The question is will the Carolina Panthers control the NFC South again? Last year it seemed that no one could beat the Panthers, it didn’t matter if the team played in their division or not. Atlanta Falcons managed to make it to .500 record but, the Saints and the Bucs did not. Should I mention that in 2014 that no team in that division made it to a .500 record but, the Panthers somehow still won their division.
Last season the Panthers lost their top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season after he tore his ACL during the first practice of the summer. Now a year later he has returned. Their receiving core is back intact as of now. One of their problem areas is at running back. They have Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jonathan Stewart and Brandon Wegher. Let’s start with Jonathan Stewart, the man that can’t stay healthy. His last full season played was in 2011. Why do they consider this guy a starter? Did I mention he is limited in the OTA’s right now? Maybe his body is trying to tell him to quit or become a water boy. Whittaker on his third team, well he isn’t much to talk about. This will be Artis-Payne’s second season. He didn’t play much, but I did like what I saw from the kid. A positive note, his rushing average is higher that Trent Richardson’s. I think if he gets more experience, he will actually be a good player. Cam Netwon who almost lead the team with rushing yards, had the best season of his career last season. He increased his touchdowns to 35. He also didn’t throw as many interceptions as previous years.
The Panthers did take a big blow to their defense this off-season. They lost their top cornerback Josh Norman. Norman was shutting top wide receivers down the majority of the season. Will their defense be as good as last year? They still have Kuechly and Davis but can they stop the ball down the field? We will see.
When you hear the Atlanta Falcons name mentioned you automatically think of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. These two have a great chemistry together. They also have an effective running back Devonta Freeman, who had a 1000-yard season. His backup Tevin Coleman wasn’t bad either. Since last season Roddy White had one of his worst seasons of his career since he started in the NFL, was let go this off-season. He was replaced by Cincinnati’s wide receiver Mohammad Sanu. Their tight end situation isn’t bad but, the Falcons did draft Austin Hooper from Stanford. They started last season with a 5-0 record, but, ended with an 8-8 record. So what happened? The defense played horrible and were last in sacks. The offensive line couldn’t protect Ryan so, he was making very questionable decisions. During the 2016 NFL draft the Falcons main focus was to draft defensive players. Will these upgrades and drafts help?
Where to start with the Saints. The team, as a whole, had problems from the offense to the defense. The New Orleans Saints last season had a record of 7-9. The most consistent player on the Saints is well QB Drew Brees. He had a great season last year. Let’s first talk about their running back situation the Saints have Mark Ingram who has been on the team since 2011 and still hasn’t had a 1000-yard season. The last time he played all 16 games was in 2012. They signed C.J. Spiller for what reason I don’t know he didn’t do anything. They did draft a running back Daniel Lasco from California. They lost Jimmy Graham in 2014 so they had Benjamin Watson to fill his shoes. Watson did have one of the best season of his career, but they lost him in the off-season. The Saints did sign Colby Fleener to replace Watson. The defense for the Saints was garbage. They were ranked second to last in the league. A positive note the Saints did focus their draft on defensive players. They also signed Roman Harper for the second time.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with the fans who thought Jameis Winston was going to be their savior. Well, he might be but last year he wasn’t. The Bucs had 6-10 record last season. Last season Winston ranked 28th out of 34 in QB rankings. Winston also ranked fifth in the league in interceptions, but he did have a great yards gained pass completion. The Bucs have a great running back in Doug Martin and their offensive line last season was awesome, if they weren’t there was no way Martin was going to have over 1000-year season. What hurt the Bucs was losing their tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to shoulder injury for the season. They also lost Vincent Jackson to a knee injury for the season. Losing Jackson probably hurts them the most. He was one of the top players on the team and when he went down they only had Mike Evans. Mike Evans had a great yardage season last year, but only scored three touchdowns all season. Really? That’s horrible, Jackson only had three, but he got hurt. Seferian-Jenkins had four, but, again, he got hurt. Those two have great reasons why they didn’t score. The Bucs did fire Lovie Smith this past January. Maybe that is what needed to happen for them to have a better season.
The NFC South will be interesting to watch this season. The question is will they be a great division or horrible.
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