The 2017 NFL season is quickly approaching and we can hardly wait to see how things will turn out in the NFC South. All four teams improved in the off-season and the division looks like it will be as tightly contested as ever. The season is weeks away, so, for now, all we can do is speculate, and today we’re going to do just that. Welcome to the NFC South 2017 Season Preview!
Offseason Grade: B
In a relatively quiet offseason, the Atlanta Falcons lost Dwight Freeney, Patrick DiMarco, and most importantly, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. In order to make up for these losses. the Falcons signed Dontari Poe and Jack Crawford while drafting potential defensive studs like Takkarist McKinley and Duke Riley. The Falcons didn’t make any crucial changes to the roster that led them to the Super Bowl last year, but losing Kyle Shanahan could have a big impact on this team.
According to ESPN.com, the offense ranked 2nd overall, averaging 120.5 (5th) rushing yards per game, and 295 (3rd) passing yards per game. Their 33.8 points per game was enough for first in the NFL. Defensively, the Falcons ranked 25th overall, allowing 267 (28th) passing yards per game and 104.5 (17th) rushing yards per game. They allowed 25.4 points per game, ranking 27th in the league.
Keys to Success:
If the Falcons wish to be as successful as last year, Matt Ryan must continue to spread the ball around and not falter without Kyle Shanahan. It will be important that Julio Jones has another big year and that Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman help tire out opposing defenses. The Falcons’ defense must improve this year, as the Panthers, Buccaneers, and Saints all improved their offenses during the offseason.
OPOY: Julio Jones
DPOY: Vic Beasley Jr.
ROY: Takkarist McKinley
Breakout Player: Grady Jarrett
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offseason Grade: A
The Buccaneers made a splash this offseason, as they picked up more of the pieces needed to end their long playoff drought. They lost Alterraun Verner, Bradley McDougald, and backup quarterback Mike Glennon. The Buccaneers signed speedster Desean Jackson, run stuffer Chris Baker, and they drafted potential superstar TE O.J. Howard, hard hitting Justin Evans, and the red zone target, Chris Godwin.
According to ESPN.com, the offense ranked 18th overall, averaging 101 (24th) rush yards per game and 245.4 (16th) passing yards per game. The Buccaneers scored 22.1 points per game, 19th in the league. On the defensive side, the Buccaneers ranked 23rd overall, allowing 250.8 (22nd) passing yards per game and 117.2 (22nd) rushing yards per game. The Buccaneers allowed 23.1 points per game, ranking 15th in the NFL.
Keys to Success
Jameis Winston must take the next step if the Buccaneers want to achieve their full potential this season. He is now surrounded by talent and there is no excuse for him to not improve this year. It will be important for Doug Martin to return to his 2015 form to take some pressure off of Winston. The defense must play like they did during their 4 game winning streak last year if the Buccaneers want to make a deep playoff run. It will definitely be a challenge, but there is something about the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers that makes me confident that they will (finally) live up to their potential.
OPOY: Jameis Winston
DPOY: Kwon Alexander
ROY: Chris Godwin
Breakout Player: Keith Tandy
Offseason Grade: B+
The Panthers lost defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, assistant GM Brandon Beane, Tre Boston, Ted Ginn Jr, and Philly Brown. The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, and they drafted versatile RB Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, Taylor Moton, and Corn Elder. The Panthers focused on making their offense more dynamic by drafting McCaffrey and Samuel, and the defense adds a cornerback with a ton of potential in Corn Elder. It was an amazing draft by the Panthers front office.
According to ESPN.com, the offense ranked 19th overall, averaging 113.4 (10th) rushing yards per game and 230.3 (22nd) passing yards per game. The Panthers scored 23.1 points per game, good for 15th in the NFL. Defensively, the Panthers ranked 21st overall, allowing 91.6 (6th) rushing yards per game and 268.2 (29th) passing yards per game. The Panthers allowed 25.1 points per game, finishing 26th in the NFL.
Keys to Success
The Panthers need to go back to 2015 and have fun again. When Cam Newton is having fun, the Panthers are having fun. In order to succeed in 2017, Cam must utilize his new weapons and return to his 2015 form. The defense must improve as ranking 29th in passing defense simply won’t cut it in the NFC South.
OPOY: Cam Newton
DPOY: Luke Kuechly
ROY: Christian McCaffrey
Breakout Player: Kelvin Benjamin
New Orleans Saints
Offseason Grade: B-
The Saints lost Brandin Cooks, Jarius Byrd, Tim Lelito, and Tim Hightower. They made up for these losses by signing Ted Ginn Jr., Adrian Peterson, A.J. Klein, and Manti Te’o, and drafting Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, and Alvin Kamara. Drafting Marshon Lattimore may provide a big boost to the Saints defense as Lattimore was quite possibly the most gifted cornerback in the NFL Draft.
According to ESPN.com, the Saints offense ranked 1st overall in 2016, averaging 317.1 (1st) passing yards per game and 108.9 (16th) rushing yards per game. The Saints scored 29.3 points per game, ranking second in the NFL. Defensively, the Saints ranked 27th overall. They allowed 273.8 (32nd) passing yards per game and 101.6 (14th) rushing yards per game.
Keys to Success
It is important that Drew Brees doesn’t lose a step so it will be crucial for Adrian Peterson to help take pressure off of the aging quarterback. If Drew Brees keeps playing like he did last year, and Peterson helps give them a dangerous rushing attack, the Saints can be scary. The Saints will also need Marshon Lattimore to pan out quickly to help improve the worst passing defense in the NFL.
OPOY: Drew Brees
DPOY: Cameron Jordan
ROY: Marshon Lattimore
Breakout Player: Sheldon Rankins
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5
- Carolina Panthers 10-6
- Atlanta Falcons 9-7
- New Orleans Saints 8-8