Last week we covered the most violent division in the NFL, the AFC North. Today, we will look into the NFC South; in our opinion, the most competitive division. Each team in the NFC South has their franchise quarterback, and each team has a realistic shot at winning the division. In 2017, the NFC featured 3 teams in the playoffs, a rarity in today’s ultra competitive league. Without further ado, here are the predicitions for each NFC South team for the 2018 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-9
This isn’t a bad situation for the Buccaneers. They will improve from their 5-11 mark last year, and will be in the hunt for a wild card spot late in the year. The key pieces are starting to form in Tampa Bay. WRs Mike Evans and Desean Jackson will prove to be a deadly combo. TE OJ Howard is a big receiving threat and safety valve for QB Jameis Winston. Their secondary features 3rd year CB, and our personal favorite breakout player, Vernon Hargreaves and veteran Brent Grimes. Not to mention the 2nd round draft pick MJ Stewart.
Winston has improved every season. 2015, his rookie year, Winston managed an 84.2% QB rating; 2016, 86.1%; 2017, 92.2%. 2018, we expect Winston to take more shots and trust his WRs.
If there is one area where we feel that the Bucs will falter, it’s their running game. Currently, Jacquizz Rodgers is penciled in as the starter, however we’re expecting Ronald Jones to take over sooner rather than later.
Carolina Panthers: 9-7
The Panthers are a long way from their Superbowl 50 form. Since then, they have lost Josh Norman, Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr., and other important pieces.
The Panthers secondary is suspect, their starting CB’s are James Bradberry, Kevon Seymour, and Ross Cockrell. These are not exactly house hold names, so let’s hope the coaches have some good insight on these players.
There are reasons for hope for the Panthers. Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Christian McCaffrey, Thomas Davis, and Luke Kuechly are the faces of this franchise. These players are the reason the Panthers went 11-5 last season. We would like to see them reach that record this year. However, the Panthers are under new ownership this season. We can only speculate at this moment on how that will affect this franchise.
New Orleans Saints: 10-6
Last year, the Saints won the division by the skin of their teeth. Most people didn’t expect the Saints to be as good as they were. We do expect the Saints to win the wild card this year, however, they will come back to earth a little bit in 2018.
RB Alvin Kamara broke onto the scene last year and won offensive rookie of the year; But sophmore slumps are a real thing. If he gets too comfortable he could be watching the Atlanta Falcons take the division this year.
CB Marshon Lattimore ended up winning defensive rookie of the year in 2017. The Saints took home both rookie awards last year, that hasn’t been done since the Detroit Lions did it in 1967.
QB Drew Brees will still be his same old reliable self in 2018, and WR Michael Thomas should have a great season. But in the end, the Saints won’t have the defense to match the top tier offenses in the league.
Atlanta Falcons: 12-4
The Falcons return to their 2016 form, with a much improved defense. LB Deion Jones and FS Keanu Neal are breakout players in the making. All-pro CB Desmond Trufant is a reliable shutdown corner. LB Vic Beasley had a subpar year last year. He will have a bouceback year in 2018. There is a lot of speed on this defense, which makes it very dangerous.
Offensively, the Falcons feature QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones, and RB Devonta Freeman. This was the offensive combination that propelled them into the Superbowl in 2016. Other players to note are TE Austin Hooper, and 1st round draft pick WR Calvin Ridley. Julio Jones may now have a legitimate receiving threat on the right side of the offense.
A big reason why we feel that the Falcons have the edge in the NFC South this year is because Superbowl 53 will be played in Atlanta. That’s enough motivation for this Falcons team to win their division.
In conclusion, Atlanta takes the division. The NFC is very competitive, and the other teams in the division certainly won’t make it easy.
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Jameis Winston: www.sbnation.com
Luke Kuechly: www.nfltraderumors.com
Alvin Kamara: www.pinterest.com
Julio Jones: www.thefalcoholic.com