NFC South

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

ATLANTA FALCONS

2004 RECORD: 11-5

SUPER ODDS: 12-1; OVER/UNDER: 9 1/2

SUN SAYS: Trip to NFC Championship will accelerate the learning curve of Mike Vick and those around him. More and more he is proving he can throw the ball and if he keeps his turnovers in check, these birds can be just about be unstoppable on offence. Expect them to get to the NFC Championship for a second shot at the Eagles.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

2004 RECORD: 8-8

SUPER ODDS: 45-1; OVER/UNDER: OFF

SUN SAYS: An underachieving team the past couple of seasons is a trite footnote compared to the devestation in their home city. More than the schedule has been in a state of upheaval, of course, which understandably will push football to the back burner for most in Louisiana. On the field, the Saints will need a defence that was miserable in '04 to step up, especially against the run.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

2004 RECORD: 7-9

SUPER ODDS: 15-1; OVER/UNDER: 9

SUN SAYS: Injuries and a poor start conspired for an awful back-down-to-earth season for the 2003 NFCchamps. But under QB Jake Delhomme, the Panthers finished strong after its 1-7 start and should be a threat to return to power. Remember too that much of that awful start was due to a rash of injuries to key players. Week 2 tilt at home against New England is a rematch of their Super Bowl loss and one of the best early-season matchups.

TAMPA BAY BUCANEERS

2004 RECORD: 5-11

SUPER ODDS: 35-1; OVER/UNDER: 7 1/2

SUN SAYS: The only team other than the Patriots to win the Super Bowl in the past four seasons, the Bucs should rebound from the salary-cap ravages that conspired against them the past two years. Brian Griese provides stability at QB and top draft pick Carnell "Cadillac" Williams could take the wheel of this offence by mid-season. Sleeper could be the addition of TE Anthony Becht. The once fearsome defence isn't strong.


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