CANTON, Ohio- It’s time to make my NFC South Predictions. Where do the Falcons rank and will Carolina rebound?
Atlanta Falcons- (Home Stadium- Mercedes-Benz Stadium)- (2016 record: 11-5)- (My 2017 Prediction: 5-11)
OFFENSE: Atlanta has a strong offensive unit led by QB Matt Ryan, RB’s Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman along with TE Austin Hooper and WR’s Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.
DEFENSE: The Falcons have a young but good defense. DL Dontari Poe, Courtney Upshaw and LB Vic Beasley. Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal are in the secondary.
ATLANTA FALCONS FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a very bold prediction on my part, and I’m sure plenty will question me. Two reasons why I have Atlanta finishing dead last. First, no doubt they’ll have a super bowl hangover, especially the way that game ended. Finally, Matt Ryan isn’t exactly happy with the new offensive system the Falcons run now. Kyle Shanahan is gone and that changes things down in the ATL big time. On paper, Atlanta still has a really good team, but you saw what happened to Carolina last year. Same thing goes for the Falcons this year.
New Orleans Saints- (Home Stadium- Mercedes-Benz Superdome)- (2016 record: 7-9)- (My 2017 Prediction: 6-10)
OFFENSE: The Saints have a good offense with QB Drew Brees. His weapons are RB’s Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram. The receivers are Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn and Colby Fleener.
DEFENSE: Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins are on the D-line. Kenny Vaccaro, Von Bell and Marshon Lattimore are your key players in the secondary.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS FINAL THOUGHTS: A lot of people are curious how much Peterson has left. Also, Brees will throw for plenty of yards with Michael Thomas, Ginn and Fleener for his options. But, for the Saints, it comes down to defense. This defense isn’t that good, especially up front. I can see New Orleans giving up a lot of points. They’ll have to out-score their opponents to win.
Carolina Panthers- (Home Stadium- Bank of America Stadium)- (2016 record: 6-10)- (My 2017 Prediction: 9-7)
OFFENSE: Cam Newton looks to have a bounce back year. He’ll have plenty of weapons in Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen for receivers. Add Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey at RB.
DEFENSE: I like the Panthers front seven with Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short on the line. At LB they’ll have Shaq Thompson, Thomas Davis and perhaps the best linebacker in the game with Luke Kuechly.
CAROLINA PANTHERS FINAL THOUGHTS: The Panthers bounce back. They’ll be in the wild card talk. A better offense and a solid defense will do the trick.
NFC SOUTH CHAMPION-
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- (Home Stadium- Raymond James Stadium)- (2016 record: 9-7)- (My 2017 Prediction: 12-4)
OFFENSE: QB Jameis Winston is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, he has plenty of weapons on the outside and in the backfield. Receivers DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and OJ Howard. In the backfield, Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers.
DEFENSE: Gerald McCoy leads the defense followed by Robert Ayers on the line. In the secondary, Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes look to solidify the back end.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS FINAL THOUGHTS- Winston will have a monster year and the defense was improved over the off-season. I can see Tampa Bay being a legit title contender this year. Only one problem though. Lack of experience. We’ll see if that matters with this team or not.
NFC SOUTH REVIEW-
Atlanta suffers a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints still need help on defense. Carolina will be back and the Buc’s take the crown for the division and maybe, just maybe, the give the Patriots, Steelers or Raiders a good fight for this year’s Super Bowl in Minnesota.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Nick broulis