Final Word: NFC South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 1:

Cam Newton doesn’t have to do it by himself. There are a couple of misconceptions out there about Newton and the Panthers. The first is that Newton, the first overall pick in the draft, needs to come in and be an instant savior. The second is that the Panthers, who went 2-14 last season, have no offensive talent. The reality is the Panthers have no plans of asking Newton to carry them because they don’t believe the cupboard is anywhere close to bare. The Panthers believe they have a good offensive line and two great running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Although this is a new offensive scheme, the running game still will be the backbone of this offense. The Panthers would like to have Newton throw somewhere around 22 times a game. He doesn’t have to be spectacular right off the bat. If Newton can make five or six big plays a game with his arm or his feet, the Panthers will be satisfied.

Gerald McCoy vs. Ndamukong Suh. They were the first two rookie defensive tackles taken in last year’s draft. Suh had a great rookie year for Detroit. McCoy did not do the same for Tampa Bay. They’ll be compared throughout their careers and McCoy needs to start closing that gap or risk forever coming up short of Suh and potentially being labeled a bust. McCoy was just starting to show some promise last year when he suffered a season-ending injury. That’s healed now and McCoy has spent the preseason talking like he’s ready for a big year and acting like he’s ready to be a leader on a very young defense. It’s time to stop the talking and go out and get it done on the field.

If you have LeGarrette Blount on your fantasy team, start him. We all know Blount’s a tough, physical runner and he may have a big edge in the matchup with Detroit. Last season, the Lions weren’t very good at stopping runs up the middle. They tied for the league lead by allowing 11 touchdown runs up the middle, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They allowed 953 rushing yards up the middle, which ranked 29th in the league. Opponents averaged 4.86 yards per rush on plays through the middle, which put the Lions 31st in the league. Despite all the talk about making Blount a more complete running back this season, this might be one game where it’s wise for Tampa Bay to simply let Blount do what he does best.

Julio Jones is going to help Roddy White. The Falcons drafted Jones because they wanted more explosiveness in their offense. Jones will bring some of that on his own, but that’s not completely what the Falcons mean when they talk about more explosiveness. In large part, the Falcons brought in Jones to help make other players more explosive, particularly White. He pretty much was Atlanta’s only downfield threat last season. White had 29 catches that went for 15 or more yards, while the rest of Atlanta’s receivers combined for 19. If Jones can provide even the semblance of a downfield threat it’s only going to open things up for White and make him that much more dangerous.

Atlanta’s pass rush will go after Jay Cutler. History has shown the Chicago quarterback is capable of making mistakes when he’s pressured. Atlanta has revamped its defense to provide more pressure. Last year, defensive end John Abraham was the only consistent threat. This year, the Falcons added defensive end Ray Edwards and they believe a healthy Peria Jerry will create more of a surge up the middle. But it’s becoming obvious Atlanta’s going to rely on more than the front four for pressure. With Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas at the outside linebacker spots, the Falcons are younger and faster. Look for Weatherspoon and Nicholas to be used as blitzers at times.