Falcons look geared to put their nightmare behind them
Super Bowl odds 16-1
2016 record 11-5
Coach Dan Quinn
QB Matt Ryan
RB Devonta Freeman
Major ins DT Dontari Poe, FB Derrick Coleman
Major outs G Chris Chester, DT Jonathan Babineaux
Top draft picks LB Takkarist McKinley (1), LB Duke Riley (3)
Verdict The Falcons have to exorcise the ghosts of giving away a 28-3 Super Bowl lead, but that could spur them on to going one better.
They have the components to do just that, particularly offensively with strengths at quarterback, running back, receiver and a strong offensive line that makes the magic possible. The loss of offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan may not prove a huge handicap.
On the other side of the ball, the pass rush is one area where they can improve and their new surroundings could also give them a lift. Dan Quinn has an excellent all-round outfit who can go deep into the playoffs again.
Other NFC divisions
Super Bowl odds 28-1
2016 record 6-10
Coach Ron Rivera
QB Cam Newton
RB Jonathan Stewart
Major ins OT Matt Kalil, LB Julius Peppers
Major outs WR Ted Ginn, OT Mike Remmers
Top draft picks RB Christian McCaffrey (1), WR Curtis Samuel (2)
Verdict After winning 15 regular-season matches in 2015, last year will go down as a massive disappointment in Carolina.
Cam Newton had his worst season as a pro but the front office at least recognised the need to give their star quarterback some help and their first two draft picks look likely to do that. Running back Christian McCaffrey in particular is a versatile player who could have a massive impact while tight end Greg Olsen remains a potent weapon.
However, the defence needs a lift and star linebacker Luke Kuechly needs to stay fit if they are to mount a serious challenge to Atlanta.
New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl odds 66-1
2016 record 7-9
Coach Sean Payton
QB Drew Brees
RB Adrian Peterson
Major ins RB Adrian Peterson, WR Ted Ginn
Major outs WR Brandin Cooks, S Jarius Byrd
Top draft picks CB Marshon Lattimore (1), LB Ryan Ramczyk (2)
Verdict Quarterback Drew Brees can be relied upon to throw for a ton of yards even at 37, but the big offensive move has been the signing of Adrian Peterson. He could flourish after a change of scenery but the star running back is 32 and coming off a poor final season at Minnesota.
Brandin Cooks' departure to New England is a blow, but Michael Thomas had an excellent rookie season and can flourish again, but the problems at the Saints in the last few years have all been defensive and that could continue.
Just two players claimed more than four sacks last season and a playoff push seems unlikely.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl odds 40-1
2016 record 9-7
Coach Dirk Koetter
QB Jameis Winston
RB Doug Martin
Major ins WR DeSean Jackson, DE Chris Baker
Major outs S Bradley McDougald, TE Brandon Myers
Top draft picks TE OJ Howard (1), S Justin Evans (2)
Verdict The Buccaneers look the Falcons' most likely challengers in the division. Jameis Winston is a dynamic quarterback who continues to improve and he should be boosted by having DeSean Jackson joining excellent wide receiver Mike Evans, while there are high hopes for tight end OJ Howard.
Running back Doug Martin will miss the first three games through suspension but that should not be too much of a concern and reports have suggested he is looking much sharper than he did last season.
Their defence is boosted by Chris Baker acquisition from Washington and they have a decent chance of reaching the post-season.
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