Many NFL fans will keep an eye out for the NFC South with the addition of not only Tom Brady but Rob Gronkowski to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One fan base who will keep a close eye on Tampa Bay is New Orleans Saints fans as they now have a serious threat to win the division. With the additions, the Buccaneers acquired this off-season some bump them up to front-runners to win the division and even Superbowl contenders.
You can never count out the other old-head quarterback that’s in the division as Drew Brees will once again enter the season determined to win another Superbowl to squeeze himself in a possible GOAT QB talk. The Panthers will have Teddy Bridgewater starting at quarterback who in 2019 held down the fort for the Saints while Brees was out with an injury going a perfect 5-0 as a starter. The Falcons still have Julio Jones and hope quarterback Matt Ryan can recreate his 2016 MVP season just without the blown 28-3 lead. With that being said here are a preview of each team and a prediction on who will win the division.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints will come marching into the season once again looking to prove they aren’t only good in the regular season and don’t disappear when the playoffs come. You can make the case they were cheated out of a win in 2018 and maybe last season after what could have been a push-off that resulted in a Vikings touchdown. New Orleans didn’t really have any departures with their free agents except for QB Teddy Bridgewater who took a contract he knew he would get in Carolina after performing at a high level as a backup. Besides that, it was mainly additions for the Saints as they will do the season over with almost the same roster they had in 2019. The Saints finally got Michael Thomas some help and Drew Brees a well-balanced receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. New Orleans went out and picked up the 10-year veteran on a 2-year $16 million contract who last season had 66 receptions for 869 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Saints also had a homecoming for safety Malcolm Jenkins after he signed a 4-year $32 million contract as he played with them for five seasons (2009-13). Jenkins brings a veteran presence to the team where he will not only be a captain but a starter for the secondary. Another big name the team added was quarterback Jameis Winston on a $1.1 million contract and will most likely become the backup quarterback for Brees. Winston now enters the same role as Bridgewater had in 2019 where he can use the one year to prove he can start and play with hopes of getting a big contract during the 2021 free agency. The Saints took center/guard Cesar Ruiz in the first-round who was the best center available in the draft but they could have used the pick to get a linebacker like Patrick Queen. Michael Thomas will look to lead the NFL in receptions once again and continue to dominate while he has Brees throwing it to him who will hope to stay healthy. The Saints have the ninth easiest schedule based on the opponent’s 2019 record and will look to take full advantage of it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had one of the best off-seasons in recent history and one any team only could wish for as they got Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski who was just as big a surprise as Brady leaving the Patriots. Tampa Bay now has the potential to become one of the best offenses in the league but as of now, they are one of the best on paper. A concern for the Buccaneers was their offensive line as it wasn’t the best last season and how much they would need to improve as they would now be protecting Brady who will be turning 43 in August. The Buccaneers went out and took one of the best linemen in the draft by selecting offensive Tristian Wirfs who had one of the best combine performances by a lineman. The Buccaneers took safety Antoine Winfield Jr in the first round who will add great talent to their secondary and his father even played with Brady in New England.
Despite having hype built up around the Buccaneers offense and their potential to do great things can they honestly do that with Brady on as the QB? Of course, Brady is a great quarterback but as of last year, he was straight trash as he had one of the worst years in his 20-year career. You can make the case Brady had a bad receiving core but realistically he isn’t getting any younger resulting in his begging to go downhill plus last season he had one of the best defenses in the league to carry the team. It will be interesting to see Gronk play after taking a year off of football to go to the WWE and win the 24/7 championship and is currently still the champion so look for a WWE brawl during a game or touchdown celebration. Brady could possibly have a rebound year where he balls out and proves he just simply didn’t have a receiving core last year as he now has a top-five receiving duo in Mike Evans and Marquise Goodwin along with a potential top-five tight end duo in Gronk and O.J Howard.
