NFL Nation: season prediction

Buccaneers season prediction: 9-7

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
10:15
AM ET

When it comes to predictions, I think a lot of people are selling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers short.

I’ve looked at their schedule and I’ve looked at their roster multiple times. These aren’t the Buccaneers of the Raheem Morris era or even the later stages of the Jon Gruden era. This team has talent. Eight players have been to the Pro Bowl. Besides that, there is a lot of other young talent. I see linebacker Lavonte David and safety Mark Barron as guys who could get to the Pro Bowl.

Every time I look at the schedule, I keep coming up with one record for the Bucs. I say they’ll go 9-7. I think quarterback Josh Freeman will play just well enough in a contract year that the Bucs will want to keep him around for the long term.

A 9-7 record would put the Bucs in a tie with the New Orleans Saints, according to my predictions. But I think only one of those two teams will get a wild-card berth. I’m saying the Saints will win the tiebreaker and go to the playoffs.

The Bucs just barely will miss out.

Predicted finish in NFC South: third

Falcons season prediction: 11-5

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
10:15
AM ET

I’ll go ahead and predict a sixth consecutive winning season for the Atlanta Falcons. But I don’t think their record will be quite as good as it was last season, when the Falcons went 13-3.

With the New Orleans Saints a year removed from the bounty scandal, I don't think the Falcons will run away with the division the way they did last year. The Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers will all be competitive, and Atlanta's schedule is not at all easy.

I say the Falcons go 11-5. I also say they’ll become the first team in history to win the NFC South in back-to-back seasons.

More importantly, I’ll say the Falcons (particularly coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan) are going to finally put an end to the talk about how they can’t win the big one.

The Falcons are loaded at the skill positions, their defense should be improved, and this is a hungry team. That’s why I’m saying the Falcons will make it to the Super Bowl, where they'll defeat Denver Broncos.

Predicted finish in NFC South: first

Saints season prediction: 9-7

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
10:15
AM ET

Sean Payton is back, and that means the New Orleans Saints will be back in the playoffs.

The coach was suspended last season and his absence, along with the myriad distractions of the bounty scandal, took a huge toll on the Saints. They finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs.

But I don’t think the mere fact that Payton is back will mean things will be easy for the Saints. Let’s not forget that they had one of the worst defenses in NFL history last year. I think new coordinator Rob Ryan will make some improvements, but I don’t know that the Saints have enough talent to become an upper-echelon defense just yet.

They’ll make up for some of that with quarterback Drew Brees and their high-powered offense and finish 9-7. That will be good enough to get them into the playoffs as a wild card, but unless there’s tremendous improvement from the defense, the Saints will have a short postseason.

Predicted finish in NFC South: second

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