The NFC South will look totally different this season, as Tom Brady’s sudden arrival to Tampa Bay will change the landscape of the entire NFC in 2020.
The division is now anyone’s guess, as New Orleans will be in a dogfight all year long with Bruce Arians’ emerging Buccaneers.
Meanwhile, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn will be under the microscope this season, as he’ll be firmly on the hot seat in 2020. Anything short of a playoff berth for Atlanta would likely signal the end for Quinn, as the Falcons have undergone a disappointing stretch since making it to the Super Bowl in 2017.
Last but not least, a new era has begun in Carolina, as first-year head coach Matt Rhule will look to build a winning culture in what appears to be a rebuilding year for owner David Tepper and the Panthers.
All in all, expect a wildly entertaining divisional race in what figures to be a two-horse race between New Orleans and Tampa Bay, as Atlanta and Carolina will be faced with ambiguous offseasons if they underperform yet again in 2020.
Now or Never for New Orleans
The Saints’ offseason has taken an unexpected turn, as Drew Brees’ comments regarding the Black Lives Matter movement divided a locker room that was formerly one of the strongest in the league.
Although Brees’ apology resonated mostly well with his teammates, it still remains to be seen how this team will fare if they’re faced with early-season adversity. The franchise’s strong culture and unwavering resilience will be put to the test in Week 1, as an unfamiliar foe travels to the Big Easy looking to make his first big statement as a Buccaneer.
You guessed it — Brady.
The Saints were once again left stunned in a postseason matchup against the Vikings, as an uninspiring home defeat sent New Orleans packing in the Wild Card round.
Seeking redemption for a slew of postseason disappointments the last three years, Brees will likely have his last chance at a second Super Bowl ring, as the Saints bring back the same core from a year ago.
General manager Mickey Loomis did an admirable job of fortifying both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety Malcolm Jenkins were signed as free agents and can be penciled in as Week 1 starters at their respective positions.
Sanders will help supplement a passing game that was far too dependent on All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas last season, providing Brees with another playmaker in 2020. A strong offensive line and good run game will help lessen the burden on the 41-year-old quarterback, as his arm strength has clearly deteriorated over the past few seasons.
Moreover, expect Jenkins to play a huge role in this Saints defense, as he will patrol the middle of the field behind linebacker Demario Davis and defensive end Cameron Jordan.
Sean Payton and the Saints seem destined for one last Super Bowl run in 2020.
New Man In Charge
With the unanticipated addition of Brady, a sure Hall of Fame quarterback, the Buccaneers have a good shot at being the first-ever team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
In what many believe is the most polarizing team in football, the Bucs organization will have a ton of pressure to best accommodate the six-time Super Bowl champion signal-caller.
The franchise faces immense pressure this upcoming season, as this will be Brady’s first year away from Bill Belichick and New England. Arians will have his hands full with an offense that features a plethora of weapons — starting with wide receiver tandem Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Brady will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal, as this was an area that let him down tremendously last season.
Long-time friend and teammate Rob Gronkowski decided it was time to come out of retirement to team back up with his former battery mate, as Arians will likely run plenty of two tight end sets with the likes of Gronkowski and OJ Howard at his disposal.
Moreover, Todd Bowles’ defense was a surprise bright spot for Tampa Bay last season, as they ranked first against the run, and near the top of the league in total sacks. Defensive end Shaquil Barrett emerged as an elite pass rusher under Bowles’ 4-3 scheme, as he was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2019.
The pieces are in place for Brady and the Bucs to make a deep postseason run in 2020.
Prove It Year for Quinn
The Falcons’ window is rapidly closing, as veteran quarterback Matt Ryan hasn’t been the same player that led Atlanta to the Super Bowl just three short seasons ago.
In what is a make-or-break year for Quinn, expect an incredibly motivated football team in 2020. He will almost certainly be fired this offseason if Atlanta can’t make it back to the playoffs, as patience has run thin for GM Thomas Dimitroff and owner Arthur Blank.
Unfortunately, this franchise will have a tough time in what appears to be a very competitive NFC South, as there will be no easy games on the schedule for Quinn’s group.
The addition of Todd Gurley will help fortify a running game that struggled a year ago, but it remains to be seen whether or not Gurley has anything left in the tank after an unimpressive 2019 campaign.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s defense has to improve in 2020, as it was an absolute mess last season. First-round pick AJ Terrell will slot in as one of their starting corners in Week 1, while second-round defensive tackle Marlon Davidson will help provide Grady Jerrett with some much-needed support.
All in all, this Falcons team just doesn’t feel like a serious playoff contender in 2020, as Quinn’s tenure as head coach will likely come to a resounding end after another disappointing season.
New Era in Carolina
Forward-thinking Tepper has done an impressive job during his brief time in Carolina, as he’s put his fingerprints all over this organization thus far.
Moving on from Ron Rivera could not have been easy for Tepper, as Rivera did so much for the city of Carolina during his time there. However, first-year head coach Rhule seems to be an absolute home run hire for Tepper, as his pedigree suggests that he’ll bring a winning culture back to Carolina.
It will take time for Rhule to make his mark on a franchise that is not built to win right away. However, his track record has shown that he has the uncanny ability to do a lot with a little, as he helped take a Baylor team that finished 1-11 a year prior to a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Rhule will be ready to tackle this rebuild head-on, as brighter days are ahead in the Tar Heel State. Regardless of their record, expect an uber-competitive team all season long.
- New Orleans Saints: 10-6
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10-6
- Atlanta Falcons: 7-9
- Carolina Panthers: 5-11
I suspect a slow start will hinder Tampa Bay’s chances to take home the NFC South, as a shortened offseason will obstruct Brady from getting familiar with his new teammates. Give me the Saints to win an extremely tight divisional race that will likely come down to the last couple weeks or so.
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