State of the NFC South: 2024 Edition Atlanta and Tampa Bay are set for another battle.

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) works in the pocket against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

By: Devin Sanguinett

The NFC South will be looking slightly more competitive with the teams upgrading their weakest spots from last year. Although the Panthers still have a baseline of sheer awfulness to represent the division. With that being said, let’s start with them.

Carolina Panthers

Did you know that in their first game against the Saints, they didn’t cross midfield a single time? Yeah that about sums up how good they were last season. I said in my last “State of the NFC South” that if a few things went wrong for them, they had the lowest floor. For the first time I believe, everything I said about them was exactly right. Oh wait, I said Bryce Young would be decent. Well, mostly right. The Panthers were terrible, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Just watch their receivers try and fail to get open. They earned the number one pick for a reason. Actually, there was one other thing I was wrong about, the defense was terrible and will be even worse without Brian Burns.

They got better, kinda. They traded for Diontae Johnson to make the greatest WR corp of number 2 guys. They also paid for known big offensive lineman Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis. The Hunt signing also helps their WRs as he can catch TD passes. Dave Canales is also an upgrade at coach for them, at least on paper. If anyone can save Young, it’s probably him. They also managed to get a WR that can hopefully be a number one guy.

With all that said, it is hard to see this team as anything other than last place. There was no proof last year that Bryce Young could be the guy and that move may have set the franchise back quite a bit. Carolina may possibly be contending for worst team in the NFC South and league again.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are the dictionary definition of mediocre. Everything about them is just ok. Derek Carr is ok (until he reaches the end zone and then he just forgets how to play), their receivers are ok, their defense is ok, their coaches… are less than ok. There is really nothing on this team that should excite people. Derek Carr hasn’t come close to earning his contract, although he did look better towards the end of the year.

They also still have a very old core. Alvin Kamara did not look nearly as effective as he has had in years past. Cameron Jordan is also still a thing, despite only getting 2 sacks for a whole year. I can see the Saints making the wild card just because of their easy schedule, but I would be very surprised if they won the NFC South division.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have been the trendy pick to win the division, and there is a good reason for that. Their QB doesn’t suck ass anymore. Even a one-legged Kirk Cousins is better than Desmond Ridder. Their roster is pretty solid all things considered. The secondary is really good and they have excellent skill players on the offense. That being said, there is still a glaring weakness on their team. The pass rush. It was terrible. They ranked #32 in pass rush win rate at an astoundingly low 31%. Good thing they picked a pass rusher with the 8th overall pick.

*crickets*

Oh. Well maybe Penix has some sweet moves to get off blocks. He had to have learned something in the 30 years he played in the NCAA. Yeah, the Falcons are a good roster on paper, but I don’t know how that will translate to this year. There are still questions about Kirk Cousins. An Achilles tear at his age can be devastating. Also, as much as I like Zac Robinson as OC, I don’t know how much of an upgrade Raheem Morris is. Remember, he still only got four wins when he was their interim and that team wasn’t that talent poor. They could win the division, but I wouldn’t consider them an automatic lock.

Tampa Bay Buccanneers

Ah, everyone’s favorite team. I won’t spend too much time on them since, you know, I have tons of posts about the team already. What I will say is that the Bucs took an already talented team, and made it better. They had three very obvious weaknesses: interior o-line, the rushing attack, and the secondary. Jason Licht proceeded to address all of them. He solved the interior o-line issue with various signings like Sua Opeta and drafting Graham Barton, which should also solve the running game issues. He fixed the secondary by bringing back Jordan Whitehead and drafting Tykee Smith.

Losing Carlton Davis was probably the biggest loss, but should be mitigated by a Zyon McCollum who has had time to develop (although that is a question mark). Liam Coen should also provide some continuity for Baker. This team is still really solid all-around, even with the new pieces. It may took a week or two for it to come together, but this is a team that has a good chance of winning the division again.

As far as I can see, there are two teams that have a chance at the NFC South: the Falcons and the Bucs. Falcons on paper are more talented as a team, but history has taught me that means nothing as far as that team is concerned. The Saints have an outside chance of making noise, and the Panthers technically exist. At the end of the day, this is still the Bucs division to lose until I see proof otherwise.

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