Way too early NFC South predictions

Posted on May 2 2017 - 3:06pm by Michael Arkin

The Atlanta Falcons are the defending NFC champions and captured the NFC South crown that had been held by the Panthers for three seasons. The Falcons feature one of, if not the most, incredible rosters in all of football. The reigning MVP in Matt Ryan returns at the helm with the two-headed monster behind him in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. He also has a top ten offensive line protecting him, with Julio Jones and a bevy of complimentary receivers to play with. But the Falcons have added a little twist this upcoming season. Atlanta’s defense mauled offenses in the second half of last season. After another heavy-defensive draft, the Falcons have the fastest defense in the NFL with loads of young talent. However, a talented roster can only get a team so far. Super Bowl hangovers are real, and the rest of the teams in the NFC South have taken major steps in trying to dethrone the Falcons.

Two years ago, Carolina was the team that not only won the NFC South, but they also made it to the Super Bowl (losing to Denver). They have Cam Newton, and whether you hate or love the man, he is a damn good football player. The Panthers had a Super Bowl hangover and ended the season at 6-10, which nobody expected. Carolina added offensive weapons in the draft in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. They should help improve the Panthers offense this season, and many have high expectations for McCaffrey, as he was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. They have a very solid front seven on the defensive side of the ball, but their secondary is still awful. I see this team definitely improving because Newton will not have a year like he did in 2016, but I do not see them winning the NFC South.

New Orleans, where do I even start with this team? The Saints finished 7-9 last season, and in reality had no chance of winning the division, let alone making the playoffs. Drew Brees had yet again another 5,000 yard passing season, but without help, it is just another individual accolade that does not mean much to opposing teams. The Saints had a very odd draft.  Marshon Lattimore will be a difference-maker, and he should improve their secondary. With the 32nd pick in the draft, they selected Ryan Ramczyk, who actually is a great offensive lineman, but it is something the Saints did not need. Their defense is hot garbage, and they needed to address those issues with their first-round selections. They lost Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, but they signed one of the best running backs ever in Adrian Peterson. New Orleans has no shot at winning the division, but they will do everything in their power to spoil the Falcons season.

The team that has the best shot at dethroning the Falcons is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.The Bucs flew under the radar last season with a talented young defense. This offseason, they focused on finding James Winston help, and did an outstanding job of it. Signing Desean Jackson adds another dimension to their passing game. He is a game changing deep-threat that will take loads of pressure off Mike Evans. Evans is a monster and makes cornerbacks look silly when they try to man-up on him. That’s not enough? Add the fact that they just added OJ Howard, the best tight end in the draft and can be utilized in many ways. Howard might be the best tight-end prospect since Rob Gronkowski, and the Bucs were able to snag him with the 19th pick. If James Winston can continue to progress, the Bucs might have one of the best young offenses to go along with their talented defense. Head coach Dirk Koetter (ATLANTA PRODUCT) has himself a hell of a team, and the Bucs will definitely challenge the Falcons this season in winning the division crown.

The Falcons have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, but the history of the NFC South has shown how hard it is to repeat as division champions. The NFL Draft is behind us, and now we have a long wait until football. As of right now, I predict New Orleans will finish in last in the division, Carolina coming in third, and the Falcons will take the division by one game over Tampa Bay.

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