06 Sep NFC South Preview
New Orleans Saints
The Saints should enjoy another year with 10 or more wins. NOLA comes into the year with a projected schedule that is 10th easiest in the league. Drew Brees posted a career-high completion percentage last year and should do more of the same with almost all his weapons returning while including newcomer TE Jared Cook. Mark Ingram left for Baltimore, but the Saints bring on a similar back in Latavius Murray to play behind superstar Alvin Kamara. Lead by Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan, NOLA added pieces on the defensive side of the ball by trading for LB Kiko Alonso and signing DE Mario Edwards Jr and DT Malcolm Brown this off-season. A pass interference call away from a possible Super Bowl appearance, they are a favorite to make a run again this year.
The Panthers are banking on a healthy season from QB Cam Newton. He is coming off shoulder surgery for the second time in 3 seasons and already has a mild foot strain that is threatening his status for opening day. They had a defensively focused offseason by adding DL Gerald McCoy and OLB Bruce Irvin in free agency. They also drafted Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns in the first round and Alabama’s Christian Miller in the fourth. Stud RB Christian McCaffery should threaten to gain 2000 total yards from scrimmage and catch another 100 passes. Carolina also has a pair of young WRs in DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, former 1st and 2nd round picks respectively, that are ready to break out. This team has a great shot at making the playoffs and challenging the Saints for the division if Cam can play near his MVP level.
The Falcons have a stick propped in the window holding it open. It’s bending, bending, bending. This was a good football team in 2016 and 2017 and then injuries on defense while the offense took a step back lead to a 7-9 season. A key to this season will be having a healthy RB Devonta Freeman. The Falcons’ run game was 27th in the NFL in 2018. Notable additions have been on the offensive line with 1st round picks right guard Chris Lindstrom and rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary. Their offensive talent with Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper gives the Falcons a chance to legitimately score 30 points a game. The Falcons hope new OC Dirk Koetter can help them get creative in the red zone. I want to see this defense on the field before we can say they have a shot at winning the division. This race for the NFC South should be a good one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Head Coach Bruce Arians will look get the best out of QB Jameis Winston. WR Mike Evans earned his $82.5 million contract last season and is joined by breakout candidate WR Chris Godwin after losing WR Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries in Free agency. Former 1st rounder TE O.J. Howard only has 60 catches through two ears in the NFL. He needs to improve to give the Bucs another option to move the ball on offense. The running game will be a concern for this team as Peyton Barber (3.7 YPC last season) is slated to start with underwhelming 2nd-year man Ronald Jones behind him. The defense is young and is going to give up points, but should get better as the season goes along as they used their top pick on LB Devin White from LSU and their first five draft picks on defensive players. Seems like a lost year for the Bucs as Arians tries to figure out who he wants to play/keep at the beginning of his tenure.