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NFC South 2020 Division Preview

Atlanta Falcons

The NFC South is one of the toughest divisions in football. Every single team is really good on paper. The Falcons look really promising, but they might be the team that gets left behind. The Falcons have an explosive offense, but I'm worried about their depth. Julio Jones is obviously the leader of this offense. He is a future hall of famer and I have no doubt in my mind that he'll have another awesome season. This needs to be the year that Calvin Ridley steps up. He is such a talented route runner and his speed stretches the field. He has shown signs that he can be a number one receiver, he just needs to put it all together. I'm quoting him directly here, "there's no reason I shouldn't be elite" and I fully agree. Other than those two guys, they don't have any receiver depth which will hurt them during the season. A player to watch on their offense is Hayden Hurst. Hurst was a first round pick and he's shown glimpses of potential. Tight ends have a big role in Dirk Koetter's offense, Hurst is someone who can breakout in Atlanta. I am personally a big doubter of Matt Ryan, he is someone like Matthew Stafford who has really good stats but he doesn't elevate the team. So it's important that the players around him step up. Todd Gurley is a guy who needs to have a big year, he needs to repeat what he did two years ago for the Rams. He needs to be consistent if the Falcons are going to be able to win in this division. Defensively, they have four guys who are going to be awesome, but need other players to step up. The four players who I'm not worried about are Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Dante Fowler, and Grady Jarrett. They need one of their rookies to have a big year or someone to breakout. The Falcons will be the team that gets left behind in the NFC South.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I'm not as high on the Buccaneers as the rest of the league is, but they have too much talent not to make the playoffs this year. They have a ton of stars on offense, but they have the best receiver duo in the NFL. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans were both top ten receivers last season, but I don't see them being as dominant (statistically) in 2020. Tyler Johnson could be a rookie who steps up and becomes a really good number three receiver. They have three really good tight ends, my biggest question mark is how will Rob Gronkowski look. Will he be quicker this year? Will he still be able to block like when he was in New England? I have no clue, I think he's one of the biggest mysteries in the NFL this year. This needs to be the year Ronald Jones steps up. Tom Brady needs to have a good running back if he's going to be successful. This is Jones' time to become a star. They have a lot of talent on defense, they're just missing that lockdown corner. There front seven is one of the best in the league and Devin White will be an absolute baller this year. Lavonte David is always reliable and Shaq Barrett is coming off a career season. Not to mention, JPP is one of the best pass rushers when healthy. My favorite move they made this offseason was drafting Antoine Winfield Jr.. He's going to be a guy who will be a pro bowl talent his rookie season. He was tied with Xavier McKinney as my highest rated safety, and his ability to study his opponent separates him. In the pre-draft process I described him as "a guy who's been watching film since the womb". Antoine Winfield Jr. can be an absolute star if he stays healthy. The reason I don't think they'll be as good as everyone makes them to be is this is Tom Brady's first year with Bruce Arians. He's going to have to get used to his offense, which is completely different from Belichick's. I don't see this being one of those offense's that clicks right away. I also think their lack of a run game and the cornerback position is going get exposed. This is a team with too much talent not to be in playoff contention, but they won't dominate week-in-week-out like the media's making them out to be.

Carolina Panthers

I'm a lot higher on the Panthers than the rest of the public. I love their move in hiring Joe Brady at offensive coordinator. I see him being a head coach in a few years and I think the Panthers will be a top ten offense in 2020. We all know what CMC is capable of and Bridgewater is perfect a passer who will get him the ball. Teddy Bridgewater is a perfect fit in Carolina, he'll not only help Christian McCaffrey, but these receivers will benefit. DJ Moore broke out last year and now this is Curtis Samuel's time to shine. Robby Anderson was also an awesome addition by Marty Hurney. Defensively, they're really good and really young. Brian Burns was a star last season and he has Von Miller type of potential. They also added Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos on that front seven. This team should be dominant when it comes to defending the run and should have a really good third down pass rush. Donte Jackson is a really fluid corner who's got great technique. If he can stay healthy he'll be a lockdown corner which is needed if you're going against Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Mike Evans twice a year. The other rookie who I'm excited to see is Jeremy Chinn, he can be the Panthers version of Jamal Adams. The areas where this team may struggle is at: tight end, corner, and linebacker. I don't see this being a playoff team, they're still one year away. The Panthers have a lot of potential and I'm buying into their future.

New Orleans Saints

This has to be the year for the Saints. It feels like we've said that ever since 2017, but this might be Drew Brees' final season. They have a quality starter at every single position. The Saints haven't lost any big pieces and they've only gotten better. For the first time in years, they have a true number two receiver in Emmanuel Sanders and they gained a big time defensive leader with Malcolm Jenkins. I genuinely think these were the two most underrated free agency acquisitions in the NFL last year. Emmanuel Sanders will be the consistent go-to guy opposite Michael Thomas. If he can give the spark he gave the 49ers, that can tip the Saints over the edge and potentially win the super bowl. Malcolm Jenkins on the other hand provides the leadership presence in the secondary that the Saints were missing in 2019. This is as good of a chance the Saints have ever had to win the super bowl. Michael Thomas is in the prime of his career. He is a top 2 receiver in the NFL and he will be a big reason why the Saints are going to contend for the super bowl. Marcus Davenport is the big question mark player for the Saints this year. If both him and Cameron Jordan can have at least 9 sacks this year, that's huge. The Saints have the DB's to create turnovers and they have the potential to be a top 5 defense next season. It is super bowl or bust for the New Orleans Saints. No excuses. 

Division Awards
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tristan Wirfs OT Buccaneers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Antoine Winfield Jr. FS Buccaneers
Breakout Player: Calvin Ridley WR Falcons
New Division Member of the Year: Malcolm Jenkins S Saints
Division Standings
1. Saints 12-4
2. Buccaneers 9-7
3. Panthers 8-8
4. Falcons 4-12
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