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In this week’s Bucs Shots, Pewter Report editor-in-chief Jim Flynn sounds off on message board poster Simms2Clayton05’s take on the New Orleans Saints being considered the favorites to win the NFC South division this season.

NFC South – Saints The Team To Beat? – Posted On June 11, 2007 by Simms2Clayton05
I like Tampa Bay’s chance of winning the NFC South division as the Bucs are not far behind New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta.

I think what happened to the Bucs last year could have happened to any of those teams last season. However, if anybody had to choose a team that will be tough to beat next year it’s the Saints as that offense is very tough to beat and their defense is better than what people give them credit for.

The Bucs were close to beating Saints in their house last year and I remember thinking that we are a few pieces away from beating that team and beating them bad. You can say that about any game, but I just remember really feeling that the Bucs didn’t get outworked or out-coached and things like that. We didn’t end up with the win. They were simply a better team than us and that is why they beat us twice.

The same can be said for the Panthers games last year as a few things did not go our way and ended as a loss. Almost the same can be said about the Panthers game, but I thought we should have beaten them in both games as I did not think they were that much better than the Bucs even though on paper they should of kicked our faces in.

Forget about the Falcons last year. They just are never going to run 300 yards on us again as that was just a piss poor game we played in both contests. I remember thinking this team sucks – they run 300 yards on us and we still have a chance to win the game? Listen, the Bucs made some adjustments and we should be getting our injured players back, so there is no reason why we should not be able to take it to our division rivals next year and win some of those games.

I know division games are usually closer in score just because of the rivalry and the hate for the other team is endless, but we should be able to give those teams a run for their money this year especially, the Saints as they are the team to beat right now. I’m so pumped because the Bucs did not beat one of those teams last year and we hate those teams more than any team in the NFL – even more than the Eagles right now. Go Bucs! Take back the division this year!

Jim Flynn’s response to Simms2Clayton05’s post
I can tell you’re ready for the 2007 season to begin, Simms2Clayton05. Your excitement, enthusiasm and passion for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came through loud and clear in your post.

I certainly don’t want to rain on your parade, but I’m afraid I have to agree with the rest of the so-called pundits’ predictions that suggest the New Orleans Saints are in fact the team to beat in the NFC South division in 2007.

The Saints caught the league by surprise last season when they went from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 and the NFC Championship Game in 2006. They’re a young team with a young gun of a head coach in Sean Payton, a Pro Bowl quarterback in Drew Brees, a dangerous duo at running back with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush and a defense that should be much improved this season.

Even if you don’t think New Orleans will be that good in 2007, one could make the argument that the Saints are the favorites in the NFC South this year by default since Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay have some question marks heading into the new season.

How will the dog fighting scandal turnout for Falcons quarterback Michael Vick? Will QB Jake Delhomme step up his game for the Panthers? How much of a difference can QB Jeff Garcia make for the Bucs, and how good or bad will their defense be?

If the Bucs plan to unseat the Saints in the NFC South division, they’ll have to find a way to win a division game first. That’s something Tampa Bay failed to do en route to a 4-12 record in 2006.

Tampa Bay hasn’t exactly played well against New Orleans in recent years, either. Since 2002, the Bucs have produced a 6-10 record against their division rival. They’ve been swept twice by New Orleans and have lost three of their last four contests to the Saints.

But after taking a closer look at history regarding the NFC South division, there is reason for Bucs fans like yourself to be somewhat optimistic about this season, especially if you follow trends.

The first bit of good news for the Bucs is no team has won the NFC South division two consecutive seasons since the division's inception in 2002. Of course, the Bucs have experienced that the hard way in the seasons that followed their division championships in 2002 and 2005, respectively.

If history repeats itself, the Saints, whom some pundits have representing the NFC in the Super Bowl this season, would not repeat as NFC South division champs.

There’s another interesting tidbit that should give Buccaneers fans good reason to believe they could possibly go from worst to first in their division, just as the Saints did last year and the Bucs did in 2004-05.

Since Tampa Bay won the first-ever NFC South division title in 2002, each team that has won the division since then finished the previous season in last place.

If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself.

*The Carolina Panthers, who finished the 2002 regular season with a 7-9 record and in last place in the NFC South division, produced an 11-5 record and won the division in 2003 en route to a Super Bowl appearance.

*In 2004, the Atlanta Falcons, who posted a 5-11 record en route to a last place finish in the division, produced an 11-5 record and finished in first place in the NFC South.

*The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished ranked in last place with a 5-11 record in 2004, but they went from worst to first in the NFC South division by compiling an 11-5 record in 2005.

*Last season, the New Orleans Saints won the NFC South division with a 10-6 record. The previous season (2005), the Saints produced a 3-11 record and finished ranked dead last in the division.

The NFC South is also the only division in football that has had a team in the conference championship game every year since 2002.

No one knows for sure what type of team or record the Bucs will produce in 2007, but history certainly does appear to be on their side. That’s a start, but the Bucs will ultimately have to have a hand in keeping this trend alive by playing well on the football field this season.

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