the NFC South. I've been going this way throughout the preseason:

  1. Carolina
  2. New Orleans
  3. Atlanta and
  4. Tampa Bay

I'm not sticking with that order in my official predictions because injuries and what I saw in training camps have made me change my thinking a bit.

Also later this week, we'll have a feature on an "emerging star" in the NFC South. I've already mentioned it in a chat, so I'll tip my hand again. It's going to be New Orleans receiver Robert Meachem, who I believe is ready for big things.

I'm also working on a feature on Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes, a player I think is capable of surprising a lot of people.

I'll be covering the Thursday night game between the Buccaneers and Dolphins in Tampa and we'll see what happens with the Tampa Bay quarterback situation.

Finally, the NFC South chat will be held Friday at 1 p.m. I'll put up a reminder and a link in a couple of days.

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