You can make the case that the NFC South could be the best division in the NFL. I have the AFC South ranked the highest, however, the NFC South comes in at number two. Ranking this division was a little tough as you could easily have your worst in the division and you could also have the best.
Here are my 2018 NFC South NFL rankings:
No. 4: The Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers have never had back to back winning seasons since emerging in 1995. They finished the season last year at 11-5 and if history repeats itself, the best they’ll finish is 8-8.
Cam Newton has arguably the best receiving corps he’s had in the NFL. The additions of D.J. Moore, Jarius Wright, and Torrey Smith stack up to Devin Funchess and Curtis Samuel. Not to mention, the future Hall of Famer Greg Olsen added to the mix should make for speedy and aggressive pass-catching options.
The Panthers added CJ Anderson to the backfield while they lost Jonathon Stewart. Still look for Christian McCaffery to get all the looks but don’t be surprised if they throw Anderson for a lot of goal line plays.
Leaders like Star Lotulelei, Kurt Coleman, and Daryl Worley left the Panthers this offseason. In addition, they have some pieces to try to fill those roles with Dontari Poe, Ross Cockrell, and Da’Norris Searcy. This defense as a whole is definitely the worst aspect of the team. The positive piece is Luke Kuechly and if he can stay healthy. Kuechly can lead a not so well defense to being a little above average.
With the Panthers defense and the incredibly stacked NFC South, I have them placing 4th.
Number 3: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If the prime DeSean Jackson returns for the Buccaneers, this will be a scary passing catching team. This could potentially be a breakout season for Jameis Winston. Jackson and Mike Evans will be the reason for that.
Not exactly sure what their going to do at running back since Doug Martin left. It looks like Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones III will be splitting carries. I’m sure we’ll find out more detail once preseason officially gets underway.
The defense looks like it’s going to be the backbone this year depending on the play of Winston. The defense struggled last year allowing the most total yards with 378.1 each game. They added Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and drafted Vita Vea. This offseason was all about the defense and they definitely added the players to better their statistics from last year.
With the potential of the defense and the firepower of the offense, if healthy, this time they can be a threat in the NFC South. But, I have them finishing 3rd in my ranks.
Number 2: The Atlanta Falcons.
Not much happened in the offseason with the offense for the Falcons. Well, considering they signed Matt Ryan to a 5 year, $150 million contract extension, Atlanta didn’t have much else of a choice to not add on offense. This offense still has its star power with Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
The offense is definitely the side of the ball carrying this team. The defense finished 24th last year in total yards a game with 318.4. Luckily, they have Desmond Trufant, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones signed through at least 2019. They lost a few big defensive line guys that may come back to hurt the running game.
All in all, this offense is loaded with stars that can produce and try to give the NFC a run for the money, but I think they will come a few inches too short.
Number 1: The New Orleans Saints.
This team is so incredibly stacked on the offense, it’s insane. The Saints will be without Mark Ingram who is their usual starter for the first four games. However, 2018 rookie of the year winner Alvin Kamara wants that role and will most likely prove why he should have it in the first four games. After this year, Ingram’s contract will be up and if I was a betting man. He won’t be a Saint after this year.
The only struggle offensively for the Saints is the line. If they can stay healthy, everything should be fine but that’s a big if.
The defense picked up a few pieces in the offseason that will help the 10th ranked defense from last year. They’ve needed someone to take the other side of the line with Cameron Jordan and they got that with Marcus Davenport from the draft. Even though it was the secondary that cost the team out of an NFC title possibility, the secondary will be strong once again especially adding the likes of Kurt Coleman.
There is no telling where this team will go in 2019, but I can tell you they will be the NFC South Champions and should be represented in the NFC title game.