New Orleans Saints
This is going to be a tough year for teams in the NFC South. Now, you not only have to go up against Drew Brees and the Saints, but also Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. But lets dive in. First we have the New Orleans Saints. The Saints won the division last year with a 13-3 record. The team was led by a strong defense and an offense who could score fast and often. The offense was led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Brees and Michael Thomas, a top-3 wide-receiver in the league. It seems like we hear commentators say “Brees over the middle, caught by Michael Thomas for a big gain” all game long. Let’s not forget they also have Alvin Kamara in the backfield, a running back who not only is great at rushing but a great pass catcher too. Kamara lead the team with 797 rushing yards and 533 receiving yards to go along with it. Both of those are slightly less than what he did in his 2018 campaign, but Kamara was dealing with injuries most of the year. In 2019, the super powered offense may not have been the biggest story on this Saints team, but the defense lead by Demario Davis, Cameron Jordan, and Marshon Lattimore was top-tier. These three levels of greatness on the defense wrecked havoc on opposing offenses. Teams could never get the ground game going against this defense, where they ranked top 5 against the run. Going into 2020, the Saints made a huge splash. Just when you think that the Saints offense could not get any better, they add Emmanuel Sanders. Now opposing defenses have to not only worry about Thomas, Jared Cook, and Kamara out of the backfield, but two-time Pro Bowler Emmanuel Sanders. So, basically this team is loaded on both sides of the ball. With Brees’s career coming to an end and all the talent around him, all eyes are on a Super Bowl title in the 2020 season. Key factors for them are Brees staying healthy, getting some help on the interior line, and some help in the secondary.
Record Prediction: 12-4
The Atlanta Flacons enter 2020 with jobs on the line. With a disappointing 2019 season going 7-9, head coach Dan Quinn is in the hot seat. Many thought Quinn would be out after last season, but with the Falcons winning their last four games, which included downing the 49ers, the front office decided to give him another shot. On offense, this team has weapons. They’re lead by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and standout wide-receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons did lose Austin Hooper, an outstanding young tight-end, replacing him with Hayden Hurst, a 26-year-old who spent the last two seasons in Baltimore. Hurst was in the shadows of Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, and Nick Boyle. The sky is the limit for Hurst, who will get his first real chance at being the main tight-end in an offense. The Falcons did not stop with Hurst. They also brought over Dante Fowler Jr. and Todd Gurley. Gurley was once one of the best running backs in the league, if not the best, but due to injuries his production has gone way down. After two Pro Bowl selections and a big pay day, Gurley just didn’t look the same last year. Maybe it was due to health or the Rams offensive line, but he gets a fresh start now to emulate the All-Pro that he is. We know one thing is certain: the Falcons offense can struggle, but that will not stop Julio Jones. In 2019, Julio, yet again, passed the 1000-yard receiving mark with 1349 yards. The man is a cornerbacks worst nightmare. He will be returning to the team for what will be his 10th season. Ryan will also be back under center in his 13th season. The Falcons have talent, but is it a little too late with this group to make another Super Bowl appearance? Key guys like Jones and Ryan are not getting any younger, so the Falcons need to be either all in or start rebuilding now. They have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley out wide, but one more playmaker to go along with the two might be what brings this offense together. Maybe they look at someone like Donovan Peoples-Jones, a wide receiver prospect out of Michigan who some compare to Roddy White (who also played for the Falcons). Or what if they brought in a veteran like Dez Bryant, who was once one of the best in the league and a veteran presence. I think they need one more weapon to solidify the offense, but the majority of the draft should be focused on defense. If the Falcons can get some help at the linebacker position and in the secondary, I think they could end up surprising people in 2020.
Record Prediction: 6-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are coming off a season with highs and lows. They ended the 2019 campaign with a 7-9 record. It has been some time since the Bucs were competing to win the division or make the playoffs. In fact, they have not made the playoffs since 2007. They’re going into 2020 with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, two Pro Bowlers with over 1000 receiving yards apiece. But this year will be different. Instead of Jameis Winston under center, they will have the six-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady commanding the offense. For years, the questions were can Jameis lead them to a playoff birth, how long do we keep him as our starter, do we just go into full rebuild mode? Now the answer is clear after signing Brady. Anything less than a Super Bowl appearance will be a disappointment for the organization and fans who have been waiting so long for this team to be relevant again. It will not come easy though. They have an extremely tough division to compete against. The number one question people are asking is does Brady have anything left in the tank at age 42? Compared to last year, Brady already has better weapons on offense with Evans, Godwin, Howard, and Ronald Jones II in the backfield. So the main question on offense will be the offensive line. We all know Brady is not the guy to roll out of the pocket and make athletic plays on the run. He strives when standing in the pocket and being able to get the ball out quick, unlike Jameis who could make athletic moves. In my opinion, it will take some time for chemistry to build between Brady and his Pro Bowl receivers. The main focus on the rest of the offseason and the draft will be beefing up the defense, making sure Brady is protected, and signing another running back. Fans should be excited for the upcoming season, because TB12 is coming to town and will be bringing that winning mentality to Tampa Bay!
Record Prediction: 11-5
The Panthers are going to be an interesting team this year, a team who has already made tons of changes on the offensive side of the ball. They added two of the top free agents in the market – Teddy Bridgewater and Robby Anderson. Bridgewater is coming over from New Orleans. Last season, Drew Brees injured his thumb and had to miss some games early on. Bridgewater stepped in and many fans were a little skeptical wondering if the season would be over without Brees. But Bridgewater came right in and led the team to victory in all five of his starts. After doing so, many front offices around the league took notice and were wanting him to come play for them after the 2019 season. The Panthers and Bridgewater have agreed to a three-year $63 million contract. The addition of Anderson adds to a young group of receivers that was already pretty good including D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. Anderson is a 6’3 receiver with elite speed and crafty route running skills. I think with a veteran guy like Bridgewater and a head coach in Matt Rhule (who knows him from his college days), Anderson has a good chance to finally have a breakout season. Let’s not forget about the man who makes this offense -Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro went for 1,378 rushing yards, 1,005 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns in 2019 – a season for the record books. McCaffrey has solidified himself as a top back in the league. He is a three-down back that makes a defender’s job hell. He has tremendous speed, strength, vision, and route running skills. If you stack the box and try taking him away as a runner, they will just spread the offense out and good luck having a linebacker try covering him downfield. The Panthers have a good, young nucleus on offense. The question is will the defense do their par, and will they find someone to fill the void of Luke Kuechly who retired at the end of the season. Looking at 2020, the Panthers have a new head coach in Matt Rhule and a defense that still needs developed. But on offense they have a lot of promise. The Panthers look to be trending in the right direction going into 2020, and also have the No. 7 pick in the draft to potentially get an elite player on defense!
Record Prediction: 7-9
We should buckle in for what looks to be a fun year in the NFC South. This division is loaded with veteran quarterbacks and young talent to surround them. With the addition of Tom Brady to the Buccaneers, the division’s popularity has grown. Even with the addition of Brady, I still believe the division is ran through the Saints. They have a high powered offense and a good defense. I believe they take the division over the Bucs, but it will be close. I think the Bucs will finally make a playoff appearance for the first time since 2007. As for the other two teams, they still have some unanswered questions. I think the Panthers will take a step forward in the right direction and have an improved record, but they are a couple years out from competing for a top spot in the division. As for the Falcons, I think after the 2020 season it will be evident that a rebuild is coming. So in the end the Saints win the division but both the Saints and Buccaneers go to the playoffs!