I love our high octane offense. Sometimes its hard to believe that I am actually watching the Carolina Panthers when I see Cam airing it out all over the field. Who knew that a 6-10 season could not only be so exciting, but could actually give us so much hope as well. Now we can actually once again have playoff aspirations. That previous taste of reaching the Super Bowl still ever-so faintly resides in the backs of our mouths. Now we can be optomistic that maybe, just maybe, we could experience that taste again in the next few years.
The biggest roadblock to getting there? Our very own division. The NFC South has consistently been one of the toughest divisions in football. To get to the promised land, we are going to have to go through them, and take control of the division in the process. In a few short months we have shown that our offense can score with our top NFC South rivals. However in order for us to have a consistent shot at victory against them, some match-up issues need to be addressed.
NFC South Division Rivals
Our current counter-plan consists of:
Let that sink in...
Though we can be hopeful, Brandon Hogan is still an unknown commodity since we have not seen enough of him to add into this exercise. It has been repeatedly stated that we know what we know we have in Butler and Munnerlyn, guys best built for the nickle. Thomas Davis is likely in need of a medical miracle to realisticly play another full season. Our safety play this year has been up and down to say the least. Its been downright frightening what other teams tight ends have done to us all season. One year of our above counter-plan to the Saints and Falcons receiving corp has resulted in an 0-4 record, which equates to 40% of our losses this year. If we want to be serious about making the playoffs, it is imperative that we play solidly against our division. Our four games against the Falcons and Saints each year will account for 25% of our schedule.
I am aware that recent teams who openly geared their personnel to compete with division opponents have achieved only mixed overall success (i.e.- Jets beating the Pats but not getting to the Super Bowl, Texans drafting Mario Williams and defense to compete with Manning). However, the NFL is starting to become even more of a passing league throughout. To actually win a Super Bowl, we would likely have to go through several other teams outside the division who have prolific offenses as well. The Packers, Lions, Eagles, Patriots, Steelers, and Chargers come to mind. Shoring up the secondary will give us a greater opportunity to compete with and win against these top NFL foes.
Think about this: We were only one defensive play by our secondary away from being able to split both our series this year with the Falcons and the Saints. Revisionist history is dangerous, but spliting these divisional games would have brought us up to 8-8. The Lions made the playoffs this year by going 10-6. If you wish to continue down our little road of hindsight, we can easily come up with 2 more wins out of games with the Cardinals, Packers, Bears, Lions, or Vikings to get us up to 10 wins. Heck, better special teams play alone would likely have allowed us to win 3 of these.
Our offense will be just that much better next year from experience. The DTs that we found by the end of the season could at least slow down the run. I would like to think that next year we can have a kicker who can actually make clutch average-distance field goals, and special teams units that do not giveaway touchdowns like candy. As the above areas of of the team continue to improve, I believe the case can be made that adding one new corner could put us on the road to making the playoffs next year. So the question exists for the team: Do we improve our offense and just outscore the other teams, or do we go defense to provide some balance? I say that by adding defensive personnel this year we have a good chance to make the playoffs. By improving our offense the following year, we have the chance to be dominate.