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Senior NFL Columnist

NFC South

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The NFC South is a strong offensive division, in large part because of the quarterbacks of the four teams.

New Orleans has the best passer in Drew Brees, who headlines the All-AFC South team, but Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Carolina's Cam Newton are also top-level passers. That will make this a fun division to watch, with plenty of points.

Studying the All-NFC South team, it's clear that the offensive side of the team is much better than the defensive side. There are a lot of good offensive players who are left off, like Newton, Ryan, Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson.

The other side of the ball has spots that lack any real star or depth.

So get ready for a lot of shootouts in this division. Defenses aren't close to being as good as the offenses.

Offense

TE LT LG C RG RT
J. Graham J. Gross C. Nicks R. Kalil J. Evans T. Clabo
WR QB WR
S. Smith D. Brees J. Jones
RB FB
D. Sproles M. Tolbert

QB -- Drew Brees, Saints: He broke Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season. He might break his own this year.
RB -- Darren Sproles, Saints: He is the prototype for the modern NFL back: fast, shifty and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
FB -- Mike Tolbert, Panthers: He is a nice pickup for a team that loves to run the football.
WR -- Steve Smith, Panthers: He had a bounce-back season after some speculated he was slowing down. He isn't.
WR -- Julio Jones, Falcons: Watch what he does in the new-look offense this season. He could be the next Calvin Johnson.
TE -- Jimmy Graham, Saints: He is perfect for the NFL's top passing offense, a player who can get vertical down the field and create matchups.
LT -- Jordan Gross, Panthers: He's a perennial pick here on any all-division team.
LG -- Carl Nicks, Bucs: He is the best guard in the NFL and the Bucs made a nice move to sign him.
C -- Ryan Kalil, Panthers: He's a smart, physical center who is the class of the position in the division and one of the best in the game.
RG -- Jahri Evans, Saints: He had too many penalties last season, but he remains a powerful run blocker and good pass protector.
RT -- Tyson Clabo, Falcons: He didn't play that well last season, but he is the top player at a bad position in the division.

Defense

LE DT DT RE
M. Bennett J. Babineaux B. Bunkley C. Johnson
OLB MLB/ILB OLB
L. Kuechly J. Beason S. Weatherspoon
CB FS SS CB
B. Grimes M. Jenkins W. Moore C. Gamble

LE -- Michael Bennett, Bucs: He is an underrated pass rusher who might be poised for his big breakout season.
NT/DT -- Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons: His play tailed off some last season in part because he was banged up, but he is a force when he is healthy.
DT -- Brodrick Bunkley, Saints: He is coming off his best season with the Broncos and fills a major need inside for the Saints.
RE -- Charles Johnson, Panthers: He didn't play as well in 2011 as he did the year before. But he is still one of the better ends in the division.
OLB -- Luke Kuechly, Panthers: Strange seeing a rookie on this team? It shouldn't be. This kid is a tackling machine.
MLB/ILB -- Jon Beason, Panthers: He has to stay healthy after missing most of 2011. When on the field, he's one of the better linebackers in this division.
OLB -- Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons: He's a star in the making. He can fly to the football.
CB -- Brent Grimes, Falcons: This feisty, smallish corner has amazing athletic ability. He never backs down.
CB -- Chris Gamble, Panthers: He is coming off one of his better seasons in coverage after slipping a bit.
Nickel -- Dunta Robinson, Falcons: He will be the Falcons' third corner after Asante Samuel came over in a trade.
SS -- William Moore, Falcons: He takes the spot at a weak position in the division. In a year, Tampa Bay's Mark Barron will be the guy.
FS -- Malcom Jenkins, Saints: He is rangy and can tackle -- perfect for a pass-happy league.

Special Teams

KR K P
D. Sproles M. Bryant T. Morstead

K -- Matt Bryant, Falcons: He gets the nod after making all but two field-goal attempts last season.
P -- Thomas Morstead, Saints: He averaged 48.3 yards per punt and was second in the conference in net average.
KR -- Darren Sproles, Saints: He is such a threat as a return man -- that increases his value.

Honorable mention: QB Cam Newton, Panthers; QB Matt Ryan, Falcons; WR Marques Colston, Saints; CB Aqib Talib, Bucs; WR Vincent Jackson, Bucs; DE Adrian Clayborn, Bucs; CB Patrick Robinson, Saints; RB Michael Turner, Falcons.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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