Talk about a stacked division in the south this season. The NFC South will possess offensive firepower from each team that will be similar to the best seasons of the Big 12 Conference in college football. However, similar to the issues of the Big 12 defensively, only one team will come into 2020 with a reliable defense.
Who will walk out with the division title? You might want to ask two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, who will go at it twice this season.
1. New Orleans Saints (2019 record: 13-3)
A berth in the playoffs almost seems like a prison sentence for the Saints. Look at the last three postseason appearances for New Orleans, the “Minneapolis Miracle”, the worst missed call in NFL history, and a shocking upset at home against the same team from the “Minneapolis Miracle”.
However, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees knows he is on borrowed time at 41-years old, and this season may be his final chance to win a Super Bowl.
He will once again have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Michael Thomas, and will also have a chance to throw to newcomer Emmanuel Sanders, who was just in a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers.
Running back Alvin Kamara just inked an extension to remain with the Saints for the foreseeable future, and Brees will be backed up by the master of disguise in Taysom Hill and the 2019 leader in passing yards, Jameis Winston.
New Orleans brings the only reliable defense to the NFC South, and they get defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who returns from injury, and they bring back defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, who was a member of the 2009 Super Bowl-winning team.
As long as they continue to be the high-powered offense they have shown for years, the Saints should take care of business in the south.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019 record: 7-9)
No longer will the days of Jameis Winston continue to haunt Tampa fans. Instead, they get the future Hall of Famer and, arguably, the greatest quarterback of all-time, Tom Brady. Mission “Tompa Brady” is in full-go for 2020 and Brady gets his all-time favorite weapon back in the returning Rob Gronkowski.
Brady will also have a top receiver in Mike Evans, and the speedy deep-ball threat in Chris Godwin.
Questions will arise in the backfield as the team has four running backs who could all find time on the field in Ronald Jones II, LeSean McCoy, newly-signed Leonard Fournette and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
However, opposing offenses may be having a field day with a very weak secondary. Tampa sought help in the draft, and could find it in rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. However, this is only one man, and the Carlton Davis-Sean Murphy-Bunting duo must prove to, at the very least, be competent this season.
The Bucs will still bring a scary front seven in Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul and the 2019 leader in sacks, Shaquil Barrett.
If they can neutralize pass offenses just slightly, Brady will be in contention for a seventh ring.
3. Carolina Panthers (2019 record: 5-11)
Christian McCaffery, the best running back in the NFL, gets a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater and offensive geniuses in former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule and former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who is coming off a national championship.
The Panthers offense will be must-watch, but it will be interesting to see if Carolina becomes the NFL embodiment of a Big 12 team.
Is Rhule willing to let the defense give up points as long as they can score in potential shootouts?
This will be key to watch from Carolina as they don’t bring much to the forefront from the secondary. Instead, they went d-line heavy in the draft, selecting defensive tackle Derrick Brown and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos.
This team will give up points, but I will go out on a limb and predict Bridgewater to be a surprise MVP candidate and be the feel-good story of the year, leading Carolina to a wild-card spot.
4. Atlanta Falcons (2019 record: 7-9)
Now, I don’t know how to feel about the Falcons. Don’t quote me on them finishing last in this division, but I just don’t see them beating any of the three teams previously mentioned.
This is not a bad team by any stretch of the mind.
Matt Ryan is a perennial MVP contender and has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for years. He has Julio Jones, a future Hall of Fame wide receiver, and they have the potential to be unstoppable on offense with the newly-acquired Todd Gurley. Keep your eye on Hayden Hurst as well.
Defensively, the secondary cannot afford the annual season-ending injury. Right now, I have high hopes for a currently healthy core that consists of Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen and rookie A.J. Terrell. In the front seven, they also signed Dante Fowler Jr.
There’s not much to hate about this team. It will come down to the health of the secondary and whether or not the three-headed offensive monster can live up to the hype and outscore the rest of the division.