2016 NFC South Preview

NFL Football kicks off in two days (insert excited high pitched scream here) with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers set to kickoff the new season as they ended the last season in Super Bowl 50.

The Tailgate Talk Show crew has been offering their opinions on each division leading up to kickoff, but today will focus on the NFC South, a division that lacks defense, a division that we said in NFL Preview Podcast, is all about offense.

Let’s take a look.

(Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Atlanta Falcons
2015 Record:
8-8 (second in NFC South)
Key Acquisitions: C Alex Mack, DE Derrick Shelby, WR Mohamed Sanu
Key Loses: DT Paul Soliai, DE O’Brien Schofield, DE Kroy Biermann, G Chris Chester, WR Roddy White
W2W4: The Falcons came out of the gates hot last season starting the season off 5-0 and were 6-2 by the midway mark, but offensive inconsistencies and defensive struggles plagued the team down, causing them to go 2-6 in their final eight games. The loss of White will be huge, but Julio Jones will always be Matt Ryan’s top target, and Sanu should help take the pressure off him. Expect Ryan and Jones to pick up where they left off last season, but the defense will still struggle which will cause the Falcons to finish no better than 8-8 once more.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
CHARLOTTE, NC – JANUARY 03: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers
2015 Record: 15-1 (first in NFC South)
Key Acquisitions: DE Paul Soliai, C Gino Gradkowski
Key losses:  DE Jared Allen (Retired), WR Jerricho Cotchery, P Brad Nortman
W2W4: The biggest thing to watch for – the Super Bowl hangover. Not often teams who just played in the big game return to the playoffs, especially the losers of it. Regardless, the reigning 2015 MVP Cam Newton will have his top target back in Kelvin Benjamin (who sat out 2015 with a torn ACL) and still have his All-Pro TE Greg Olson with the other colorful cast of characters. The defense should still be as physical as ever, with only Jared Allen and Josh Norman being the two key losses. Look for Carolina to win the division again with a 12-4 record.

(Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

New Orleans Saints
2015 Record:
7-9 (third in NFC South)
Key Acquisitions: TE Coby Fleener, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Nathan Stupar
Key losses: WR Marques Colston, TE Ben Watson, CB Brandon Browner, HB Khiry Robinson, G Jahri Evans
W2W4: Drew Brees lost his best target in Marques Colston, but Brandin Cooks has quietly become his new go-to guy. As long as Brees is tossing the football around, the offense will continue to put up points, but it’s the defense that should have the team worried. Since the ’09 Super Bowl team with guys like Will Smith, Scott Fujita, Roman Harper, Darren Sharper and Jonathan Vilma, the defense has only ranked in the top five, let alone top 10, once. Expect those struggles to plague this team, but with renewed life in Sean Payton thanks to a new contract, they’ll still finish 9-7.

usatsi_8932155_160074578_lowres(Photo Credit: USA Today)

Tampa Bay Buccanneers
2015 Record:
6-10 (fourth in NFC South)
Key Acquisitions: DE Robert Ayers, G J.R. Sweezy, LB Daryl Smith, CB Brent Grimes, CB Josh Robinson
Key losses: G Logan Mankins (retired), LB Bruce Carter, LB Danny Lansanah
W2W4: Jameis Winston and Doug Martin rejuvenated the team’s offense last season, but the defense struggled heavily which led the the firing of head coach Lovie Smith. Expect Winston to grow more going into his second season and with key additions on defense, including rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves, the team overall should do better. It’s still a young team with room to grow, so I predict the Bucs finish only one or two wins better than last year to go 7-9 or 8-8.



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