Season Outlook: Down and Dirty in the NFC South
It’s time to get down and dirty in the NFC South. Last year the Saints took down the NFC South and were a “How the $%^# was that not called” from the Superbowl. The Dirty Birds struggled to 7-9 and have continually regressed since their appearance in SB LI. Will Dan Quinn survive another mediocre season? Followed by a Panthers squad that roared out to a 6-2 record then retreated to 7-9 for third place. Finally, The Bucs had Fitzmagic, and it fizzled, 5-11 became a reality with Jameis Winston/Ryan Fitzpatrick. Is Bruce Arians the answer?
New Orleans Saints, 1st NFC South
Team MVP: Drew Brees
Had a lot of options here on a talented roster but in the end, it comes down to Brees. He is the undisputed leader of the team, and they will go as far as his right arm takes them. He proved last year he’s still an MVP caliber quarterback and I don’t see any let down coming this season.
Breakout Player: Tre’Quan Smith
If you want to be a breakout wide receiver then having Drew Brees doesn’t hurt. Smith had only 28 catches last year as a rookie but converted that to 427 yards and five touchdowns. He had a massive game against the Eagles with 10 catches 157 yards and a touchdown. The talent is there for a great year from Tre’Quan.
Season Outlook: The Saints are a Superbowl contender and will likely win the division again. This team is about as stacked as you can get in the NFL on both sides of the ball. Throw in a Hall of Famer with some life still left, and you have the best team in the NFC South.
Carolina Panthers, 2nd NFC South
Team MVP: Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey ran for 1000 yards and caught 100 passes last season. Next best runner? Cam Newton at 488 yards. Next best pass-catcher? Rookie wideout DJ Moore with 55. The importance of McCaffrey to this team is defined right there.
Breakout Player: DJ Moore
Yep, it the same DJ Moore from above. Moore was spectacular as a rookie finishing second on the team with 55 catches and 788 yards. He came on over the last eight games of the season with 39 of his 55 catches. Expect that trend to continue in 2019 as the Panthers number one wideout.
Season Outlook: If the Panthers want to get back to the playoffs Cam needs to be healthy. After the shoulder injury last year you could visibly see the struggle getting the ball downfield. The Panthers went from 6-3 to 7-9. With a healthy Cam ready to go this team should be much better this season.
Atlanta Falcons, 3rd NFC South
Team MVP: Matt Ryan
Matty Ice goes down, and Matt Schaub is your starter, any other reason he is the MVP? If not, Ryan has averaged 26.8 touchdowns and 4247 yards per season over the quietest Hall of Fame-caliber career in the NFL right now. This team was nowhere near seven wins without him last year.
Breakout Player: Ito Smith
Ito Smith will assume the role of back up to Devonte Freeman now that Tevin Coleman has moved to the 49ers. As both a running and receiving threat out of the backfield, Ito will get more touches giving him the chance to have a substantial impact on the Falcons offense this year.
Season Outlook: The Falcons have gone from halftime winners of Superbowl LI to losing the game in overtime to now 7-9 in a few short years. It falls squarely on the defense side of the ball. Atlanta hired Dan Quinn in 2016 because of his defensive insight, and the defense has regressed since 2017. Quinn must get this defense turned around, or the Falcons might be looking for a new head coach next offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4th NFC South
Team MVP: Mike Evans
Evans has been a stud since entering the league in 2014. His ability to make plays downfield opens up everything for the Bucs other pass catchers. With Bruce Arians in charge, expect the ball to get to him more than ever.
Breakout Player: Chris Godwin
If you are a Bucs fan your probably thinking he already broke out with a big year in 2018. Maybe you are right. But with both DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries moving on it opens the door for way more targets.
Season Outlook: The Bucs keep waiting for Jameis Winston to take the next step and lead this team to back to the playoffs or at least a winning season. Next on the list to unlock his potential, Bruce Arians. What’s the definition of insanity? If Arians can do it, flip that record and knock some wins off the other guys.
Up Last: NFC West