NFC South: Toughest Division in NFL?

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My friend and I were talking about the most competitive division in the NFL earlier today so I figured I might as well breakdown the one we came up with as toughest in the league. This conclusion is based on all 4 teams in the division being serious competitors this season and we came up with the NFC South as the winner. Now the AFC North was also in contention because they too have 4 very good and extremely competitive teams, however, we felt like the NFC South had more talent this season.

New Orleans Saints – Right now they are the division leaders at 10-3 and have shown that they basically have the complete package with a lethal offense and a defense that has the ability to make big plays and keep opposing offenses off the field. Drew Brees is the ultimate quarterback and with targets like Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem, his life is much easier than it could be. Their 4 outstanding running backs regularly get touches in the backfield are Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Darren Sproles. Jimmy Graham has come through with astonishing numbers this season and as established a spot as the best tight end in the NFL in my opinion. Their defense showed signs of struggling early in the season but have really pulled themselves together to make this team truly remarkable.

Atlanta Falcons – Probably one of the most underrated teams in the league, the Falcons are second in the division at 8-5. Matt Ryan is their young captain at quarterback and although their offense hasn’t been as dynamic as last year, expect big things to continue from him. Roddy White and Julio Jones are one of my favorite wide receiver duos to date and are a great veteran/rookie pair. Tony Gonzalez is getting older but has shown no signs of slowing down as he continues to be an extremely reliable target. Michael Turner is the third leading rusher in the league and a back that most people overlook. John Abraham is a seasoned veteran at the DE position and keeps this defense heads up with the help of Curtis Lofton who is among the league leaders in tackles this season. Like I said, the Falcons fly under the radar and can surprise teams who decide to sleep on them.

Carolina Panthers – After a nightmare season last year the Panthers are tied for 3rd in the division at 4-9 and with the acquisition of Cam Newton, may start to turn some heads in seasons to come. If anyone was questioning whether Newton would live up to the hype, check the season stats, this man’s a record breaker and setter. Steve Smith is still one of the best receivers in the game, not to mention one of the fastest. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are a terrific 1-2 punch in the backfield and round out this offense. If the Panthers have one problem, it’s on defense. They give up the most fantasy points to running backs which may seem like a silly stat to some people, but it does translate to getting dominated in real game. If they want to be a division contender in the future, it starts there.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – One of my biggest disappointments on the year is probably these guys. The Bucs showed great signs of success last year but are tied with the Panthers  at the bottom at 4-9. Josh Freeman is a good young quarterback who shows pure strokes of genius at some times, but is too hot and cold to be able to carry this team to the top already. Inconsistency is a word I associate a lot with Tampa Bay because they have had amazing games this year and they have had horrible games. They need to stay more consistent next season, and try to make every game count, not just the big ones.

Why the NFC South is tougher than the AFC North:

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Tim Tebow & Denver Broncos vs. Tom Brady & New England Patriots: Showdown of the Year

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Since Tim Tebow has finally taken the Denver Broncos to a serious level of contention and excitement, this Sunday’s game of the Patriots and Broncos may be one of the most exciting of the year. If you stand back and look at it, past all of the hype, there’s really 2 different ways it can pan out. First, is that the Patriots absolutely dominate. I know it looks bad that I’m a Bronco fan and my first outcome is us getting blown out, but I’m being honest. The Patriots have the kind of team where if they come out hot, there is almost no chance of catching up. Their offense has the ability to score almost at will if defenses are caught off guard. Second possible outcome is that Denver plays their game and shows New England why they are the #1 rushing team in the league. Tim Tebow displayed last week in a thriller against the Bears that he can pass if he needs to in clutch situations and the Patriots have the worst passing defense in the NFL so exploiting that is a definite must.

My X-Factor in this game is the Denver Broncos’ defense. They don’t have a highly ranked pass defense at 21st and their run defense sits at 16th overall, but I feel like they are underrated and can really make it hard for opposing offenses. If they can get to Tom Brady and put some pressure on him to disrupt his rhythm, than they can really give themselves a shot. Von Miller has proven to be an excellent draft pick for them at OLB and is currently   the #7 sack list leader. If he plays huge, with the help of Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams then it may not look like a long shot after all. The secondary needs to come up huge as well. Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, and Andre Goodman need to keep key Patriot receivers like Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco in check, especially Wes Welker. Any of these guys can go off on any given Sunday and it needs to be prevented to keep their offense off the field. Rob Gronkowski is possibly the biggest threat because of how many yards he can achieve after the catch, so he needs to be wrapped up quickly to avoid any short passes for big gains. All in all, if the Broncos play tight defense and manage to score big points, which they are capable of, they can bring down the beast of the east.

