2019 NFC South Preview

1. New Orleans Saints– Everything seemed to be in place for them last season. To many, they were the best team in the league, Drew Brees was having another big year, the defense was still sharp. They won 13 games and clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2009, the year they won the Super Bowl. They got passed Philly in the divisional round and got robbed in the NFC title game against the Rams. The flag gets thrown, they have a first and goal and we’re discussing this in a different way. With Drew Brees under center, they’ll always be a favorite to win their division. Drew is back for another year as is Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and replacing Mark Ingram is Latavius Murray in the backfield. The Saints defense has really improved in the last two seasons.

2. Atlanta Falcons– After making the playoffs in consecutive seasons, it was a down year for Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons. When you’re decimated by injuries, it’ll show and that’s exactly what happened last year. As soon as Deion Jones and Keanu Neal were lost to injury, they could never regroup. Matt Ryan signed a contract extension last year with the team. Heading into the year, I stated that he got paid, he had a nice group of weapons around him so there was absolutely no excuse for him to struggle. He put together a year throwing 35 touchdown passes, his most since his MVP season. When this team is healthy, they’re a playoff team. When the offense is driving the ball down the field and the defense makes stops at crucial moments, they win games.

3. Carolina Panthers– They were one of the hottest teams in the league at one point in 2018. They were 6-2 and another playoff appearance seemed to be possible. When I noticed that Cam Newton was struggling, I could tell something wasn’t right with him which led him to deactivate him for the rest of the season with a lingering shoulder issue. They finished their season with a 7-9 record. When Cam has it going, the team feeds off his energy. That’s how much of a sparkplug he is for the Panthers. The one move they made this offseason that caught my eye was the signing of Bruce Irvin. With Julius Peppers retiring, the Panthers needed a veteran to play alongside Mario Addison. Bruce can also play linebacker which is key especially with the team blending in a 3-4 scheme. I need to see another offensive weapon outside of Christian McCaffrey step it up.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Everybody wants to blame the recent struggles of the Buccaneers on Jameis Winston which I think is silly to do because if you go back and look at every year he’s been in the league, each coach he’s played under has been a defensive minded guy. As a head coach, you need to be able to develop a quarterback. The Buccaneers decided to hire Bruce Arians which I thought was a great move. He’s an offensive minded guy with a history of helping quarterbacks develop. Remember what he did with Andrew Luck in 2012? Even in 2015, Carson Palmer had the best year of his career with the Cardinals. The Bucs have good players, they just need to put it all together. I liked their first-round draft pick when they decided to select LSU’s Devin White with the fifth overall pick. They needed someone to anchor the middle. Will an experienced coach help the Buccaneers in 2019?

2019 Predictions

1. Saints (12-4)

2. Falcons (10-6)

3. Panthers (8-8)

4. Bucs (6-10)

I’m picking the Saints to win the NFC South once again. With that offensive line, the balance they display offensively and Drew Brees under center, this team will always be in the running at the top of the division. I’m curious to see how Murray will fit within the Saints offense. Defensively, they’ll give up big plays, but they can make stops when necessary.