During this past offseason, the entire NFC South experienced a free agency signing that will be remembered for many years to come. The specific signing that I am referring too is that of Tom Brady, who packed his bags in New England to go south and join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This news completely shocked the sports world as Brady ended his twenty-year stint with the New England Patriots. In addition, he joined a team that nobody ever dreamed that he would ever play for. With this historic signing, the Bucs have shaken up the division a ton. With the New Orleans Saints obtaining complete control of the South over the past three years, this gives them a new challenge they must overcome. Before we are ready to witness a new era in the division, I give you my 2020 NFC South predictions.
2020 NFC South Predictions
New Orleans Saints
Although the greatest quarterback of all time has just entered the division, I am still predicting the New Orleans Saints take home the NFC South crown for the fourth consecutive year. Quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton have proven how great their chemistry is and I think that will prove to be one of the deciding factors. With yet another tough loss in the playoffs last year in the Wild Card round against the Minnesota Vikings, I believe that will give them extra motivation to prove the many doubters wrong.
During this very strange offseason, the Saints still managed to take care of some much-needed business, starting at the quarterback position. They re-signed Brees to a 2-year, $50 million contract. At 41 years old, this seems like it will likely be Brees’ last contract before he retired in hopes of winning his second Super Bowl. Since he has done so much for the franchise as well as the community, I really don’t hate the $50 million at all. It kind of serves as a thank you for all he has done throughout the city of New Orleans. Even though I don’t think it will happen, Brees may have just enough left in the tank to make another postseason run to the super bowl.
Now for some new acquisitions. On offense, the Saints brought in veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to replace Ted Ginn Jr. who left for the Chicago Bears this offseason. Sanders will join superstar wideout Michael Thomas to give Brees another weapon. In my opinion, they upgraded from Ginn to Sanders and he will be one of the better #2 wide receivers in the league behind Thomas.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints went out and got former Philadelphia Eagles star safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins is just making the Saints secondary even better now as he joins Marcus Williams, Marshon Lattimore, and Janoris Jenkins in that stingy base 4-3 defense. The Saints were ranked 13th overall on defense last year. Adding a stud like Jenkins might just get them over the hump and into the top ten.
For all of the reasons that were stated above, that is why I have the Saints winning their seventh division title in my 2020 NFC South predictions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For all of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans out there, I’m assuming this is the most excited you have been in a long, long time. Your front office really just pulled off one of the most shocking signings of the century. This was a complete move out of left field that surprised the entire football world. Upgrading from Jameis Winston to Brady (an aging one at that) instantly puts the Bucs into championship consideration by many. One of the main things to look for this season is how well the relationship between Brady and head coach Bruce Arians will be. If they can get on the same page early in the year, that will bring much success.
What an Offseason for Tampa
Obviously the main signing of the Bucs offseason was Brady, but Tampa didn’t stop there. They brought longtime Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement to re-join his favorite quarterback. Gronk likely would have gone wherever Brady chose to go, but the Bucs still had to do some convincing on their end as well. Gronkowski will join a room of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate to creat likely the scariest tight end group in the league.
On top of the lethal tight end squad, the Bucs also have one of the best wide receiver duos in the entire NFL. The two I am talking about is the speedy Chris Godwin and the large Mike Evans. I predict that Godwin will have a slightly better season statistically than Evans mainly because Brady loves that type of receiver. He’s quick, can play in the slot, and even go for the deep ball once in a while. I am quite sure that Brady looked at the weapons for each team that was recruiting him during free agency. No one can really blame him for choosing a team with these weapons.
In the draft, the Iowa star offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs fell into their lap at 14th overall in the first round. This will give Brady some help on the line as Wirfs can play on the right and left side. As Brady gets older, I am sure he was hoping for some more protection when looking for a new team.
If Brady were a little bit younger and this wasn’t his first year in a new system, I would likely have put the Bucs over the Saints in the NFC South. Since that is not the case, I have the Buccaneers finishing in second in my 2020 NFC South predictions.
Last year, the Atlanta Falcons had two very different parts to their season. To start the year off, they had a 1-7 record. They couldn’t get anything going. On top of the dreadful start, there were rumors going around on whether or not they would fire head coach Dan Quinn. Then, the bye week hit. In their last eight games, they went 6-2 winning their last four and finished their season with a 7-9 record. That run at the end of the season didn’t get them in the playoffs, however, it did save Quinn’s job and gave them some momentum going into the 2020 season.
Wild Offseason for the Falcons
Atlanta was like a revolving door this offseason in terms of free agents. Some players who were either released for who left on their own include Devonta Freeman, Vic Beasley, Austin Hooper, and Desmond Trufant. Those four pieces are pretty big losses as they were all key pieces on both sides of the ball.
The Falcons didn’t come out of free agency empty-handed, however. They also added some key pieces like Todd Gurley, Dante Fowler, and Hayden Hurst. These three players will try and help make up for some of the pieces they lost. They also drafted star cornerback A.J. Terrell from Clemson.
The Falcons will definitely look a little different this year and that brings some uncertainty on how well the chemistry will be this year. Also, I haven’t come around to trust Atlanta ever since that super bowl debacle against the New England Patriots. For those reasons, I see another mediocre season for the Falcons in my 2020 NFC South predictions.
The Carolina Panthers are coming off a pretty rough 2019 season. They went 5-11 and finished at the bottom of the NFC South. A big reason for such a poor season is the fact that quarterback Cam Newton played just two games due to injury. Instead, the Panthers had Kyle Allen and rookie Will Grier under center. Allen went 5-7 when starting and Grier went just 0-2. One of the very few bright spots on the team came at the running back position and his name is Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey reached the endzone a total of nineteen times while also making both the Pro Bowl and All-NFL First Team. He is widely considered as the best running back in the league and was even in the MVP conversation for some time.
Solid Offseason for Carolina
At the end of the season, the Panthers decided to fire head coach Ron Rivera after nine seasons. Rivera reached the Super Bowl once in those nine seasons after a 15-1 record. for their new head coach, the Panthers decided to go the college route and hire former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule has seemed to already make a good first impression with the team and personally, I really love the hire. On top of Rhule, Carolina also brought in former LSU assistant Joe Brady to fill their offensive coordinator position. At age 30, Brady is held in high regard around the football world. He even won the Broyles Award for the best assistant coach in all of college football.
With Cam Newton and Kyle Allen gone, the Panthers decided to sign Teddy Bridgewater as a replacement. Bridgewater will stay in the NFC South as he is coming over from New Orleans after backing up Drew Brees. Teddy got the chance to start five games when Brees was hurt and surprisingly, the Saints went 5-0 in that span. I am really happy for Bridgewater. Even as a Packers fan, I’ve always liked Teddy.
I think the system that Matt Rhule is going to put into place will take some getting used to for sure, but I think this team has the potential to surprise the league. However, I don’t think that will be the case so I have the Panthers finishing in last again in my 2020 NFC South predictions.
The Division Will Look Very Different
With half of the teams in the NFC South dealing a quarterback change (not that it’s a bad thing), the division could very well see a shocking team take home the crown. With four veteran QBs under center in the division, I predict the South will be one of the top teams in the NFL with one of the stronger chances to send three or even four teams to the playoffs. However, for my 2020 NFC South predictions, only the Saints and Bucs will reach them.
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