Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
ESPNEWS just finished its hour-long session on the NFC South in The Blitz Preseason Countdown Special.
A lot of ground was covered, but I think the most interesting thing might have been the predictions by Todd McShay and Qadry Ismail. They had different projections than the writers at ESPN.com, who predicted Atlanta to win the division, followed by Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
McShay and Ismail each went off that track and picked the Saints to easily win the NFC South. Ismail projected the Saints with a 12-4 record and McShay said New Orleans will win 11 or 12 games.
Fans seemed to agree. According to votes texted into the ESPN Mobile Division Tracker, the Saints were getting more than 50 percent of the vote to win the NFC South. The Falcons were second, the Panthers third and the Bucs were getting virtually no votes.
Speaking of this sudden love for the Saints, it might be even stronger outside United States borders. Canadian blogger Brad Gagnon has the Saints picked to win the division -- and go on to the Super Bowl.
Back to the predictions by McShay and Ismail. They’re split on who will finish second. Ismail said the Panthers will go 11-5 and finish second, but McShay said the Falcons will win 10 games and claim a wild-card berth. McShay said the Panthers will win nine games, finish third in the division and not go to the playoffs. Ismail said the Falcons will go 9-7.
Ismail and McShay agreed with just about everyone else in projecting the Bucs to finish fourth. But their outlook for the Bucs is brighter than that of a lot of people who are saying the Bucs may only win three or four games. Ismail gave them seven wins and McShay went with six victories.