The Talk of Fame Network’s eight-week preview of the upcoming NFL divisional races delves into whether the NFC South is the league’s most competitive division and which team will emerge in 2017 from a division which has had only one team repeat since the NFC South was formed in 2002.
As luck would have it, that team was the Carolina Panthers, and we visited with head coach Ron Rivera and Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen to talk not only about Carolina’s effort to bounce back from last year’s 6-10 disaster but what the defending NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons are now facing.
No one understands the difficulty of repeating after losing a Super Bowl better than Rivera, whose team went 15-1 in 2015 but crushed by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 and was unable to come back from that disappointment a year later.
“I think there is something to it,’’ Rivera said of a Super Bowl hangover. “Losing the Super Bowl is such a letdown.’’
The Falcons now must try to overcome that letdown while the Panthers need to adopt Rivera’s strongly held belief that “we can be whatever we want to be.’’ He believes they will if quarterback Cam Newton returns to his past form..
“I love the 2015 version,’’ Rivera said of Newton, who he believes was adversely affected by injuries on offense and weak offensive line play.
Can the Panthers clean that up and challenge Atlanta, New Orleans and the fast-rising Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the hotly competitive NFC South? Olsen doesn’t see why not.
“All of us would love to think our Super Bowl run was more the norm,’’ Olsen said. “We really came out of the gate slow last year. This is a pretty quarterback-driven division. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better division at the quarterback position than the NFC South.’’
Hall-of-Famer Willie Roaf also drops by to talk about his career, why leaving New Orleans for Kansas City was instrumental to his ending up in Canton and how he reacted to a phone call from future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Derrick Thomas the night before Roaf was to face him in 1994.
“He called me and said I wouldn’t make the Pro Bowl off him,’’ Roaf tells our TOFN listeners.
He shut out Thomas game.
Long-time Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel football writer Bob McGinn also appears on this week's show. McGinn last week retired after 26 years of covering the Green Bay Packers , and we get his thought on how the game has changed, how the profession has changed and which Packers' quarterback he considers the greatest ever.
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