By Ron Johnson
We are taking a quick break from the AFC to focus on the NFC South. And we have two of the weakest divisions in the league to dissect. Yes, it may sound harsh, but looking at the eight teams that comprise these two divisions, wouldn’t you say the same. That being said, let’s start with the division voted the softest in the NFL, the NFC South.
The Falcons have been a cluster for a number of years. In fact, it is safe to say that they have been downright abysmal ever since their collapse in the Super Bowl seven years ago. The Matt Ryan curse continued even without Ryan being a member of the team it appears. Last season, they finished the season 7-10 failing to qualify for the playoffs for the fifth straight time. The only real good they had last season is that they finally solved the Brady Code as they defeated Tom Brady and the Bucs in the last game of the regular season.
Now that the daytime talk show drama has subsided in Atlanta, and with Ridder taking the place of Marcus Mariota, there is belief that the Falcons can turn it around heading into the new season. They will get their first test as No. 1 draft pick Bryce Young and the Panthers come knocking to open the season. After they tangle with Young, they get the new look Packers (I say new look because there won’t be any Rodgers sightings except on the big screen) then a trip to the Motor City to face the Lions.
Jacksonville looks to give them a little southern hospitality of their own next followed by a clash at home with Houston. The Commanders come calling after these set of games, followed by a divisional showdown with Tampa Bay minus Mr. Brady, who has since retired officially.
The South looks to rise again as the Titans host the Dirty Birds once again before the Vikings look to represent the North at the start of November. After a trip to the desert to face the Cardinals, they return home for another divisional showdown this time against the Saints. Unfortunately for them, they still get to see Rodgers this season as they travel to New York to face the Jets then return home to host the Bucs.
After a brief trip to North Carolina to face the Panthers, they return home to battle another first round draft pick in Anthony Richardson and the Colts on Christmas Eve. After spending New Years in the Windy City to face the Bears, they finish the season off with a Battle in the Bayou against the Saints.
2023 Season Outlook: 8-9 (Misses Playoffs)
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are still reeling from the retirement of Drew Brees and departure of Sean Payton. But on the plus side, their two-quarterback system looked to work in the beginning as Taysom Hill got to shine when he could, and Jameis Winston (yes, that Jameis Winston) actually looked like a quarterback for the first time in his career. But due to injuries, the team as a whole only managed to amass a 7-10 record in Dennis Allen’s rookie season as head coach.
Who Dat Nation will look to reverse their misfortunes at the start of the season as they face Derrick Henry and the Titans at home before traveling to Flair Country to face Bryce Young and the Panthers followed by a trip to Lombardi Country to face the Rodgers-less Packers.
They then return home briefly to face the Bucs (who may have quarterback issues of their own with Brady’s departure) before heading to Foxborough to clash with Mac Jones and the Patriots. A quick road trip to Houston to face CJ Stroud and the new look Texans is followed up with a home visit from Trevor Lawrence and the AFC South champs and a road trip to Indy to face the Colts.
After entertaining the Bears at home, they head to the Twin Cities to battle Kirk Cousins and the Vikings then a trip to Georgia to face the Falcons Thanksgiving weekend. The Lions come calling as they return home followed by another visit from Young and the Panthers and Daniel Jones and the Giants. The Who Dat Crew takes their talents west as they visit Matthew Stafford and the Rams before they wrap up the season on the road in Tampa against the Bucs and a home finale against the Falcons.
2023 Season Outlook: 9-8 (Potential Wild Card)
The Panthers have been a hit AND miss team for years. They took a chance bringing back Cam Newton a few years ago, but that never brought them back to their Super Bowl season. Last year, the Panthers were in the thick of the division race even with a 7-10 record, however they played better at home than on the road. They managed to pull off a massive trade prior to the start of the draft and were able to snag Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in the process.
The Panthers quest for the postseason begins on the road as they travel to face Atlanta, have a home game against the Saints followed by a road trip to the 12th Man to face the Seahawks before heading home to host the Vikings. The road trip kicks off in the Motor City to face the Lions and South Beach for the Dolphins before returning home to host Stroud and the Texans as well as Richardson and the Colts. They then hit the road for a quick matchup with the Bears before returning home for a showdown between Young and Prescott as the Cowboys come to town.
Following a festive Thanksgiving, the team heads to Nashville to face Henry and the Titans, then to Tampa to face the Bucs, the Big Easy to face the Saints before returning home to entertain the Falcons and the Packers. They then head back to Florida to face the Jaguars on New Years Eve before opening the new year with a home finale against the Bucs.
2023 Season Outlook: 10-7 (Clinches Playoffs)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season was not the way that Tom Brady wanted to finish out his career. But he did manage to break a few records prior to retirement, finished with an 8-9 record, clinched the NFC South (as if that was really hard all things considered) and made the playoffs. But this time around, the Cowboys managed to outshine Brady and the Bucs. Now the Bucs will look to Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask to hopefully keep them as a legitimate threat in a division that was considered a dumpster fire but has potential to make some noise in the NFC.
The Bucs will have the NFC North to dance with to start the season as they travel to the Twin Cities to battle the Vikings before hosting the Chicago Bears and defending NFC Champion Eagles. Their first divisional matchup will have them in the Battle of the Bayou against the Saints before welcoming Jared Goff and the Lions as well as Desmond Ridder and the Falcons. After going to Buffalo to face Josh Allen and the Bills, they say hello to Stroud and the Texans before avoiding becoming a poster with Derrick Henry and the Titans.
They fly west to face Brock and the Niners, return east to face Richardson and the Colts, then return home to face Young and the Panthers. After a pair of road games in Atlanta and Green Bay, they spend Christmas Eve entertaining the Jaguars and New Year’s Eve celebrating with the Saints and finishing the season off in Charlotte against the Panthers.
2023 Season Outlook: 8-9 (Misses Playoffs)
While the Buccaneers enjoyed some huge success with Brady under center, they still find themselves tortured by the antics of Antonio Brown. Mayfield found some success with the Rams last season, but this is his third team in less than two years, and he is still prone to make bad decisions under center. This year, it will be a dogfight for the division because if there is one thing that Bryce Young learned in Alabama, it’s that failure is not an option that sits well with Nick Saban.
I expect the division champ of the NFC South to at least have a team with a winning record clinch the division and most likely a wild card considering the rest of the divisions in the NFC. I feel that Bryce Young will have success as a starter. The division will either be competitive to the end or another year of dumpster fire, funny memes and bad jokes. The only true highlight of this division pre season start-wise: NO Matt Ryan to display the funniest meme to come out of the division.