Now that the 2021 NFL Draft has come to a close and the majority of the marquee free agents have found their new homes, we can now begin to speculate as far as where the teams in the league will rank amongst their divisions. Some of the best teams in the league improved this offseason, while some other teams took some major blows to their roster. One thing remains the same, however, and that’s that we will have a great season kicking off in just a few months and the NFC South will be a division to watch.
In the division, the New Orleans Saints lost Drew Brees, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kept the team together, the Carolina Panthers added a new quarterback in Sam Darnold, and the Atlanta Falcons made quite a few changes but kept Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. All four teams seem to have gotten better.
Let’s dive into what the NFC South standings could look like following the 2021 season.
First Place: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s hard to argue with this pick. The Buccaneers somehow managed to win the Super Bowl last season without even winning their division, but that may not be the same result in 2021. I have the Buccaneers making a major splash yet again as they managed to bring back the majority of their roster while improving through the NFL Draft as well.
The Bucs still have Tom Brady slinging the rock under center, and as long as Brady runs the offense you will always have a shot at competing for a Super Bowl. I think the Buccaneers have a good shot at competing for another Super Bowl, and I think the path to that journey begins with an NFC South division title.
Second Place: New Orleans Saints
Many experts believe that the New Orleans Saints will suffer a major drop off in 2021, but I think that’s further from the truth. The Saints are returning the majority of their roster and made some high quality offseason additions that will keep them in contention to win the NFC South for the fifth consecutive season.
The Saints lost a few key players in quarterback Drew Brees, tight end Jared Cook, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins, but the Saints have done a great job at replacing those guys. Jameis Winston will look to take the reigns at the quarterback position while the Saints will bank on some younger players stepping up into starting roles. The Saints still have some great coaches to get their guys trained and ready for the season, and as long as Sean Payton is in town, the Saints will always be in playoff contention.
Third Place: Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons were the worst team in the NFC South in 2020, but I think they’ll flip spots with the Carolina Panthers this season. The Falcons aren’t in a position to compete with the Saints or Buccaneers for the top spot, but they did do quite a bit to make some valiant improvements to their roster.
The addition of tight end Kyle Pitts is a major upgrade and he will give Matt Ryan a great weapon to throw the ball to. The Falcons are still in need of a reliable running back, but there are still a handful of serviceable names on the free agent market. Atlanta added some solid talent that could contribute right away and they could wind up being much more improved next season.
Fourth Place: Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers didn’t do too much to help their case for improving this upcoming season, which is why I have them in fourth place. I think the Panthers have some good talent on their team, but the coaching staff in Carolina seems to keep players in a position to struggle rather than tap into their potential to beat opponents.
The Panthers lost Curtis Samuel this offseason, which is a major blow to the team’s offense and the addition of Sam Darnold doesn’t help their case at quarterback much more than Teddy Bridgewater did. Christian McCaffery is still the only true weapon the Panthers have on their offense, and the lack of a reliable offensive line will dampen their opportunities to use him properly. The Panthers have some nice pieces on the defensive side of the ball, but their lack of depth in seemingly every position is a bit concerning. If a star player misses time due to injury, the Panthers could spiral downwards in 2021.