NFC SOUTH: Saints' reign continues into 2020 season

Ryan Sharp (@RealRyanSharp)

August 7, 2020

New Orleans Saints

2019 Record: 13-3, 1st NFC South

Playoffs: No. 3 Seed, Lost to Vikings in Wildcard Round

2020 Projected Record: 12-4, 1st NFC North

Playoff Projection: NFC 3 Seed

For the first time since 2016, the Saints will have some competition in the NFC South.

I still don’t expect them to have any problems winning the division, though.

Any concerns about Drew Brees and his age should be quelled by Michael Thomas, who is a receptions and yardage machine, and accounted for 29 percent of the Saints’ offensive yards in 2019.

Some people like to say Thomas is a product of Brees and Sean Payton, but even if that’s true, he’s still a major threat on offense.

Not a lot changed for the Saints this offseason, which is why they should be able to win a fourth straight division title without much difficulty.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 Record: 7-9, 2nd NFC South

Playoffs: None

2020 Projected Record: 10-6, 2nd NFC North

Playoff Projection: NFC 7 Seed

Unlike in New Orleans, A LOT changed in Tampa Bay this offseason.

For those of you who just came out from under a rock, the Buccaneers added Tom Brady in free agency, and traded for former wrestler Rob Gronkowski.

The former Patriots duo will join top 15 receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

The talent on offense is a perfect match for Bruce Arians and his high-risk scheme, and might be the best supporting cast Brady has had in a while.

Don’t expect to see all of the check downs that everybody loves to joke about. Brady seems to be all in on going all out in 2020.

The Buccaneers defense should also improve next season, as linebacker Devin White settles into his second season, and rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. bolsters what was a questionable defensive backfield. Add 2019-sack leader Shaq Barrett into the mix, and you’ve got the most complete Tampa Bay team in nearly a decade.

With the Saints in the division, an NFC South title might be slightly out of reach, but the Buccaneers look primed to make their first playoff run since 2007.

Atlanta Falcons

2019 Record: 7-9, 3rd NFC South

Playoffs: None

2020 Projected Record: 6-10, 3rd NFC South

Playoff Projection: None

After two straight 7-9 seasons, the Falcons are looking to escape mediocrity and return to the playoffs.

That isn’t happening this year.

The most notable addition to the roster was probably Hayden Hurst, who will be 27 before the season starts, and is entering his third season in the league.

Add on a reach on A.J. Terell in the first round of the draft, and the improvements are scarce.

The coaching staff managed to stick around for another year, which does not suggest a desire to get any better.

A team with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley should not be 7-9, but here we are.

Jones is on the back end of his prime, and it's being wasted by Dirk Koetter and Dan Quinn. I’m surprised we haven’t heard reports of Quinn losing control of the locker room, because I get frustrated just watching this team.

Quinn is billed as a defensive-minded coach, but giving up 24.9 points per game with impact players like Grady Jarett and Tak McKinley doesn’t add up.

If you read my NFC North preview, you’ll know that I feel bad for Matt Stafford. I feel the same way about Matt Ryan. He’s in the top ten for career passing yards, but will be remembered for 28-3, which really was Kyle Shannahan’s fault.

Carolina Panthers

2019 Record: 5-11, 4th NFC South

Playoffs: None

2020 Projected Record: 2-14, 4th NFC South

Playoff Projection: None

I don’t have a lot to say about the Panthers, other than the fact that they’re going to be pretty bad.

They started the offseason by hinting at a rebuild, parting ways with their former MVP quarterback, and bringing in a new, young head coach.

There were also rumors that Christian McCafferey was on the trade block, but those were shut down when he was made the highest-paid running back in NFL history.

Even with a new coach and an offense anchored by McCafferey, things in the short term look bleak for the Panthers.

The good news is they’ll likely be able to pick either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 Draft.

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