This is the 2016 NFL Season Preview of the NFC South, which is one of the most evenly split divisions in the sport. The division has only been around for 14 years and during the first 12 years, each team in the division won and an equal amount of three times each. However, over the last three years, the Carolina Panthers have run the south. But without further ado, let’s get to the team by team analysis of the teams in the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons – If you know me or follow me on twitter, you would know that I’m not the biggest Matt Ryan fan. The QB for the Falcons has seemed to regress every year. He has one of the best WRs in the game in Julio Jones, and Devonte Freeman was one of the most exciting weapons in the league last year, but neither was able to made Ryan look any better.
The Falcons had finally cut bait on a long time WR Roddy White and replaced him with former Cincinnati Bengal Mohamad Sanu. The key to this team, as it is with most teams, will be their offensive and defensive lines. They signed Alex Mack to stabilize the center position, but they need more talent on the D-Line and in the secondary.
Last Year Record 8-8
Vegas Win Prediction 7
My Prediction 7-9
Carolina Panthers – You can’t mention the Panthers without 1st mentioning the league’s reigning MVP, superstar QB Cam Newton. Newton gets back his #1 WR from 2014, the 6’6 Kelvin Benjamin. Having another weapon, to go with a superb defense, make the Panthers the team to beat in the division and possibly in the conference.
The loss of Josh Normal will now show if it was the player or the scheme and he are now on the Washington Redskins and the Panthers are left without half their secondary from last year. With Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis at the LB spots, this defense is still expected to be as good as ever. If there were one weakness, I would point out their offensive line, as I would not trust Michael Oher and Mike Remmers as my two starting OTs
Last Year Record 15-1
Vegas Win Prediction 10.5
My Prediction 13-3
New Orleans Saints – Over the last two years, the Saints have tried to change their offensive philosophy dramatically. But as long as they have Drew Brees under center, their focus of opposing defenses will always be on the pass. Mark Ingram should have another good year and just needs to avoid injury. Brandin Cooks is poised for a breakout year, and rookie Michael Thomas is getting a long look from Head Coach Sean Payton.
Saints have never had a problem scoring points, but it’s always been their defense that was questioned. They signed Nick Fairley and drafted Sheldon Rankins to help with the interior pass rush, but Rankins is hurt and out for two months. Cameron Jordan has been doing a solid job at DE, but they need another guy who can get pressure on the outside. They also can use an upgrade at CB. As they stand right now, I look at them as an average team that will look good at times due to the arm of Brees.
Last Year Record 7-9
Vegas Win Prediction 6.5
My Prediction 7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – If there were a young team that I could see outdoing my predictions, it would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Led by their 2nd-year stud QB Jameis Winston, and 3rd year WR Mike Evans, the Bucs look like a team that will be exciting to watch and will put up a tough fight every week. With Doug Martin in the backfield and the veteran presence of Vincent Jackson, the offense has everything they need to be a dynamic, top 10 type of offense.
On defense, the Bucs also have a lot of good young talent. DT Gerald McCoy was already a standout, but this offseason, they added a pass rusher in Robert Ayers and then drafted two players in CB Vernon Hargreaves and DE Noah Spence that look like 2 of the best at their positions in the draft. Add those to the addition of CB Brent Grimes and their defensive leader, LB Lavonte David, and you have the type of team that looks like they could be trouble for teams in about a year.
Last Year Record 6-10
Vegas Win Prediction 6.5
My Prediction 6-10
Will Matt Ryan be able to turn around his steady regression of the past couple years? Will Cam Newton and the Panthers win their 4th straight division title? What will become of the New Orleans Saints? Will their defense start to catch up with their typically potent offense? Will the talent of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers show up a year early or will they just be laying the foundation towards a top tier team in 2017? All of these questions will be answered during the 2016 NFL Season.