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NFC South Preview

NFC South
At the beginning of the 2003 season, this division had 2 playoff teams, the Defending Superbowl Champs, and Michael Vick’s up-and-coming Falcons.  The Saints were a perennial playoff failure, and the Panthers were bringing up the rear.  One year later, the league is upside down with Carolina going to the Superbowl and Tampa Bay and Atlanta were at the bottom of the list.  Oh, some things never change, New Orleans wilted down the stretch and just missed the playoffs.  If you can predict how they will finish this year, get yourself on a plane to Vegas and visit the sports betting window.

Carolina Panthers (2003 Record: 11-5, Lost in the Superbowl to the Pats)
A couple of interesting gambles paid off big for the NFC Champions.  They entered the season with Rodney Peete and Jake Delhomme at QB.  They also signed free agent Stephen Davis hoping he had some gas in the tank.  They also built their receiving corps around a smallish WR named Steve Smith (5’9″ 185 lbs.) while other teams were going with taller receivers.  The result of these gambles was a trip to Houston.

LB Jessie Armstead (Redskins)
OL Adam Meadows (Colts)
CB Artrell Hawkins (Bengals)
DT Rod Walker (Packers) 
LB Brandon Short (Giants)
OG Travis Claridge (Falcons)
DB Terrance Shaw (Raiders)

OG Jeno James (Dolphins)
CB Reggie Howard (Dolphins)
S Deon Grant (Jaguars)
OT Todd Steussie (Bucs)
TE Jermaine Wiggins (Vikings)
WR Kevin Dyson (Chargers)
 LB Greg Favors (Jaguars)
CB Terry Cousin (Giants)
OL Kevin Donnalley (retired)

1.28 CB Chris Gamble (Ohio State)
2.30 WR Keary Colbert (USC)
3.31 OT Travelle Wharton (South Carolina)
5.31 WR Drew Carter (Ohio State)
6.31 LB Sean Tufts (Colorado)
7.31 TE Michael Gains (Central Florida)

Fantasy Outlook:
John Fox is a straight shooter and is pretty trustworthy when he talks to the press.  If he says that Deshaun Foster is going to get some carries, then he is going to get some carries.  This is bad news for Stephen Davis for this year, but might help extend his career a few years.  Steve Smith should be better this year if the NFL is serious about limiting the CB’s ability to hold the smaller WRs.  The have some work to do to rebuild the offensive line this offseason after losing Steussie and Donnalley.  The seems to be stable at the fantasy positiions with long term contracts at the K, QB, WR,and RB positions.

New Orleans Saints (2003 Record: 8-8, Playoffs?  Ha!)
When was the last time the Saints made the playoffs?  For a team that seems to always start fast, they seems to crash as soon as someone labels them a “playoff contender”.  They have been on the cusp of making the playoffs each of the last 3 years, but always failed.

RB Aaron Stecker (Bucs)
DT Brian Young (Rams)
FB Sam Gash (Bills)
OL Jamar Nesbit (Jaguars)
CB Jason Craft (Jaguars)

TE Walter Rasby (Redskins)
FB Terrelle Smith (Browns)
CB Dale Carter (Ravens)
RB James Fenderson (Falcons)


1.18 DE Wil Smith  (Ohio State)
2.18 WR Devery Henderson (LSU)
2.28 LB Courtney Watson (Notre Dame)
5.07 DT Rodney Leisle (UCLA)
5.24 FB Mike Karney (Arizona St)
7.39 LB Colby Bockwoldt (BYU)

Fantasy Outlook:

This team looks good on paper.  They look good the first 8 weeks of the year.  But something always happens to them after the midway point of the season.  The stats you have come to expect just disappear.  This is a nightmare for fantasy owners everywhere.  How many people do you know who have had Brooks as they QB, made the playoffs easily, and then get trounced in the first round?  I know several of these horror stories.    One exception to that rule is Deuce. He might even be better with the aquisition of Sam Gash, if that is possible.  As for the rest of the skill positions, they are good to have as backups, but be wary of relying on them for the entire season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2003 Record: 7-9, No playoffs for you, 1 year!)
Not much of a Superbowl title defense, eh? Some spectacular failures of TB’s Defense on national TV.  This gives Chuckie free reign to mold the team into his type of team.  He has been waiting for this chance for a few years, so he tore up the overrated defense and brought in some more offensive line stars.

