SI's Peter King thinks Matt Ryan will need a "Drew Brees-type" year for the Falcons to be great. (source: YardBarker)

NFL Predictions: Peter King Puts the Falcons on the 2010 Playoff Bubble

SI’s Peter King shared his NFL predictions yesterday and as always there were lots of surprises.

His top four are the Green Bay Packers at #1 followed by the San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens with the Indianapolis Colts at #4.

The first NFC South team is (predictably) the New Orleans Saints but (unpredictably) the second team is the Carolina Panthers. This will no doubt cause a ruckus among Falcons fans who are hoping for a playoff season and wouldn’t expect the Panthers to be a roadblock.

Hit the jump to see how the NFC South is predicted to shake out.

King doesn’t rule out the Falcons as NFC South champs, but he believes Drew Brees can carry the Saints when they need him the most.

5. New Orleans. The Saints face a daunting task: Only four times in the last 30 seasons has a team repeated as Super Bowl champ (San Francisco in 1990, Dallas in 1994, Denver in 1999 and New England in 2005). The Saints will surely score enough to win again. The question is whether defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can tread water in 2010, because I think that’s all he’s going to have to do. New Orleans doesn’t have to be in the top 10 in defense — the Bills allowed 15 fewer points last year, the 49ers 60 — but Williams, again, will have to find a way to get pressure with middling front-seven talent and make sure the Saints don’t have to score in the 30s every week to win.

I think Carolina will be better, and Atlanta might be, so this is not a mail-it-in division race for New Orleans. But when the Saints had to pick it up last year, they did, in a big way. Will complacency bite them? That’s something you can never tell at this point of the offseason, but they’re young at enough important positions to make another Super Bowl run.

King is very high on Carolina and he brings up some valid points. This is basically the same team that went 12-4 two years ago and he believes they are closer to that then the 8-8 team from 2010.

8. Carolina. Dangerous team. Very deceiving 8-8 record last year. While everyone tiptoed around it because everyone in the Carolinas loves Jake Delhomme, something awful happened to him in the last year and a half, and he just couldn’t play quarterback for this team anymore. Check out what Matt Moore did in his last three starts: three wins, 66-percent accuracy, seven touchdowns, zero picks, and the Panthers outscored three foes 90-26. (Asterisk on the third, New Orleans, because the Saints played the JV that day.) This will be John Fox’s last year with the Panthers — the owner, Jerry Richardson, doesn’t want to be in the business of laying off employees and paying a former coach $6 million a year in this economy — and I think he’ll say full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, forget next year, I’m doing everything I can to win right now. And he’ll win enough to make the Wild Card.

In the “On the Playoff Bubble” category is where we find the Atlanta Falcons.

16. Atlanta. The Falcons are healthier, and better. I just think there are two teams in the division better right now — unless Matt Ryan has a Drew Brees-type year. I don’t think he has one of those in him … yet. Not many quarterbacks do.

Finally, in the “Wait ‘Til Next Year” category is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

30. Tampa Bay. What I like about the Bucs: that the top five draft picks will get a chance to play right away, and a lot. What I don’t like about the Bucs: that the top five draft picks will get a chance to play right away, and a lot.

I know King doesn’t have the best track record for predicting how teams will finish (and he’s getting blasted via Twitter), but how many analysts can predict with any kind of accuracy how a team will do in May?

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt (at least until my predictions come out in September). Obviously I feel his ranking of the Falcons is low, but I like that. Flying under the radar is a good thing. Then the players can play the “no respect” card and the take on the “us against the world” mantra.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts on King’s predictions? Is he out of his mind or simply the calming force in a Falcons’ fanatics daydream? Let me know in the comments or start the conversation on Twitter. You can also check out a much more positive Falcons’ outlook.

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Carolina Panthers New Orleans Saints NFL Rankings Peter King Sports Illustrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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