1) New Orleans Saints- (12-4) – The Saints have one of the best offenses in the league and are returning super bowl champs, but it is going to be hard for them to repeat. It is not that the Saints have lost a lot of talent or because other teams in the NFL have caught up with them, but rather because the Saints forced an insane amount of turnovers last year (26 interceptions alone) and it is going to be hard to do that again. The Saints are once again going to be right there with Green Bay and the Colts for the top offenses in the NFL and their defense should improve in terms of yardage in their second year under Gregg Williams. The guy to keep an eye on with the Saints is 3rd round pick Jimmy Graham who has the hands and the jumping ability to be one of the top tight ends in the NFL.
2) Atlanta Falcons- (10-6) – The Falcons pretty much return the same team that they did last year the only difference will be that Michael Turner and Harry Douglas are healthy and that most believe that Matt Ryan should be over his sophomore slump. If both of those are the case than turn out to be true than the Falsons should return to the playoffs in 2010. However it is doubtful that the Falcons will seriously challenge the Saints for the division, unless something goes very wrong with New Orleans. Both have a somewhat easy schedule and in head to head contest the Falcons lack a strong enough pass rush and secondary to stop the Saints on a regular bases.
3) Carolina Panthers- (5-11) – I want to say something positive about the Panthers because they have been an good to great NFL team for quite a few years now, but that does not seem to be the case this year. The Panthers are officially in a rebuilding mode. RB Jonathan Stewart, RB DeAngelo Williams, and LB Jon Beason are all three cornerstone pieces that you can build off of, but after that the Panthers are going to have a lot of holes to fill. Matt Moore is a good quarterback who has played well in the games he has started, but the Panthers are just hoping that he is the guy to hold the position until Jimmy Clausen is ready to take over. The Panthers other big name guy, WR Steve Smith, has looked like he has been slowing down each of the past two years and this year with out a good number 2 WR on the roster, unless Brandon Lefell has a good rookie year or Dwyane Jarrett finally steps up, he is going to see a lot of double coverage in 2010.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- (5-11) – Youth, youth, and youth, that is the story of the 2010 Buccaneers. Josh Freeman is a big tough quarterback who can both throw the long ball and also take a hit. Freeman will also have a ton of good young talent at the wide receiver position with rookies Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams (both of which had great preseasons) and also backups Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter. And on defense they have some good defensive talents with DT Gerald McCoy, LB Geno Hayes, CB Aqib Talib, and S Tanard Jackson. In a two or three years this team could challenge for the division title, but this year will be filled with a lot of ups and downs as the young guys get NFL experience. However the one real challenge for Tampa Bay will be the health of Cadillac Williams, the Bucs are very thin at the RB position and if Cadillac goes down than it will just be that much harder on Josh and the offense.