NFC South Season Preview
After a down year in the NFC South division, in which three teams finished under .500, all four teams look to turn things around and have strong seasons. Two teams acquired new quarterbacks, one was healed of all its injuries and the last kept their key pieces around in order to remain competitive. The NFC South has the potential to be one of the closest divisions in football this year, so let’s dive into each team.
After the infamous blown 28-3 lead to the Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl, the Falcons haven’t had much traction.
Despite retaining a lot of main pieces from their Super Bowl squad, their offense has never really found its footing since Kyle Shanahan left and the defense has struggled to stay healthy. However, the Falcons still have a talented team led by three-time NFL receiving leader Julio Jones, veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and former NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley.
If the Falcons can stay healthy, they have a real shot to break their back to back seasons of 7-9 and make a playoff push.
After a tough 5-11 season, the Panthers have made some big changes to their organization and moved on to new faces.
Former Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly decided to walk away from the game, the team opted to fire head coach Ron Rivera and release former MVP quarterback Cam Newton. However, the Panthers didn’t fall too far behind and signed Teddy Bridgewater to play under center and hired former Baylor head coach, Matt Rhule to call the shots.
The Panthers' offense already contains MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey, in addition to other weapons such as D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel and has the potential to be lethal. Carolina also has a very young and eager defense which may make a couple of mistakes but will play hard and fast. Keep an eye out for the Panthers to be a sleeper team to sneak into the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have been consistently on top of the division for the past couple of years, however they haven’t been able to make the final push to the Super Bowl just yet.
In what is expected to franchise quarterback Drew Brees’ last season, the Saints have provided him with the weapons he needs to succeed. The Saints will retain 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas and superstar running back Alvin Kamara, alongside veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders who they added via trade. The Saints’ defense is recognized as one of the best in the league and New Orleans should be considered a serious Super Bowl contender.
The pressure will be on head coach Sean Payton to keep utility man Taysom Hill involved and make sure he is ready to take the reins under center when and if Drew Brees becomes unable. Nonetheless, barring any massive injuries, the Saints should be right atop the division once again and on the path to a final Super Bowl for Drew Brees.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers might have more hype surrounding them than any other team in the NFL.
They did the unthinkable when they signed long Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady from the New England Patriots. Then, when all thought they were finished, they shocked the sports world again when they convinced Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement to reunite with his former quarterback. The signings didn’t stop there. Tampa Bay proceeded to add big-name running backs LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette to their offensive mix alongside star receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
There's an assortment of opinions surrounding this team as it will be Brady’s first action away from Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The hype is certainly there, but the question is, will Tampa Bay live up to it? Fans can only watch to find out, but don’t expect Brady and the Buccaneers to miss out on the playoff action this season.
Charlie Knezevic is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.