America’s most popular sport will begin its 95th season next Thursday and for the NFL, the pigskin is soaring through the sky and viewers are watching in record numbers.
Sports Illustrated asks “Where did all the gunslingers go?” The answer is simple: Most of them reside in the NFC, where eight Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks grace this week’s regional covers of Sports Illustrated.
On paper, the NFC South looks like a stroll through Bourbon Street for the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina Panthers have a hobbled quarterback and a bunch of untested receivers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a proven, but new head coach and a career back-up quarterback leading the team, and Atlanta Falcons are coming off a 4-12 campaign.
The Saints have the most dynamic signal caller (Drew Brees) and offensive weapon (tight end Jimmy Graham) in the division, but Matt Ryan's Falcons have retooled and expect to contend for the NFC South title this season.
Prepare for another 5,000-yard season from Brees and another reconfiguration of the defense from coordinator Rob Ryan. If both happen, New Orleans should be among the conference’s elite.
For more NFL preview coverage, check out the scouting reports for each of the 32 teams in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).