NFL: NFC South Team Previews and Predictions
We are halfway through the previews of the NFC divisions. Today we move down to the dirty south. The Atlanta Falcons represented the division, and the entire conference in last year’s Superbowl, just like this division did the year before with the Carolina Panthers. To win this division, you have to be tough and you have to literally survive. Can the Falcons repeat? With that question in mind, let’s continue to the NFC South Divisional Predictions.
If Julio Jones is healthy, the Atlanta Falcons will be a hard team to stop on offense. Matt Ryan leads this team and they have weapons all over the field. Getting their line solidified last year was the best thing they could do. It not only helped the air game but also helped them on the ground with DeVonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. It’s hard to call out any 1 particular weakness. So, if they can get their defense near to a similar level, good luck.
Speaking of the defense, the Falcons have built their defense mostly on speed. Everyone on the defensive side of the ball is a good athlete and runs a good 40. With smart play calling we should be calling them the defending Superbowl Champions, but after blowing a 28-3 lead in the biggest game of all their lives, you have to wonder if it motivates them or sends them in a bit of a tailspin. Like the new Gatorade commercial says, the secret to success is defeat. The Falcons sure hope so.
Record Last Year 11-5
Vegas Win Line 9.5
My Prediction 10-6
The Panthers are led by former league MVP Cam Newton. This year, they decided to get him some weapons in RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel. The biggest issue for them will be the biggest issue that cost them last year, the same issue that finally broke down in the Superbowl, the offensive line. Teams will eventually learn that no matter how many good skilled position players you put on the field, it doesn’t matter if the QB has no time to get it to them.
Even though the defense took a step back last year, mostly due to their secondary, they still have a good line and a very good LB crew. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson lead the LB group while Charles Johnson, Mario Addison, Kawann Short, and Star Lotulelei make for one of the best defensive lines in football. James Bradberry looks like a breakout guy this year, but he can’t do it alone.
Record Last Year 6-10
Vegas Win Line 8.5
My Prediction 7-9
New Orleans Saints
Anytime you have Drew Brees on your roster, you have a legitimate chance to win every game. They did lose their #1 WR Brandin Cooks, but they feel last year 1st round pick, Michael Thomas, is ready to take the reins. People will make a big deal of them signing Adrian Peterson, but Mark Ingram is still the guy and I personally think Peterson is done. They also drafted Alvin Kamara, who is an explosive back who is a good pass catcher out the backfield. They lost their LT Terron Armstead for at least the 1st 6 games that will cause the offensive line to shuffle, which is never a good thing.
The Saints made it a point to upgrade the pass rush and the secondary. They made big upgrades to both parts of their defense in the draft. Marshon Lattimore was the best CB in the draft and Trey Hendrickson is a big-time pass rusher. They also added Alex Anzalone, another very athletic LB. They don’t have much depth, but that can be said about most teams in the league. One thing they will do this year is get to the ball and move guys around with all the athleticism they obtained.
Record Last Year 7-9
Vegas Win Line 8.5
My Prediction 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The team that is the NFC “wise guy” pick is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston looks on the verge of becoming a star. They signed DeSean Jackson to open the field up and take some attention away from their star WR Mike Evans. They also draft the #1 TE in college, OJ Howard. They don’t have a great line, but it’s passable. They really don’t have an excuse for not making the playoffs other than being in an ultra-tough division.
The player that I think is the key to their defense is CB Vernon Hargreaves. He had a tough year last year, but I think it made him tougher. Now that he’s been in the league for a bit, he can settle down and do what he did in college, which was make plays. I think he can be better than Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David will continue to destroy whoever comes in front o them. Both are all pro players.
Record Last Year 9-7
Vegas Win Line 8.5
My Prediction 9-7
In my opinion, the NFC South will be the toughest division in football. The 4th place team is a team that is 2 years removed from the Super Bowl and can still win the division this year. The Falcons look to have the advantage, but they will surely have no large advantages with their in-division games. This will be a division that the winner can say they are playoff ready. Now the hard part is actually getting to the playoffs, enjoy the games.