The season is drawing near, so naturally it is time to look ahead to the playoffs. No? This eight-part series takes a look at each division and discusses the outlook for every team in the NFL — in both the regular season and playoffs.

Todd Kirkland | Icon SMI

TEAM: Saints

RECORD: 13-3 ; Win the Division

REASON: Drew Brees is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and plays with a bounty of offensive weapons. The Saints also have a very good defense, though it is unlikely that they will generate as many turnovers this year.  Absent the huge turnover ratio from 2009, they will be unlikely to achieve the same success.  They should still boast a good record and win their division.

TEAM: Falcons

RECORD: 12-4 ; Win the Wild Card

REASON: The Falcons are a solid football team. The offensive potential of players like Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, and Matt Ryan should help them win a lot of games this season. The Falcons also have strong offensive and defensive lines, which will be key in helping them push their way back to the playoffs.  Defensively, they have a very strong linebacker corps. The Falcons’ best linebacker is Curtis Lofton, a versatile three-down players who captains the defense, is respected in the locker room, and stays out of trouble off the field. This year, the Falcons are depending on defensive end Kroy Biermann to have a break out year.

TEAM: Panthers

RECORD: 6-10 ; No Playoffs

REASON: The Panthers have not had a losing record since John Fox was hired as the head coach. This year, they are in a division with the Saints and Falcons, and have a difficult non-division schedule. The Panthers have a competent quarterback, good running backs, and pretty good lines — but they also have young receivers and a shaky secondary that needs to get better. The question-marks for this team are colliding with a schedule that makes it unlikely for their streak of winning seasons to continue.

TEAM: Buccaneers

RECORD: 2-14 ; No playoffs

REASON: Quarterback Josh Freeman shows a lot of potential and will step up this year as the clear starter in Tampa Bay — with a promising future. The Bucs running game has potential but the offensive line needs work and could hinder the ground game, especially early on. Buccaneers ownership cut all veterans over the last two years to start over, and that is exactly where Tampa Bay is at this point. They should be able to pull out a couple of wins this season as Freeman builds a rapport with rookie receiver Mike Williams, and veterans Maurice Stovall and Reggie Brown.