This is one of the most interesting years for the NFC South. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have come out of nowhere and stole this division last season, literally going from worst to first. Drew Brees retired putting the Saints in question for their quarterback of the future. Carolina released Cam Newton, putting into question their quarterback position. Not to mention the Dirty Birds trading their star player Julio Jones.
The Bucs have a history of being an incompetent NFL team with the exception of a few winning seasons. 2019 was a good year offensively but terrible defensively finishing with the 29th ranked defense. Fortunately, the team realized they needed to make changes in leadership. When it was confirmed that Tom Brady would not be returning to New England, only a handful of teams were in play to get the G.O.A.T. himself. Tampa Bay did a great job of staying under the radar as most analysts had Brady going to the Chargers. Brady wanted to prove himself in a new environment and become a mentor to younger players. This team was perfect for him, a young talented defense with a lot of potential on offense. Bringing Gronk out of retirement, adding Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, plus Chris Godwin and Mike Evans was a nightmare for any opposing defense. Now, coming off a Super Bowl victory and wonderfully retaining these key players for another year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be the team to beat this in the NFC South this upcoming season.
Carolina has made a lot of changes since their Super Bowl 50 loss. From letting star cornerback Josh Norman go to free agency after having a career year in 2015 to having a new owner, Dave Tepper, who wants a fresh start with the organization. With the loss of Luke Kuechly to retirement, the backbone of the Panthers defense for eight seasons, and Cam Newton signing with the Patriots, the team looks to be heading in a different direction. Testing out Teddy Bridgewater was interesting. Finishing 5-11 at the end of the 2020 season, Carolina looked to reunite Robby Anderson with his former quarterback in New York, Sam Darnold. Drafting cornerback Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina can definitely be seen as a response to Tampa Bay’s plethora of offensive weapons. Now with an offense that has a lot of young talent from Sam Darnold to Christian Mccaffrey to the speedster Robby Anderson, this team has started to head in the right direction.
In Hotlanta, the Dirty Birds had GM Thomas Dimitroff and HC Dan Quinn on the hot seat. Firing them mid-season made it clear that they were in a rebuild mood. First, the team made was a very questionable blockbuster trade with Julio Jones going to the Titans. Sending him to Tennessee without getting a first-round pick in return makes this move even more puzzling. But drafting Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley becoming the number one receiver shows the team is moving towards younger talent. Signing Mike Davis can help add to the offensive weapons Matty Ice has at his disposal. Even with the offensive talent, the Falcons still need to address the defensive struggles. In order for this team to really get back to the 2016 Falcons, these issues need to be addressed among the new coaching staff and front office.
The New Orleans Saints had their Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees retire. Now Jameis Winston has a chance to redeem his career after sitting behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a chance to prove what he’s learned. Even though Mr. 30-30 can hold his own and win some games, this is a setback. Taysom Hill is a competent utility player along with Alvin Kamara in the backfield and Michael Thomas at wide receiver. So you can say the team has some weapons that Jameis can use. Plus, they have a top-ranked offensive line by the way. Defensively, this team can hold their own ranking in the top 5, the question comes down to can Jameis get this team to the playoffs and beyond?
The Bucs are the first team in NFL history to retain all of their starting offensive and defensive players from the previous season. Will they be able to win back-to-back Super Bowls, or just be lucky to make the playoffs? What are Carolina and Atlanta’s plans moving forward with them getting rid of or losing key franchise players? Are the Saints going to make the playoffs this year with Jameis Winston? Oh, so many questions in the NFC South.