FB Greg Comella (Texans)
TE Dave Moore (Bills)
OL Derrick Deese (49ers)
OL Matt Stinchcomb (Raiders)
RB Charlie Garner (Raiders)
LB Keith Burns (Broncos)
OL Matt O’Dwyer (Bengals)
LB Jeff Gooch (Lions)
P Josh Bidwell (Packers)
OL Todd Steussie (Panthers)
QB Jason Garrett (Giants)
CB Tom Knight (Ravens)
QB Brian Griese (Dolphins)
RB Jamel White (Browns)
RB Brandon Bennett (Bengals)
DT Darrell Russell (Redskins)
CB Mario Edwards (Cowboys)
LB Ian Gold (Broncos)
DE Lamar King (Seahawks)
WR Bill Schroeder (Lions)
WR Joey Galloway (Cowboys)

TE Todd Yoder (Jaguars)
LB Nate Webster (Bengals)
RB Aaron Stecker (Saints)
QB Shaun King (Cardinals)
P Tom Tupa (Redskins)
DT Warren Sapp (Raiders)
WR Karl Williams (Cardinals)
LB Dwayne Rudd (Raiders)
S John Lynch (Broncos)
RB Thomas Jones (Bears)
OT Chris Ziemann (released)
DT Darrell Russell (released)
S David Gibson (Browns)
CB Tim Wansley (released)
TE Roland Williams (Raiders)
FB Cecil Martin (released)
LB Jack Golden (Bears)
OT Cornell Green (Broncos)
WR Keyshawn Johnson
OT Roman Oben

1.15 WR Michael Clayton (LSU)
3.16 LB Marquis Cooper (Washington)
4.15 S  Will Allen (Ohio State)
5.14 OG Jeb Terry (North Carolina)
6.16 TE Nate Lawrie (Yale)
7.05 WR Mark Jones (Tennessee)
7.27 TE Casey Cramer (Dartmouth)
7.51 CB Lenny Williams (Southern)

Fantasy Outlook:

The word on the street is that Michael Clayton looks awesome in preseason and has caught the coach’s eye.  Don’t believe that he is the next Randy Moss, since the chances of that are 1 in 100.  The chances of him having an above average fantasy year are probably 1 in 10.  Don’t get caught up in the hype, rookie WR always look good in preseason but typically take 3 years to learn the ropes of the NFL.  Garner would seems to be the favorite to start the season since he is familiar with Gruden’s system.  Expect the same of him when Gruden was in Oak, a lot of catches, rushing yards, and receiving yards and maybe 2-4 TDs, tops.  Brad “Old Man” Johnson is the starter, but if he gets hurt or the teams falls our of the playoff race, look for Sims to get a shot as a starter.

Atlanta Falcons (2003 Record: 5-11)
What can you say about their 2003 record other than: Where’s Vick?  The season began with the promise of a guarenteed playoff berth, then the Vick injury, the the weekly questions about whether or not Vick is ready.   This just goes to show that in the NFL, no 1 player can carry a team but 1 strong backup can save a team from disaster.   They simply did not have that backup.  I could be wrong, but it appears that they have the same problem this year.  If Vick falters again, they have no shot at the playoffs.

CB Aaron Beasley (Jets)
LB Jamie Duncan (Rams)
TE Spencer Nead (Rams)
CB Jason Webster (49ers)
DT Rod Coleman (Raiders)
OG Steve Herndon (Broncos)
LB Eric Johnson (Raiders)
OL Eric Beverly (Lions)
RB James Fenderson (Saints)
WR Dez White (Bears)
TE Hunter Goodwin (Vikings)
QB Ty Detmer (Lions)
Fb Stanley Pritchett (BEARS)

CB Ray Buchanan (Raiders)
LB Sam Rogers (released)
DT Devone Claybrooks (released)
LB James Cotton (released)
CB Juran Bolden (Jaguars)
TE Brian Kozlowski (Redskins)
OG Travis Claridge (Panthers)
QB Kurt Kittner (Bengals)
LB Keith Newman (Vikings)
CB Tyrone Williams (released)
WR LaTarence Dunbar (released)
TE Sean Brewer (released)

1.08 CB DeAngelo Hall (Virginia Tech)

1.29 WR Michael Jenkins (Ohio State)
3.27 QB Matt Schaub (Virginia)
4.05 LB Demorrio Williams (Nebraska)
5.10 DT Chad Lavalais (LSU)
6.21 S Etric Pruitt (Southern Miss)
7.18 RB Quincy Wilson (West Virginia)

Fantasy Outlook:
Let’s get this straight right now, Ty Detmer is not the answer to the Backup QB dilemna.  It is, once again, Vick’s team to win or lose with.  Vick reminds me too much of Randall Cunningham and that scares me.  He has infinite potential but takes too many chances and hits for a 215 lbs guy.  I hope he settles down and takes a few less chances.    This team is loaded with talent and speed.  When the offense is playing well, there are great fantasy players in Vick, Feeley,.Dunn, Price, and Crumpler.  Jenkins is a good looking rookie, but there is no room for him in the starting lineup right now.  He might be a very good long term prospect if he and Vick get in sync.


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