The Panthers start their new chapter in the franchise with the departure of Cam Newton and the addition of Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater got the payday he anticipated as he had an impressive run in New Orleans as the starter going 5-0 along with 1,384 yards and 9 touchdowns. Carolina now hopes Bridgewater can bring them back to the playoffs and possibly the Superbowl after their one-hit-wonder year in 2015. Of course, the Panthers couldn’t do it all with just Bridgewater so they went out and got him some targets to throw to as they picked up wideouts Seth Roberts and Ryan Anderson. Anderson was the big name as he was one of the best wideout free agents in free agency and took a while to get a contract as he was looking to get paid a high level. Anderson landed himself a 2-year $20 million deal with the Panthers, a steal for Carolina as it was reported Anderson was looking for a deal that would give him an annual salary of $14-$17 million.
Roberts is a nice pickup a slot receiver who can be relied on as he has had some solid years playing for Baltimore and Oakland and on a 1-year $3.75 million it doesn’t get better than that. The Panthers did lose some solid pieces and longtime members of the team as tight end Greg Olsen, a longtime panther, was released. On defense Carolina took probably the biggest hit as middle linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his unexpected retirement at such a young age of 29. Another big hit was losing cornerback James Bradberry who was arguably their best corner but unfortunately, Carolina decided to let him walk rather than give the money he deserved. Carolina did boost up their defensive line as they picked up defensive tackle Derrick Brown with the seventh overall pick, a great player to help out their defense that finished top three for sacks. The Panthers didn’t stop there as the rest of their draft picks were all defensive players one of those players was safety Jermey Chinn who was one of the most underrated players in the draft. Now we wait to see if Bridgewater can transfer his success to a whole complete system without Michael Thomas but does have more weapons in Roberts, Anderson, and D.J. Moore. Anderson will finally get the opportunity to get over 1,000 receiving yards in a season as he will have a solid quarterback and can make his case for being a good receiver in the league.
The Falcons had an unexpected signing as they headed into the off-season without the thought of upgrading their running back position. When Atlanta released Devonte Freeman they were in need of a starter and they found one once Todd Gurley was abruptly released by the Rams. The Falcons got Gurley on a pretty cheap deal as they gave him a 1-year $5.5 and could expect Gurley to ball out with experts saying he doesn’t have what it takes anymore. The Falcons also released longtime cornerback Desmond Trufant and did not take long to find his replacement as they picked up A.J. Terrell in the first round. Atlanta decided to stick on defense in the second round as they picked up Marlon Davidson who at Auburn shined despite being lined up with Derrick Brown the top defensive tackle in the league. The Falcons lost one target for Matt Ryan as they lost starting tight end Austin Hooper to the Browns as he went and became one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league.
Atlanta went out and traded for tight end Hayden Hurst who was a solid backup for Baltimore last season recording 30 receptions for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Falcons also brought in defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. who had a solid season last year with the Rams recording 11.5 sacks and 6 pass deflections both career highs. A huge addition if Fowler can continue to play the way he was but handing him a 3-year $45 million contract may have been a reach considering he’s only had one season recording double-digit sacks. Falcons fans enter another season where they only can hope for Matt Ryan to recreate his 2016 MVP season and target Julio Jones more in the end zone. Ryan may even be playing for his future with the Falcons as if he takes Atlanta lower than .500 he could get a boot although the Falcons began to find their rhythm towards the end of the season. The Falcons do look like they have a potential scary offense with Jones, Gurley, Calvin Ridley, and if Ryan can perform 75% of what he did in 2016 they can be playoff potential.
The Saints will win the division as they are all-around the best team in the division and arguably have the better quarterback based on last year’s performance. Now, will the Saints make it to the Superbowl is a different story but they will definitely win the division it may not be easy but they will come out with the best record. Tampa Bay will definitely make the playoffs but they won’t win the division simply because of how mediocre the defense is when you see the Buccaneers offense you think instant success since they have Brady and Gronk. Brady is going down the hill and it was only a matter of time but Brady can prove people wrong and he has the Weapons to do it but expect the Buccaneers to be a good record but in the Wild-Card. The Panthers are in rebuilding mode and are just at the beginning of it and with Bridgewtaer at quarterback, they still need a top #1 receiver. Carolina also added Tahir Whitehead one of the worst coverage linebackers in the league as he allowed the highest passer rating when targeted the last two years. The Falcons season solely depends on “IF” Matt Ryan can play as he did during that one hit wonder year he had in 2016 but like Brady, he does have weapons to prove himself. The defense looks to be solid with both picks being used on defense but they still have holes to fill in the defense.