By Vincent Pensabene
The NFC South is a strong division with three good teams battling it out for the division crown. Atlanta is ready to take advantage of a young opposing player under center. New Orleans has two starting quarterbacks now and coming off a playoff run. The Carolina Panthers have upgraded their receiving core and look to take the next step with a former MVP. The Buccaneers have question marks at the quarterback position after a shaky offseason.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
I am a fan of storylines. Super Bowl 53 is in Atlanta this year and I think the added motivation puts them in front of the Saints for the division. The team just re-upped Julio Jones so a happy star receiver with Matt Ryan is a very good thing for Atlanta. They potentially will play a couple of rookie quarterbacks with Cleveland, Arizona, and Baltimore all drafting first round quarterbacks in the draft. This team can control the tempo of games and Matty Ice should be able to win this division.
New Orleans Saints (9-7)
This team is something special offensively with Alvin Kamara and of course Drew Brees. I like their offensive line as well, but not in love with them. Their wide receiving core doesn’t jump off the page either but expect Brees to still have ridiculous numbers once the season ends. I’m also not huge on their linebacker group either as they need to be strong in a 4-3 defense. They have a difficult schedule but I expect a veteran quarterback and good head coach combo to be able to navigate through it and come out with a winning season, even if they are outside looking in come playoff time.
Carolina Panthers (8-8)
I think Cam Newton winning a MVP so early in his career could have been bad for him. This season, his receiving core doesn’t seem great with Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith being starters. I do like the running threat of Newton, Christian McCaffrey, and C.J. Anderson as well. The Panthers have to play the NFC East and also travel to Pittsburgh. That’s not counting the four games they play against Atlanta and New Orleans, the team will struggle, but nothing significant.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)
This is the lowest win total I have for any team in the league. I do like the addition of Jason Pierre-Paul to bolster their defensive line. The three-game suspension of Jameis Winston is going to be a major factor as Ryan Fitzpatrick or Ryan Griffin will be starting those three games. Fitzpatrick has come back to earth since that season with the Jets. The Bucs will need OJ Howard and Mike Evans to carry a lot of the offense this season and opposing teams will be able to throw all over this team with a weak secondary. The best they can do is develop some young players and play spoiler for playoff-contending teams throughout the season.