With Tom Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots for the Buccaneers of the NFC South, there’s no question that for at least one season that division is the best in the NFL in terms of quarterback quality.
Brady has a record six Super Bowl rings and has won three NFL MVP Awards. Tampa Bay is a +120 second-favourite on the NFL odds to win the South for the first time since 2007. The New Orleans Saints are -112 favourites to win a fourth straight division title and have arguably the best regular-season QB in history in Drew Brees. He’s No. 1 in career passing yards and TDs, with Brady second.
Matt Ryan of the Falcons (+800) is a future Hall of Famer, too, and was the 2016 league MVP. Ryan has set several league records in terms of “fastest to” marks. Finally, there’s Teddy Bridgewater of the Panthers (+2200). Good player, but a bit of an outlier in the division.
2020 NFC South NFL Preview
This is expected to be the last NFL campaign for Brees as he nearly retired this offseason and already has a job lined up as a football broadcaster at NBC Sports. The Saints (10.0 wins at Sports Interaction) tied for the NFC lead with 13 regular-season wins in 2019 but lost the tiebreakers for a first-round bye to both Green Bay and San Francisco. That forced the Saints to play on Wild-Card Weekend and they lost on a controversial walk-off overtime touchdown by the Vikings. It was the third straight postseason that New Orleans lost in walk-off, almost incomprehensible fashion. Brees could easily have 2-3 Super Bowl rings instead of one.
Brees also has arguably the best running back/receiver combination in the league in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, who set the NFL single-season catches record last year. The window is closing on this group, though, as the Saints are in major salary-cap trouble starting in 2021.
Tampa Bay (9.5 wins) won the offseason simply by getting Brady, and the fact he convinced another future Hall of Famer, tight end Rob Gronkowski, to come out of retirement to join him was gravy. The Bucs added another “ring-chaser” in running back LeSean McCoy, a former league rushing champion. This looks to be the most loaded offence in Bucs history when you also include wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, tight end OJ Howard and running back Ronald Jones II. Sadly, Tampa fans won’t be able to see Brady in person for at least the team’s first two home games. Of course, Super Bowl 55 is also in Tampa.
Among the favourites to be the first NFL coach fired this year is Dan Quinn of the Falcons (7.5 wins). Since blowing that 28-3 lead vs. the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, this franchise has gone backward and has finished 7-9 the past two years. The only thing that brought back Quinn was the fact Atlanta won four straight and six of eight to close 2019. Ryan remains a top-tier QB and there are no better receivers than Julio Jones. Tailback Todd Gurley hopes to rejuvenate his career back in Georgia, where he starred collegiately. It seems as if the Falcons have been hit harder by injuries than any team the previous two years.
Carolina (5.5 wins) is in full-blown rebuild mode with franchise legends like Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Luke Kuechly now gone. Ownership spent a fortune to lure Baylor’s Matt Rhule as the new head coach. Bridgewater is likely just a bridge quarterback to whomever the Panthers select early in the 2021 draft. The Cats do have the NFL’s best all-around running back in Christian McCaffrey but not much else.
NFC South Odds Tracker
NFC South Predictions
The Saints finish first at 11-5 (over win total), the Bucs second at 9-7 (under), Falcons third at 8-8 (over) and Panthers last at 3-13 (under).