Atlanta Falcons, RISING: The Falcons have had a high-powered offense for some time, but this year, they've focused on their defense. As well as adding a lot of young talent on defense, the Falcons lured Tony Gonzalez back for one more year. The Falcons will be a popular pick on the NFC side again in 2013.
Carolina Panthers, FLAT: The Panthers have had a quiet offseason, and they're still banking on Cam Newton's ability to win games. They're not in terrible shape, but they could have done more to help out their head coach and quarterback in what will be a decisive season. The big problem the Panthers have is that they still don't have enough offensive weapons, and that will likely prevent them from rising out of the middle of the pack.
New Orleans Saints, RISING: With just five draft picks, the Saints haven't changed much from last season. The big difference is that they'll have Sean Payton back, and with that, they'll regain stability. That's the only reason I mark them as "rising." Even with a questionable draft, Sean Payton is all the Saints needed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, FALLING: A weak draft, questionable leadership and no hope means the Buccaneers will be camping out at the bottom of the NFC South this season. If, and only if, Josh Freeman can re-emerge as this teams leader, the Buccaneers could surprise a lot of people, including me.