Over the next few weeks, each division in the NFL and teams in the division will be assessed.
The NFC South is one of the most competitive divisions. Without wasting time, let’s assess:
Best Offense: New Orleans Saints
This race isn’t even close, as the Saints run away with this trophy. Posing a threat in the backfield and passing game, the Saints offensive game turns into more of a “pick your poison” type. With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram headlining the backfield, it will be very tough for front sevens to contain this backfield. As long as the Saints have Drew Brees to lead the offense, the Saints’ offense will forever be dynamic. Michael Thomas and Cameron Meredith, just signed in the offseason, as well as the deep threat play of Ted Ginn, could provide problems in the secondary. Expect the Saints offense to dominate as usual.
Best Defense: Atlanta Falcons
Although the Saints’ revamped young defense made major improvements last year and can make a case for this award, the Falcons get this award after the underrated task they carried out last year. Despite having a mediocre offense, the Falcons rode their defense to win some of their games, which could help win crucial divisional matchups as the season goes on. Welcoming back Desmond Trufant from injury, the Falcons can now become scarier on the defensive side as well. They also have many underrated players at their positions too in Ricardo Allen, Deion Jones, Vic Beasley, and many more. Also, Dan Quinn is a very good defensive-minded coach, who previously led the Seahawks’ defense in 2013 to the Super Bowl. Expect the Falcons defense to be the best in the division.
Question Mark: Bucs Odd Team Out?
Three of the teams have a very good chance to make the playoffs this year. However, the fourth is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have a very slight chance in making the playoffs. Provided that injury luck bounces their way, they may have a chance, but that too is a constant variable. With their QB Jameis Winston suspended for the first 3 weeks of the season, it will be even harder now for the team to improve from their previous stature, let alone make the playoffs. The Bucs will look to play the “spoiler” team heading into the season.
Breakout Player: Christian McCaffery
Christian McCaffery is the clear breakout-caliber player in the division. With new OC Norv Turner in the house, McCaffery is expected to have a lot of touches each game, according to both Ron Rivera and Turner. Newton is already meshing well with him and can be threatening for defenses next year. McCaffery showed very good promise last year, as he had 1000+ scrimmage yards last year on 190+ touches. He will look to improve off that and become Cam Newton’s best weapon next year.
Hot Seat: Dirk Koetter
Despite the Bucs retaining Dirk Koetter for another year to provide stability among the organization, he poses the hottest seat in the division if the Bucs regress even more from last year. Koetter had high expectations for the team and ultimately regressed to a 5-11 record. Although they will most likely improve, given that Winston and some of the defense was injured during most of the season, that still may not be enough to make the playoffs. Not to mention, Winston is suspended for the first three weeks of the season, making it even harder for Koetter to help lead this team. Expect Koetter to be fired if the Bucs don’t turn it around.
Predictions: Saints 13-3, Falcons 10-6, Panthers 9-7, Buccaneers 7-9
Despite improvements made by both the Falcons and Panthers in the division, the Saints will once again retain the division for the second straight season. The Panthers and Falcons will both make the playoffs again, despite not really improving as much from last year. It will be even tougher for them to squeak in, due to the fact that Aaron Rodgers is back healthy for the Packers, which will become problematic for defenses. While the Buccaneers will improve from last year, they will still be in the mediocre category for another year.