NFC South Preview & Predictions

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It’s officially football season, and The NFC South is shaping up to be one of the best divisions in the league per usual. With Bruce Arians taking over in Tampa Bay, Cam Newton returning for Carolina, New Orleans looking like a Super Bowl contender, and the Falcons finally getting healthy, the South could potentially produce 3 playoff teams. Let’s take a look and break down each squads strengths and weaknesses.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Strengths: Bruce Arians, OJ Howard, Mike Evans

Weaknesses: Defense, Jameis Winston, Running Back

X-Factor: Ronald Jones II

Jake Gordon’s prediction: 5-11

I think Tampa will be improved, I really do. I also think Jameis Winston is still Jameis Winston; Arians can’t fix him. He’ll be the same guy he’s always been, big arm, big moments, lots and lots of turnovers. Tampa parts ways with Winston and looks to pick a Quarterback with a top 10 selection in the 2020 draft. If Ronald Jones can be the back the Bucs thought he would be out of USC, they get a lot more dangerous. He only averaged a putrid 1.9 YPC in 2019.

Chase Irle’s prediction: 8-8

I swear the Bucs have been doing this whole rebuilding thing for a decade. Something has to give, right? I believe that something is Bruce Arians. This offense has so much potential if Jameis Winston can stop turning the ball over, and there are few better at communicating with quarterbacks than Arians. If this team doesn’t take a step forward, Winston will be looking for a job come spring. Tampa’s defense was miserable last year, but I like some of the pieces they added. They should be improved on both sides of the ball. With a little luck, they stumble into the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers

Strengths: Christian McCaffrey, Offensive Versatility, Luke Kuechly

Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Pass Rush, Secondary

X-Factor: Cam Newton

Jake Gordon’s prediction: 7-9

The Panthers will go as Cam Newton goes. If he’s healthy & effective, they’re a playoff team. If he’s inconsistent or unavailable, they’re picking in the top 10. I think they fall somewhere in between. CMC is a monster, and Luke Kuechly is a top 3 linebacker in the sport. However, their offensive line is suspect, the pass rush is almost nonexistent, and their secondary is young. Ron Rivera might be coaching for his job.

Chase Irle’s prediction: 6-10

I’ve never been a Cam Newton fan, and the injuries are undoubtedly catching up to him. Even if he can stay healthy, I don’t see this team making the playoffs. I don’t love any of their weapons on the outside except D.J. Moore, and we don’t even know if he can blossom into a #1 receiver. The offensive line isn’t good either, and this defense isn’t what it once was. A lot of things are going to have to go their direction if they want to make the postseason.

New Orleans Saints

Strengths: Offensive Skill Players, Drew Brees, Cam Jordan

Weaknesses: Linebacker depth, Wide Receiver, New Pass Interference Rule

X-Factor: Jared Cook

Jake Gordon’s predictions: 10-6

The Saints have a strong squad coming into 2019-2020, but I think they take a step back. Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the new pass interference rule they begged and cried for will work against Marshon Lattimore. He can’t drape all over Julio Jones anymore. Their receiver core outside of the massively overpaid Michael Thomas is very thin, but if Jared Cook can repeat his performance of 2018-2019, it will add another layer to the offense that they haven’t had since Jimmy Graham. It will be interesting to see how Alvin Kamara works without Mark Ingram; he should still be a big-time factor.

Chase Irle’s prediction: 9-7

Call me a homer, but I see this Saints team taking a step back as the Drew Brees era comes to a close. We saw Brees and this New Orleans team get significantly less dominant as the season waned, and it ended in another brutal defeat – this time at home to the Rams when they held a double-digit lead. Those kind of losses are hell to come back from – just ask the Falcons – and I don’t think they will do it again. As a bonus prediction, I think Brees retires at the end of the season.

Atlanta Falcons

Strengths: Offensive Skill Players, Deion Jones, Matt Ryan

Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondary, Pass Rush

X-Factor: Vic Beasley Jr.

Jake Gordon’s prediction: 11-5

When healthy, there isn’t a better offense in the NFC. Vic Beasley is going to have to be the guy he was in 2016 to justify his $13 million deal. Even though Vic is listed as the X-Factor, this could easily go to Chris Lindstrom. He was drafted to contribute day 1. Kicking was on this list, but thankfully Atlanta wisely brought back Money Matt Bryant. The secondary is raw, but if Isaiah Oliver can live up to his potential, this will be a good group who will find more success if the Falcons pass rush can get to the quarterback.

Chase Irle’s prediction: 10-6

With the Falcons, it’s all about health to me. Atlanta has the talent to be the best team in the league, but they still lack in the depth department, especially defensively and on their offensive line. One injury at the wrong position and this could look a lot like 2018 again. However, I like the way both sides of the ball are looking to begin the season. I think the offensive line may take a few weeks to gel, which is the reason for six losses, but by midseason, this offense should be humming.

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