So I apologize for this taking till the day of the season to get this posted but I was in the process of moving and getting set up as well as building suspense for the most difficult division to predict in the NFL. Three teams all have a legitimate claim to be the top team in the South so here is how I see it.
Winner of Division:
Call me a homer all you want but this comes with some decent points. Atlanta does not have the best quarterback in the division (Saints) nor the best defense in the division (Panthers) but they have the best 1-2 punch at running back for the first four weeks and the best receiving core possibly in the NFL. Compliment that with an MVP level quarterback and a young, hungry defense, and the Falcons have all the tools to win the division and a good chance to make a long run in the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints
If Drew Brees wants to bring home a second Super Bowl title, he will need to do it this year. He does not have part of his great running back core, and I could see that costing them the division title but will easily get into the wild card round of the playoffs. The defense has improved but hopefully they can get the pain-staking loss in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Vikings.
This team lives and dies by how well Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly play. They have not improved their roster over the last year and still do not have a real receiving core on their side, but they have the best defense in the NFC South, which will keep them in a lot of games.
Tampa Bay Bucs
Fewer teams have had such a strange off season and gotten such little coverage. Jameis is out for the first 4 weeks, they really dont have much of a running game currently, their receiving core is great, and the defense is stellar in the front 7 and ok on the back end. So why is this team rated so low? There seems to be a lot of dysfunction around the organization and that tends to lead to chaos on the field. I see the Bucs struggling this year to find any kind of momentum.
Thank you all for following this series. Coming up in the next couple of days, I will be releasing my first predictions podcast with my wonderful cohost and site manager, Morgan Walker.