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122815 ATLANTA: Falcons running back Devonta Freeman gets past Panthers Jared Allen for a touchdown to tie the game 7-7 during the second quarter in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Part 6 of our series will finish up our trip to the dirty South, NFC this time.

The NFC South has some strong contenders, not to mention the reigning NFC champs. This is without a doubt of the best divisions the league, boasting four teams that all have playoff potential.

Atlanta Falcons

As previously mentioned, the reigning NFC champs reside in one of the best divisions in the league. The Falcons still stand at the top of the heap, until the season starts and we see where the cards fall. They lost their offensive mastermind when Kyle Shanahan took the head coach job in San Francisco, and the results of that move are pending until we can see what new OC Steve Sarkisian has in the tank. Their defense is decent, with the reigning sack leader Vic Beasley leading the way.

Tampa Bay Bucs

Tampa is a team that has talent seemingly everywhere, but something hasn’t quite clicked yet. Sure, they have areas of improvement, but if they can plug up their line holes on both sides of the ball, this team looks like a winner.

New Orleans Saints

Never count out any team with Drew Brees at the helm. The offseason saw a strengthened running game, as they added superstar Adrian Peterson to the mix. They added Ted Ginn to their receiving corps and a couple of new offensive linemen to protect those investments. If their defense can perform better than last year, here’s another team that can and will fight tooth and nail to make it to the postseason.

Carolina Panthers

Just a couple years ago, this was the team to beat. Last year, as has been their pattern, the Panthers faded back from their prior year’s glory. Still, they have one of the top tight ends in football, easily the best inside linebacker in the league, and a quarterback who, despite his temper tantrums, can really pull the team together. If the Panthers can settle down and keep Cam Newton focused, they could vie for a wild card spot.

Results

First Place – Atlanta Falcons won’t have as easy a road, but they still have one of the best teams around. Unless there’s a huge injury loss, we should see the Falcons land on top at least one more year.

Second Place – This is where the division busts wide open. Virtually any of these teams could land here. At This point, the New Orleans Saints look like the best candidates. Again, never discount Drew Brees. With a couple of new weapons, Brees has a full chamber, locked and loaded. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Saints take over first place.

Third Place – The Carolina Panthers want to climb out of the basement and become a top team yet again. They have slightly more maturity and are more ready to make that climb than the Bucs are.

Fourth Place – The Tampa Bay Bucs may likely end up at the bottom of the division, which is nothing to sneeze at. The worst in this division may very well be better than some of the best in a couple other divisions. They have another year to settle Jameis Winston down and gel the team before they’re ready for a championship.

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