NFC South Preview
The NFC South was an exciting division last season, to say the least. Two teams made the playoffs in the New Orleans Saints and the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On the other hand, the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons had disappointing years with 5-11 and 4-12 records, respectively. This division is usually one of the most competitive in the NFL, and it's possible each team could find its way into the postseason. Let's take a look at how each team stacks up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coming off a blowout Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers are set to pick up right where they left off. All 22 starters are back for this season, and it's difficult to see Tampa Bay as a non-Super Bowl contender.
Quarterback Tom Brady believes the team can be even better than last year, and all signs point to this being true. If you include the playoffs, Tampa Bay is on an eight-game winning streak that began after their Week 13 bye.
Overall, the Bucs have essentially the same team that won it all last year, and as of now, they're the team to beat in both the NFC South and the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
The defending division champs have some big shoes to fill after Drew Brees, the best quarterback in franchise history, called it a career. After a fourth straight year of playoff heartbreak, former first-overall pick presumed bust quarterback Jameis Winston can take this team to the promised land.
Winston won the quarterback battle against Taysom Hill with an impressive preseason performance. He went 16 for 22 with 219 yards, three scores and just one pick.
New Orleans may lose its top receiver in Michael Thomas as he has grievances with the Saints that might not be resolved. However, one player does not make an entire team.
Wide receiver Marquez Callaway looked terrific in the preseason and could be poised to take over the number one receiver spot. Running back Alvin Kamara, who is this team's "ole reliable," is ready for another one of his mega-productive seasons.
Life for Falcons fans just hasn't been very enjoyable since that 28-3 blown lead in Super Bowl LI. Atlanta is coming off of its third straight losing season and seems headed for another.
First-year head coach Arthur Smith has his work cut out for him. The Falcons no longer have star-wideout Julio Jones, who was shipped to Tennessee in the offseason.
However, Calvin Ridley is ready to take on the top receiver role this year. Last season he totaled almost 1400 yards and hauled in nine touchdown receptions. Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts also looks to contribute in a big way after being the highest drafted at his position all-time.
The real achilles heel of this team is the defense. They allowed seven yards per pass play in 2020. Only the Jaguars and Lions allowed more. The losses of linebacker Keanu Neal and safety Ricardo Allen will be detrimental to this already depleted defense.
Carolina is a team with a very high ceiling, but also a low floor, and it all rides on the back of newly-acquired quarterback Sam Darnold.
Darnold may have been in the worst-ever situation for a quarterback in the history of the NFL. In three years with the Jets, he compiled a 13-25 record and TD/Int ratio of 45/39. Not great.
This season, he has a solid receiving corps with standouts Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. He'll be better this year, but not by much.
Matt Rhule is a great head coach and can do wonders for this team in a few short years. The Panthers’ time to contend isn't now, but the future looks bright. Building their defense is the first step in that direction, and first-round cornerback Jaycee Horn is a big key to doing just that.
JC Colavita is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.