This is around the time where optimism is at an all-time high for NFL fans and organizations. Every team thinks that this is the year they will finally break through and make their mark on the NFL map either by a playoff appearance or for some a shot at making Super Bowl LIII. Realistically, only a hand full of rosters will be able to legitimately have a chance of any of those dreams.
With the kickoff of the 2018 NFL season right around the corner, today we will be breaking down how the NFC South will unfold this year, while last year the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and the New Orleans Saints all made the postseason in the 2017 season.
The NFC South division is one of the most talented divisions in the NFL. The Saints and Falcons managed to win a playoff game. The NFC as a whole is already a very difficult conference as you can argue there were multiple NFC teams that deserved playoff spots like the Cowboys, Lions, and Packers.
Here’s how I believe the 2018 NFC South will finish:
New Orleans Saints: 10-6: (Divison Winner)
The Saints arguably have one of the best head coaches in the NFL and an absolute two-headed monster at running back with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
Oh yeah, they also have this quarterback by the name of Drew Brees who finished with another 4,000-yard season and he is also currently 3rd in career passing yards and TD’s. Along with an elite defensive line headlined by Cameron Jordan, the Saints offensive line finished with a top 10 grade as a unit according to Profootballfocus.com. The front office has done its part as well bringing in Marshon Lattimore in the 2017 draft to help improve a mediocre defense. With the leadership of Sean Payton and Drew Brees, this roster has the talent and experience to not only win this division but make noise in the 2018 postseason.
Breakout Player: Michael Floyd
Most to Prove: Cameron Meredith
MVP: Drew Brees
Atlanta Falcons: 10-6: (Wild Card)
The Saints will own the head to head tie-breaker over Atlanta but the division could swing either way with these to powerhouses at the top. The Falcons roster is just as talented as the Saints. What ultimately separates the teams from each other is the Saints having outstanding quarterback play and the Falcons having good quarterback play. Matt Ryan’s production regressed from last year’s MVP campaign going from 4,944 yards, 38 total TD’s and only 7 INTs to 4,095 yards, 20 TD’s and 12 INTs.
You could blame the decrease in production for the loss of offensive guru Kyle Shanahan but Ryan clearly took a step back with Steve Sarkisian at the helm. Another year of a healthy Julio Jones will be big for this team as he is one of the top wideouts in the league. A talented running back duo of Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman should carry the majority of offensive touches for this offense. Depth in the secondary will be key for this team but look forward to another intriguing postseason run for this team.
Breakout Player: Calvin Ridley
Most to Prove: Terrell McClain
MVP: Julio Jones
Carolina Panthers: 8-8
History shows Cam Newton has never had a winning record in consecutive seasons. The jury is still out on this supporting cast as well. While Christian McCaffery proved last year he could be an issue for NFL defenses for a long time coming, the receiving core of the Panthers lacked a 1,000-yard wideout while also lacking a true No.1 receiver. Bringing in Norv Turner will be big for Cam’s development into a pocket passer but it will take time for him to confine his game into the style Norv is known for owning. He definitely won’t transform into Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady this year or ever. The front seven of this football time is arguably the best in football and they consistently wreak havoc on offensive lines week in and week out.
Luke Kuechly is the clear leader of this team and its best player. He recorded 125 tackles last season and always finds a way to impact the game dramatically. The defense will not be the problem for this team. I believe although the defense will be great. They will be on the field for long stretches and tire out due to the lack of production from the offense. Cam Newton is an extraordinary talent but one man will not be able to carry any NFL franchise.
Breakout Player: D.J. Moore
Most to Prove: James Bradberry
MVP: Cam Newton
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-14
Last offseason, many believed this roster was going to be special and make some noise on the NFL scene. They finished at an underwhelming 5-11. Jameis Winston can’t seem to get his act together with another off the field problem. He was suspended for 3 games for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy for touching a female Uber driver inappropriately. People around the league are questioning Winston’s future not only with the Bucs but within the NFL. He’s not as talented as Drew, Matt, and Cam. Mike Evans is the only highlight of this team but he has no one to get him the ball. With an unfriendly schedule and an average at best football team, to say the least, this team is going to be in the running for the No.1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Breakout Player: Ronald Jones
Most to Prove: Jameis Winston
MVP: Mike Evans