2022 NFC South preview

Story posted September 9, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Connor Fenix

The NFL is back, and fans were treated to a Thursday night matchup between the Bills and Rams to kick off the season.

Although this matchup could ultimately be a Super Bowl preview, there was a lot of movement in the offseason with key players flipping teams and landing in different divisions and conferences.

The NFC South is a division where a lot of these trades took place, and with fresh faces coming to an already menacing division, the competition is set to be exciting.

Here is the 2022 outlook of the NFC South:


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sure, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the division favorite with Tom Brady leading the offense, but injuries to the offensive line may hold this team back to start the season.

Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and star tackle Tristan Wirfs were injured during training camp, both of whom are key contributors to the Brady-led offense.

Wide receiver Chris Godwin is also questionable to return in Week 1. The former Nittany Lion is a weapon who caught 98 passes, collecting 1,103 yards and five touchdowns last season before tearing his ACL late in the year.

The Bucs will have to rely on wide receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette to carry the workload until this Super Bowl-caliber offense is healthy.

The Buccaneers also acquired Julio Jones in the offseason, hoping to have him fill the role Antonio Brown was supposed to play before he abandoned the team last year.

Jones has a lot of playing time left in his career, and his playmaking abilities will fit right in with the likes of Brady.

With Brady at the helm, the Buccaneers are contenders once again, but will have to get by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 to make a statement.


New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton is gone, however, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is not. Carmichael has been with the team since 2009 and clearly knows how to run this offense.

The Saints’ 2021 season went off the rails, but managing a 9-8 record despite a plethora of injuries is a bright side.

The Saints were 5-2 before Jameis Winston suffered a brutal ACL tear in Week 8 against the Buccaneers last season, but he is now set to return. If he remains healthy, the Saints are a threat to the division.

2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas is also set to return after missing the last two seasons. With rookie wide receiver Chris Olave under his wing, the two will serve as a strong duo in any defense.

Continuing with the receiving core, New Orleans managed to acquire wide receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Tyrann Mathieu during the offseason. Landry and Mathieu are returning to their Louisiana roots and bring their playmaking abilities to an already-stacked offense and defense.

Former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will lead the Saints in 2022 as head coach. With weapons like Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore, and Cam Jordan, to name a few, Allen has all the tools to earn his first division title as head coach.


Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons suffered a blow in the offseason when wide receiver Calvin Ridley got suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games.

Quarterback Matt Ryan departed to the Colts, so Marcus Mariota will now take over.

Despite Ridley’s absence, the Falcons will utilize Cordarrelle Patterson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts to kickstart this young offense.

The Falcons aren’t projected to win the division due to a new quarterback and subpar defense — the Falcons are in a rebuilding stage.

Arthur Smith enters his second season as head coach, and despite a 7-10 record in 2021, Smith will look to his returning players to prove the doubters wrong.

Having not won a division title since 2016, the Atlanta Falcons have the ninth-toughest schedule in the league in 2022, but the playoffs might not be too far-fetched for this young offense.


Carolina Panthers

The Baker Mayfield era has started in Carolina, and there is a lot of hype surrounding his Week 1 return to Cleveland to face his former team, the Browns. 

There is also a lot of hype to see how Mayfield will perform in his new threads in a new division alongside PJ Walker, who could be utilized in this offense as a swiss army knife.

If Christian McCaffrey stays healthy in 2022, the Panthers are a strong contender in the NFC South.

Mayfield brings a lot of charisma, and with wide receivers DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson, the Panthers offense could be a problem for opposing defenses.

Matt Rhule has a lot to work with going into his third season as head coach, but if the Panthers underperform, there is a lot of uncertainty as to if he’ll be back for another year.

The Panthers are also a young and hungry team, making them a threat to the division.

It could be a very close race between the Panthers, Buccaneers and Saints, but the NFC South is a key division to keep an eye on this season.


Connor Fenix is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email cjf5726@psu.edu.