NFL

Football Insiders’ NFC South Predictions

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The Football Insiders staff weighed in on who we believe will win the NFL’s most winnable division.  Here are the results:

John Owning-

1. Carolina Panthers
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Atlanta Falcons

The Carolina Panthers have by far the best defense in the division. On the back of their defense and Cam Newton, the Panthers will hover around .500, which should be good enough to win this division. The New Orleans Saints have a disastrous defense, but their potentially prolific offense should be able to keep them in contention throughout the year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an up swing with a lot of really good young talent, but Jameis Winston’s growing pains will keep them from contending this year. The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of weapons on offense; however, their offensive line is awful and their defense is bad. It will be difficult for them to contend this year.

Charlie Bernstein-

1. Atlanta Falcons
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s anyone’s guess who wins this division, but I believe the Falcons have the fewest number of “major” question marks of any team in the South.  Atlanta will get just enough defense to go 9-7, which should be enough to get it done….The Saints have the best quarterback and head coach in the division and that may be good enough, but their defense is atrocious.  They can’t continue to try and out-shoot teams for 16 games and win more than half of them….The Kelvin Benjamin injury doesn’t really change my opinion of the Panthers all that much, as I feel they’re a team on the decline anyway….The Bucs have major issues on their offensive line and I have no idea how they’re going to find a pass rush.  Jameis Winston will be inconsistent all year long and Lovie Smith has done a poor job up to this point.

Pat Donovan-

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Carolina Panthers

The New Orleans Saints had just about everything go wrong, and still hung around the NFC South in 2014. Changing the focus of the offense should help Drew Brees get back to form. The Atlanta Falcons will be very dangerous after a very good draft if Dan Quinn can get anything out of that defense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their ups and downs with as many rookies as the team will feature, but they’re headed in the right direction, while the Carolina Panthers are going to have trouble moving the football with their lack of weapons after the massive loss of Kelvin Benjamin.

Bo Marchionte-

1. Atlanta Falcons
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. New Orleans Saints

Hopefully the team that wins this division this year has a winning record, as last season the Carolona Panthers were crowned NFC South Champs with a 7-8-1 record. The Falcons, under new head coach Dan Quinn, aim to be improved defensively which seemed to be the Achilles heel of the franchise under previous coach Mike Smith.  A change in philosophy and attitude is exactly what Atlanta needed and I think a return to the playoffs is in order. It should also be mentioned that I do not believe the Falcons are much better than the other teams listed underneath them, it just seems to look like they have the most ducks in a line. The Panthers had little to work with before the injury to their second-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who is lost for the season and it hurts tremendously. Tampa Bay is working in rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and the growing pains should limit the amount of total overall success the Bucs have as a franchise.  This off-season has been one to forget as the Saints try to save cap room by dumping players that held real substance to the organization. Their defense still has holes and the offense has been depleted. It may end up being a very long year on the Bayou for Drew Brees and company.

Mark Gunnels-

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This division is a complete crapshoot, but I believe Drew Brees and his young batch of skill position guys will do enough to put them over the top. Atlanta will be right there, but with a lack of a ground attack, it puts a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan. Carolina might’ve been my favorite, but the loss of Kelvin Benjamin hurts tremendously. Their defense will be stout, but how will they score? And as far as the Bucs go, they’ll experience some growing pains with Jameis Winston.

Devon Jeffreys-

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For the second consecutive year, this division is essentially the biggest toss up in the league, with three teams in play and one lagging quite a bit behind. I could even see it being won by a sub .500 team again this year….I’ll give the slightest edge to the Saints because of their pedigree, the fact it’s hard to keep Drew Brees and Sean Payton down for too long, and most notably because I like the look of their running game, which sets New Orleans apart from Atlanta….The Falcons are still too one-dimensional, carried by a passing game that should be dynamic but with a bad offensive line and a worse defense. It’ll take more than one year for Dan Quinn to turn them around on that end….Carolina is borderline zero-dimensional with a defense that should continue to decline and an offense without playmakers for Cam Newton. They’d finish last in many divisions….The only thing keeping them from there here is the lowly Buccaneers who could once again finish with the league’s worst record.
Jeff Carlson-
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This could be the biggest toss-up division in pro football.  I will give Drew Brees and Sean Payton my nod for coming up with enough wins to take the south this year.  Cam Newton does enough to keep the Panthers in an up-one-week-down-the-next scenario, just enough to finish as runners-up.  The Atlanta Falcons have Julio Jones and Matt Ryan.  That should be enough to outdistance Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, but not by much.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.