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Battle Of The Immortals: 2020 NFC South Preview
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Battle Of The Immortals: 2020 NFC South Preview

Ab Stanley

The NFC South is a division ripe with aging quarterbacks and top flight skill position players. Year in and year out, the offenses shatter records and put opponents on their heels. This division has produced a few Super Bowl contenders and they just added the ultimate representative of the big game.

 

Atlanta Falcons

Record in 2019: 7-9

Key Player: Running Back – Todd Gurley

Player To Watch: Cornerback –  A.J. Terrell

The Falcons finished with a ton of yards gained and not much else to show for it. They will look to improve on their 30th ranked rushing attack with the acquisition of Todd Gurley and a couple of changes to the offensive line. Gurley has a nose for the end zone and he can provide big plays on the ground or through the passing game.

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley return for a passing attack that finished top five in the league in 2019. Tight end Hayden Hurst joins the fray to provide another target for Ryan as well as help out with the run game. His numbers might not be overwhelming but they should improve drastically playing in Dirk Koetter’s offense.

Dante Fowler should help out tremendously up front, flanking Grady Jarrett and helping to pressure the quarterback. Rookie defensive back A.J. Terrell has wowed coaches during training camp and will be looked upon to play a major role in the defense. The return of Keanu Neal should be a big boost to the defense with his hard nosed style of play.

The Falcons will have a tough time making the playoffs in the NFC but they should be fighting for a spot all season. It will really depend on the improvement of their run game and defense. Prediction: 8-8

 

Carolina Panthers

Record in 2019: 5-11

Key Player: Defensive Tackle – Derrick Brown

Player To Watch: Wide Receiver – Robbie Anderson

Head coach Matt Rhule makes the jump to the NFL with a uphill battle in this division. Carolina is fundamentally a brand new team with plenty of new faces in search of new on field leaders.

Teddy Bridgewater should provide a steady hand at the quarterback position. He can pretty much make all the throws and is not prone to force passes. Robbie Anderson is a good pickup at wide receiver for Carolina. They hope he improves on his consistency, because he has the ability to make big plays downfield.

Christian McCaffrey has pretty much been the offense for Carolina ever since he got drafted. He led the the team in both rushing and receiving yards in 2019 and the team will rely on him to have another MVP type season.

Carolina’s defense was ranked 31st in points allowed last season and they gave up the most rushing touchdowns in the league. Rookie defensive lineman Derrick Brown should drastically improve those numbers. Brown has a unique combination of power and quickness and has been playing against NFL caliber players for years in the SEC.

Shaq Thompson is now the de facto leader of the defense after the retirement of Luke Kuechly. He finished last season with 109 tackles and 11 tackles for a loss.

The secondary was good last year but will have to replace a few veterans from last season. Strong safety Jeremy Chinn has the range to cover receivers downfield and come up and help against rushing attacks.

The Panthers should be in a rebuilding mode, but a few of the moves they made could pay off big. Prediction: 5-11

 

New Orleans Saints

Record in 2019: 13-3

Key Player: Running Back – Alvin Kamara

Player To Watch: Linebacker – Zach Braun

Drew Brees returns for season his 20th season and he’s hoping he can trick father time for one more run. Michael Thomas caught everything thrown his way last year for a record 149 catches. Emmanuel Sanders should see nothing but one on one situations in the slot and he will be productive.

Alvin Kamara finished the 2019 season with 1,330 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. He leads a loaded backfield alongside Latavius Murray and Ty Montgomery.

The defense was effective, benefiting from having leads in most games and forcing opponents to almost abandon the run against them. Rookie linebacker Zach Braun should be a much welcomed addition. He has natural pass rush skill and the ability to cover tight ends and players out the backfield. The secondary remains stiff with Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins.

New Orleans has been a team on the cusp of the Super Bowl for the past two or three seasons. As long as head coach Sean Payton is there and Brees is playing at a high level, they will continue to be right there. Prediction: 11-5

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record in 2019: 7-9

Key Player: Running Back – LeSean McCoy

Player To Watch: Cornerback – Sean-Murphy Bunting

Imagine having the third ranked offense in the NFL and still needing an upgrade at quarterback. Tom Brady comes in with a ton of bravado and a impeccable resume. He will be counted on to improve a league worst 41 turnovers in 2019. He has no shortage of weapons and a great offensive mind in head coach Bruce Arians.

Rob Gronkowski joins Cameron Brate at tight end. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin provide explosive plays on the edge. Brady loves the short passes and he will milk those until something opens up deep down field.

LeSean McCoy and the recently acquired Leonard Fournette combine for what should be an exciting backfield. McCoy will provide the much needed pass catching out of the backfield that Brady loves. Fournette is a monster between the tackles and his hard nosed running will keep drives alive.

The front seven of the defense is talented and might make some serious noise playing with a lead. Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea provide a massive wall up front. The linebacker corp might be the best in the league, led by Devin White and Lavonte David.

The secondary struggled last year and was constantly challenged. Sean-Murphy Bunting had a promising rookie season last year, finishing with three interceptions and eight pass deflections. Second round pick Antoine Winfield Jr. has the ability to make plays at safety and nickelback, but the team is hoping he can stay healthy.

Tampa Bay did not get the most prolific quarterback in NFL history to just make the playoffs. They will have a few obstacles in the NFC and at least one in their own division. Prediction: 12-4

About Ab Stanley

Atlanta, GA

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