It’s that time of year when we make bad predictions about the upcoming season and bad jokes, all in the same post. Next up: the NFC South, which boasts of being the third most interesting football division to Southerners, behind the two in the SEC.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Additions: Dunta Robinson, Jason Heyward (it’s the only way to get Atlanta fans to pay attention)

Key Departures: Tye Hill

Five Fast Facts About The Falcons:
– Matty Ice is following the example of many other 20-somethings and staving off the need to develop into his full potential until at least his 30s.
– Jerious Norwood averaged fewer than five yards per carry for the first time in 2009. An thus the torch was passed to [other lusted over back-up rusher who is perceived to get too few carries].
– Rookie linebacker Bear Woods not only has an awesome name, but he’s this year’s recipient of the Drexl Spivey Award for Best White Dreadlocks. Previous winners include former 49er fullback Zak Keasey.

– Noted do-gooder and macrobiotic dieter Tony Gonzalez last year posed naked for a PETA ad. This year: a promotion for Naked Juice in which he dons animal pelts.
– Second-year tight end Keith Zinger can’t say anything without you thinking he’s insulting you.

Over/Under For 2010: 9 wins

Verdict: OVER

Michael Turner was hurt for a good portion of last season. That and their defense being largely horrendous meant taking a step back from their 11-win season in 2008. Despite starting the season with Michael Jenkins injured and Jonathan Babineaux suspended, I like Atlanta to get back to the 10-win mark in 2010. It also helps that they’re probably be gifted four victories from the Bucs and Panthers.

CAROLINA PANTHERS


Good idea, Jimmy. Get Steve Smith accustomed to hitting you with his fists.

Key Additions: F*ckface Jimmy Clausen

Key Departures: Julius Peppers, Jake Delhomme, Muhsin Muhammad, Maake Kemoeatu, Keydrick Vincent, Hollis Thomas, Brad Hoover

Five Fast Facts About The Panthers:
– With an average age of 25 years and seven days, the Panthers have the third youngest roster in the league, trailing only the 49ers and Packers. Of course, spending five minutes around Clausen will force his teammates to age at triple the regular rate.
– Captain Munnerlyn’s name is bizarrely the only thing that Jon Gruden says that I enjoy. There’s an extra oomph to the enunciation, as if he were pleased that someone has already provided a nickname for him.
– Brandon LaFell sounds the name of the pirate who first invented the plank.
– Wait! Matt Moore was actually mostly competent last year? So Clausen will have to go through a full year of Brady Quinn-like riding the pine until he finally get the opportunity to flame out in Year 2? Ooh, that’s gonna be nice.
– Jon Beason is so good, a Panthers fan actually knows who he is.

Over/Under For 2010: 7.5 wins

Verdict: UNDER

Yeah, fine, they have a fine tandem of running backs and a pretty good O-line. And Matt Moore did help the team to late season victories over the Vikings and Saints. Of course, those are just the kind of deceptive, nothing-to-lose type victories that mediocre teams use to build unrealistic expectations for themselves the following year. Also, Peter King has the Panthers as his sleeper team, which is as strong an indicator to me that they’re doomed to failure as anything.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS


Alex Rodriguez isn’t going to be happy that Drew Brees disfigured Peyton’s centaur ass even before he could get there.

Key Additions: Millions of gallons of oil from BP, free of charge, and yet all they do is bitch about it.

Key Departures: Scott Fujita, Mike Bell, The Gulf of Mexico

Five Fast Facts About The Saints:

– From acclaimed television writer David Simon comes “Treme,” a dramatic retelling of the run-up and immediate response to Hurricane Katrina, as seen by a motley collection of city residents, most of whom are involved in the local music scene.

– From acclaimed novelist Dave Eggers comes “Zeitoun,” the story of a Syrian-born painting collector who decides to remain in New Orleans after the hurricane to protect his property. Using a small canoe, he rescues people stranded by Katrina until he is arrested by government responders and flung headlong into a “vortex of bureaucratic brutality.”

– From acclaimed film director Spike Lee comes “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise,” the second documentary from the filmmaker about post-Katrina New Orleans. While the first focused on the immediate aftermath, the newer documentary will examine the recovery process five years after the storm struck, beginning with the Saints Super Bowl victory.

– From acclaimed graphic novelist Josh Neufeld comes “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge,” which recounts the survival stories of five individuals who Neufeld encountered while researching the hurricane and its aftermath.

– What? Nothing on the BP spill yet? Damn your slow turnaround time, creative types!

Over/Under For 2010: 10.5 wins

Verdict: OVER

Somehow, improbably, even after winning a championship, the Saints remain a mostly likable team. This is true even as the team’s title as citywide redemption story still gets repeated ad nauseum, as if it’s improved the quality of life of a single person living there. Nevertheless, the Saints put a stop to Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl and are promising to once again mete out swift and extensive punishment to Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game rematch in a few weeks, so far be from me to rain on the parade of happy feelings.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS


Stylez G. White can dig it.

Key Additions: Gerald McCoy, Keydrick Vincent, Sean Jones

Key Departures: Antonio Bryant, Will Allen, Chris Hovan

Five Fast Facts About The Buccaneers:
– Ah, so this is where former Eagles receiver Reggie Brown went to die.
– The buzz is that Kareem Huggins might beat out Derrick Ward for the backup running back job. How was he able to do that? If it was more than “ask nicely” it was too much.
– Aqid Talib’s Muslim name wants to build a Ground Zero mosque inside your stadium pirate ship. Stop him, crackers!
Russ Grimm’s son, Cody, is trying to make the team as a safety. As we all know, sons of Hall of Fame linemen are 35 PERCENT MORE LIKELY TO BE CRAZY OBSCURE PLAYERS!
– Safety Corey Lynch used to wear the no. 47 in college and with the Bengals because of his admiration for former Bucs safety John Lynch. Someone just bought himself five extra years to suck in this town.

Over/Under For 2010: 5.5 wins

Verdict: UNDER

Last season, the Bucs had two players with 600 or more receiving yards. One of them left in free agency. The other one was Kellen Winslow. So unless Arrelious Benn happens to be the biggest steal in the draft, Josh Freeman is going to have a fun time finding a primary target in 2010. Speaking of Freeman, he just broke the thumb on his throwing hand. Oh yeah, their running game isn’t particularly strong either. So, uh, best of luck, Raheem Morris.