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Tim Tebow & Lance Briggs; Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears

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Tim Tebow has surprised basically everyone with the incredible leadership and winning ability he has brought to the Denver Broncos. Yet, almost all of the people who are surprised enjoy taking shots at #15. The most popular among all comments about Tebow is the fact that he isn’t a throwing quarterback. Is it just me or am I the only one who realizes  that there are other “non-throwing quarterbacks” in the NFL. Are people blind to the fact that Cam Newton and Mike Vick run just as much, if not more than Tebow. I’m pretty sure when Vick was with the Falcons he was a much worse passer than Tebow is now, and he has started less than a full season amount of games. The public aren’t the only ones upset with the success Tebow is having as a “non-passing quarterback”, Lance Briggs recently said that he’ll be “frickin’ pissed” if the Bears fall to the Broncos on Sunday. Well Briggs, I wish all the luck to your defense as you face the #1 rushing offense in the NFL. If the Denver D can play strong then they might have it in the bag. Especially because the Bears will be without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, which will put them at a HUGE disadvantage. Call it fate, call it whatever you want, but with Tebow at the helm my Broncos have been doing better than they have in years. Regardless of how pretty it looks, a win is a win and nothing would make me happier than seeing Tebow and the unorthodox Bronco offense smashing Briggs and the solid Bear defense.

Hedge with Broncos’ strategy vs. Bears:

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Cam Newton, Marshawn Lynch – Workhorse Wednesday

Offensive Workhorse – Marshawn Lynch, RB (Sea)

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There’s no question that when Marshawn Lynch comes up in conversation his historic run against the Saints is mentioned at some point. However, he wouldn’t need a historic run to clinch the game against the Eagles last Thursday night. Lynch recorded 148 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries in a 31-14 victory over the Eagles. It’s rather clear at this point in the season that the Eagles are struggling as they have now dropped to a tie for last place in the NFC East with the Redskins. The Seahawks are currently tied for 2nd place in the NFC West with the Cardinals but can easily take the position if they can win this week against the 2-10 Rams and then in 2 weeks against the Cardinals. 2 games they may struggle with are against the Bears and 49ers. Things may go in their favor if the Bears are still suffering from injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte but the 49ers are too strong defensively to allow an upset from a division rival.

Record Setting Workhorse – Cam Newton, QB (Car)

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Usually there would be a defensive workhorse in this position, but in honor of Cam Newton’s record setting 38-19 victory against the Buccaneers, the spot belongs to him. Newton broke the single season rushing touchdown record by a quarterback with his 3 rushing scores in this game. He also became the first quarterback (3rd player all time) in NFL history to rush for 3 TD’s, pass for a TD, and catch a pass all in the same game. It doesn’t end there. Newton also joined the company of Eric Dickerson as the only players to run for touchdowns in 9 of their first 12 games. This kind of skill and these kinds of records are starting to make Newton out to be the clear cut favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

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Donovan McNabb Thrown Overboard

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Well, I can honestly say I called this one from the minute the Vikings picked Donovan McNabb up. I knew he was not going to be the answer they were looking for because of the the simple fact that his glory days are over. McNabb was waived by Minnesota today and is now looking for a new home in a variety of different places. The 3 top prospective teams as of right now are the Texans, Bears, and 49ers.

The Texans could really use him for a number of reasons. Matt Schaub is still injured and in an attempt to continue the success in Houston, Matt Leinart was hurt (shocker) against the Jaguars. T.J. Yates wasn’t a horrible replacement, but McNabb might be the experienced substitute they need to go on a run during crunch time. In my opinion,this is the smartest move for the Texans because they have a shot to go deep into the playoffs and if it’s without Schaub then McNabb has the veteran status that can weather the storm.

The Bears are in a similar position as the Texans because Jay Cutler is injured and they are relying on backup Caleb Hanie to pick up the slack. The difference between the teams’ situation is that I think Caleb Hanie is a pretty reliable replacement. He was thrown into a tough position in last years NFC Championship game when Cutler was hurt and held is own against the destined Green Bay Packers. I think that if McNabb was to be brought in here it would hurt the development of Hanie in return for a temporary fix. Not to mention that Hanie might be as good as McNabb is right now anyways.

Although the 49ers have expressed interest in McNabb, this is the least likely conclusion to the question at hand. Alex Smith has shown much improvement this season and McNabb would be brought in strictly as a backup. However, the team is extremely confident that Colin Kaepernick is growing into the player that would take no hesitation or worry in substituting for Smith, or eventually replacing him as the starter. It would be stupid for the 49ers to ruin Kaepernick’s chance, the same way it would be for the Bears to hinder Hanie.

