by Adam Nardelli | NY Giants Rush Contributor
Playing NFC South: Not a Bad Draw
In honor of the 2015 NFL Schedule being released later in April, it’s never too early to start breaking down who the Giants will be facing come the fall. In Part 1 of the series focusing on the Giants 2015 opponents, all eyes will be on the NFC South, the intra-conference division the Giants and the rest of the NFC East will be facing.
Taking on the NFC South, the worst division in football last year, could end up being a big advantage for the Giants as each team has more than their share of flaws.
To start looking at each team in the division and how the Giants can have success against them, the Carolina Panthers went 7-8-1 in 2014, good enough to take the divisional crown. Cam Newton is still one of the better younger quarterbacks in the league, but it’s hard to say Cam progressed in 2014.
His completion percentage and touchdowns both took a dip last season, and aside from Kelvin Benjamin, no one else playing around Cam exactly scares the Giants defense (you could argue Gregg Olsen). The defense is in better position led by All-Pro Linebacker Luke Kuechly, but the secondary is average. The Giants will host the Panthers.
Second place in 2014 was occupied by the 7-9 New Orleans Saints. One of the most inconsistent teams I can ever remember, the Saints took a few steps back since the Giants played them last. All of a sudden the home field advantage of the Super Dome was nowhere to be found, with the Saints losing five straight home games to end the season in a place they used to be unbeatable.
Let’s hope their struggles at home continue as the Giants will travel down to the big easy. Also, the loss of Drew Brees’ favorite target in Jimmy Graham could bode well for Big Blue that currently doesn’t possess a quality safety.
Third place in 2014 belonged to the 6-10 Atlanta Falcons, who were one game away from winning the division, believe it or not. Similar to Carolina, the backfield is in question with second-year running back Devonta Freeman with the release of Steven Jackson.
The biggest weapon for Atlanta is clearly their wide receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. As a result, the health of corner backs Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as well as having quality Safety play, will have a strong impact on whether the Giants can get revenge on the Falcons for handing them a 34-0 loss in 2012.
Transitioning to the defense, the unit lacks a pass rushing threat, and is known to get bullied in the trenches. Atlanta will come to MetLife in 2015.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers owned the basement of the NFC South after rattling off a 2-14 record last season. Quarterback is obviously the biggest question mark for the Bucs, which is more than likely what they’ll address with the first overall pick in this year’s draft.
Like Atlanta, the receiving corps is their strongest positional group headed by big and physical receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. The defense also has some talent with 3-time Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy as well as Linebacker Lavonte David who was 3rd in tackles last season.
Still, Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 defense relies on the front four generating pressure on the quarterback, and without an elite pass rusher, Eli Manning should be able to buy time in the pocket. The Bucs will be home for the match-up.