Through the first seven weeks of football, it’s safe to say that the NFC South has been one of the worst divisions in the league. Every team has a below .500 record, and none of them have shown much promise.
The current standings are not exactly what experts believed they would be at this point in the season; Bucs, Falcons, Saints, Panthers.
With the regression of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it brings up the question: Who is the best team in the NFC South?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coming into the season, the Bucs were the heavy favorite to win the division. Tom Brady unretired, and they had just come off of a heartbreaking loss in the divisional round to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bucs had the most complete roster, and no one thought any other team would contest them for the division title.
Through the first seven weeks, the Bucs have been a complete mess. Their current record is 3-4 after suffering back to back losses to the Steelers and Panthers and things don’t seem to be getting any better. It seems as if every week a new video of Tom Brady freaking out on his teammates or him throwing a tablet is being posted.
After the retirement of Bruce Arians, the Bucs promoted defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to the head coaching position, and I believe this is the main reason for their regression.
The play calling has been terrible, both offensively and defensively, and they don’t have that same “Top Dog” mentality anymore. Tom Brady seems to have checked out mentally, and this may finally be the year father time has caught up to him.
As a team, the Bucs have severely underperformed. Their offense is ranked number 22 in terms of total yards. Their defense is the main reason they haven’t fallen off completely, they rank number seven in total defense. If the Bucs don’t step it up, they have a serious chance of being dethroned as division champions.
Coming into the season, the Falcons were projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and contenders for the No. 1 overall NFL Draft Pick. But through the first seven weeks, this team has proven the doubters wrong.
After the departure of Matt Ryan, the Falcons were viewed as having one of the NFL’s worst rosters. The offense was being led by Marcus Mariota and had many holes and question marks. The defense didn’t seem to have many improvements and still had many weaknesses. But, through the first seven weeks, this team has overperformed and exceeded expectations.
The offense has been solid. Led by the stellar play from the offensive line, the run game has been dominant, ranked number four overall. The pass game hasn’t been anything special, but it has still been efficient .
Defensively the Falcons have also shown improvements. Prior to the Bengals game, this defense was playing very well and was a bend but don’t break type of unit. Their 11 sacks overall is approaching their season total of just 18 from a year ago.
As a team, the Falcons have greatly exceeded expectations and they can give the Bucs a legitimate fight for the division title.
New Orleans Saints
Coming into the year there were a lot of questions around the Saints; How would they adjust to a new head coach?, How would Jameis Winston play?, Can they win the division?
Through the first seven weeks, the Saints have been a mess. They started off the year good with a comeback win against the Falcons but have gone 1-5 since then. It seems as if they are having a very difficult time adjusting to the Dennis Allen era.
A reason for the Saints performing so poorly could be the amount of injuries they have faced. Players like Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Jarvis Landry, and Marshon Lattimore have all missed games this season. But also when they have played, they haven’t shown they can keep up with their opponents.
Overall, the Saints haven’t played completely terrible, they have just been getting outplayed by their opponents. As an offense, they are ranked number three in terms of total yards. As a defense, they are ranked 14 in terms of total yards. As you can see, stats don’t always tell the whole story for the 2-5 Saints.
Coming into the season, the Panthers were one of the NFL’s most polarizing teams. Some viewed the Panthers as a possible dark-horse team that could make a run for the playoffs, and others viewed them as one of the worst teams in the league.
So far this season it’s been the latter for the Panthers. They brought in Baker Mayfield in the offseason in hopes of a resurgence and a new start to the franchise. The Baker experiment immensely failed and the Panthers found themselves in need of a quarterback once again.
The Panthers had a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball such as Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Brian Burns, and Jaycee Horn. They also have a lot of other solid pieces around these playmakers, but so far they haven’t been able to produce anything.
With the firing of Matt Rhule, and now the McCaffrey trade, it seems as if the Panthers are entering the first year of their rebuild. This Panthers team has been the worst team in the NFL. As an offense they rank 32nd in terms of total yards. Defensively they haven’t been terrible, ranking 18th, but that’s a drop from last year’s unit.
Overall, I think the Bucs are still the best team in the NFC South, but it’s very close. The Falcons have vastly improved and are a legitimate threat to take the division. The Panthers and Saints are on the opposite side; both teams are underperforming and contenders for top picks. The NFC South is one of the worst divisions in the league, so it’s ripe for the taking… even for the rebuilding Falcons.
Forging the Falcons Podcast: