NFC South Preview: It's all about Cam but can the Saints or Falcons spring a surprise?

Carolina came close last year, but will need to do it all over again to exorcise the demons of the Super Bowl

With the NFL pre-season well underway and the real action about to begin, we break down each division in the NFL to highlight what to what to watch out for, who to avoid in your Fantasy Football draft, and make one bold prediction which will surely come back to bite us.

NFC South in five words:

Cam must do it again.

Team under the most pressure:

It would be easy to pick the Carolina Panthers, based on the attention Cam Newton gets for all the right and wrong reasons, but they should win this at a canter. The only real pressure they will likely feel is late in the year and deep into the playoffs. 

The team under the most pressure in the NFC South are the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan has been consistently good, but unless they compete heavily for this division,they might be looking at an entire revamp of their coaching staff and personnel.

It appeared as though they would do just that last year after a 5-0 start, which turned into a 6-1 start, only to peter out to an 8-8 finish. If Dan Quinn can not arrest the decline that resulted in their 2-7 record in the second half of the season that saw them lose out on the playoffs, you might see a new head coach moving into their new stadium. 

Storyline to keep an eye on:

How Cam Newton and the Panthers respond to the Super Bowl loss. - they have lost Josh Norman and have revamped their secondary, which was one of their biggest strengths last season.

They also need more production from last year's first round pick Devin Dunchess and Kelvin Benjamin, who returns after missing last year, in order to open up the field and take the pressure off Newton's running game.

Bold prediction:

With Rob Ryan out of the picture, the Saints use the pre-season to get a semi-working defence and push for the division. This is wishful thinking for Saints fans but their offense has never been an issue and can compete with any team in the NFL, let alone the NFC South when they get on the field. 

If their defence could show even a semblence of competency, they could remain competitive in games and give Brees and co. a chance to win late in the game. Rob Ryan is working his "magic" up n Buffalo along side his brother and Payton is currently sitting at the bar, ordering a beverage at the last chance salon. No more excuses, no more scapegoats and no more terrible defence? Unlikely but possible.

Best rookie in the division:

Michael Thomas has apparently adjusted well to the NFL and the Saints pass-play offense. He will most likely start the season behind Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman on the depth chart, but could get some joy working from the slot. Given the number of three and four wide receiver sets the Saints use, being that far down the pecking order means little.

Image: Winslow Townson / AP/Press Association Images

Marques Colston is gone and Payton is looking for another big-bodied receiver to take his place - step up, Mr. Michael Thomas.

Fantasy do's and don'ts:

Do draft Drew Brees - Brees gonna Brees.

Don't draft Saints wide receivers - wait until the first or second week and pick up the one with the hot hand on waivers if they're available.

Do pick Kelvin Benjamin or Devin Funchess - It was poised to be an exciting year for Panthers' receiving corps last term, but Benjamin went down and Funchess was a rookie with too much expectation. Both are back and healthy, and Cam is more consistent with his deep ball than ever.

Don't draft Doug Martin - He should be available in the second round but he was too inconsistent for his second year in the league with injuries and poor form. Don't expect as good a year this year, and look elsewhere for better value.

You can read the rest of our other divisional previews below: 

AFC North

AFC South

AFC East

AFC West

NFC North

NFC East

NFC West