Hedge on best home for McNabb:

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Drew Brees, Terrell Suggs – Workhorse Wednesday

Offensive Workhorse – Drew Brees, QB (NO)

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After seeing his Monday night performance against the Giants, Drew Brees has sealed himself has the #1 quarterback in the NFL in my eyes. If the 363 passing yards and 4 TD’s through the air aren’t convincing enough, an 8 yard scramble finished with a defender juke and endzone dive might be the icing on the cake. Brees finished with 5 total touchdowns on the night, but the most impressive to me was the rushing score. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the only QB’s in the league right now that would have gone the extra yard to juke and layout to break the plane. Obviously guys like Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and Mike Vick would have done the same, but most of the top quarterbacks in the league would have happily slid at the 1 yard line and capped the drive with a handoff to the runningback. Not to point any fingers but those include guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who are much too comfortable in the pocket and frankly, are too soft to risk taking a hit. I understand these guys get sacked and are tough because they are football players, yada yada yada, but that’s just the way it is. Brees is the ultimate quarterback package due to his dedication, determination, skill, and ability to burn you any way you like. These are just intangibles? Check the stat sheet if you need physical evidence; #9 is #1.

Defensive Workhorse – Terrell Suggs, OLB (Bal)

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Terrell Suggs is one of those linebackers you always have to keep an eye on. He may not always have a standout performance, but he does always get the job done. He finished the Thanksgiving “Harbaugh Bowl” with 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble against the 49ers in a winning effort that I didn’t think was going to happen. Although his performance wasn’t jaw dropping, the Ravens managed to sack Alex Smith 9 times on the day to bring down the sizzling hot 9-1 49ers. Oh right, I forgot to mention that Ray Lewis didn’t even play in this game due to injury, making this feat even greater. Going into it I liked San Francisco because of the fact that Baltimore has been somewhat hot and cold this season with inconsistency on the offensive end. I didn’t think that they had what it took to score against the stonewall 49er defense but they proved me wrong. Their defense is for real, that much is clear to me. However, I am still not sold that Joe Flacco can lead this team to the promised land. If he wants to be a serious contender looking into the future then he needs to buckle down and play like a champion every game.

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Willis McGahee Running Rampant; Keys to Broncos’ Success

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The Denver Broncos have the number 2 rushing offense in the NFL with around 158 yards per game. With Tim Tebow at the helm and the “Read Option” as their main offensive strategy, it’s no shocker. Not to mention Willis McGahee as their main back who has proved to be one of the most consistent weapons they have, until he was injured against the Chiefs. Although McGahee hasn’t ran for many touchdowns, he’s been pretty consistent with 4 games over 100 yards rushing. Many will find this to be underachieving, I find it to be successful in a Denver offense that really hasn’t found their niche. Now it’s going to be a matter of if he can keep up the success with Tebow running the show and that’s only something the rest of the season will be able to show. McGahee has been nursing the hamstring he pulled against Kansas City for the majority of the week but has been making progress. Thankfully he is the only Bronco whose status is in question tonight as big names like Brian Dawkins, Ryan Clady, and Wesley Woodyard have all been cleared to play. If McGahee starts tonight he will give Denver a big advantage against an average Jets run defense, alongside Tebow of course.

The New York Jets are a team whose bark is much worse than their bite. At a sub-par 5-4 record so far, they’ve proven to be very inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Both teams have closely matched offenses with Denver’s 22nd ranked facing off against New York’s 23rd ranked. However, the difference maker could be the Broncos’ 2nd ranked rushing offense. The Jet’s run defense isn’t poor enough to allow huge gains, but the combination of Tim Tebow, (possibly) Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, and the constant threat for Tebow to come up with his arm, will keep them on their toes. The Denver pass defense has been suffering somewhat due to injuries, but they can definitely handle the explosive Jet’s offense. If Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, Andre Goodman, and Cassius Vaughn can contain Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller, then it will give time for guys like Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, and D.J. Williams, to disrupt Mark Sanchez, who proved last week against the Patriots that he can’t handle the heat in the kitchen. The running stops against Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will have to be there as well, they can’t be giving up any big runs or allow Sanchez to get into a rhythm because they will pay for it by playing catch up. Don’t count Denver out of this one yet, they’ve been on point lately and although many are skeptical of how long Tebow can lead, I think we’ll find out tonight.

Jets game plan with Hedge:

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