The New Normal – 2022 NFC South Preview

Ab Stanley
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Teams in the NFC south come into the 2022 season with more questions than answers. A couple of new coaches and a boat load of new players has turned this division upside down. Can any team in this division win the NFC and represent the conference in the Super Bowl?

 

Atlanta Falcons

Record In 2021: 7-10

Key Player: Running Back – Cordarrelle Patterson

Player To Watch: Defensive Lineman – Ta’Quon Graham

The Falcons enter the season with a new quarterback for the first time since they drafted Matt Ryan in 2008. Head coach Arthur Smith will tap Marcus Mariota to be the team’s starter, giving rookie Desmond Ridder a chance to sit and learn.

Atlanta should lean heavily on their multi-threat running back Cordarrelle Patterson and a stable of running mates to help solidify that unit. They should get better production from the passing game as well, after adding big bodied wide receiver Drake London to go along with second year tight end Kyle Pitts.

Defensively the Falcons need to fix a pass rush that hasn’t been great for the better part of a decade. Second year player Ta’Quon Graham has been turning heads in training camp. He could provide a stable compliment to Grady Jarrett up front and give the Falcons’ a boost in their defensive rankings.

The Falcons have a few questions marks in the secondary, especially at the safety position. However, one side of the field should be considered covered with cornerback A. J. Terrell roaming around back there. Prediction: 8-9

 

Carolina Panthers

Record In 2021: 5-12

Key Player: Running Back – Christian McCaffrey

Player To Watch: Cornerback – Jaycee Horn

Carolina is on a mission to dig themselves out of the NFC South basement and it’s off to a rocky start. The team is hoping Baker Mayfield can improve upon one of the league’s worst offenses in 2021. Luckily for them the team’s offensive line has improved somewhat and Mayfield is a clear upgrade over last year’s starter, Dam Darnold.

The Panthers will need Christian McCaffrey to stay healthy, after playing in only 15 games combined the previous two seasons. D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson should provide a great combination on the edges. Especially Moore, who’s gone over 1,100 receiving yards the last three seasons.

Carolina’s defense was ranked second in yards allowed in 2021 and they were especially stingy against opposing passing attacks. They will have to improve on a rush defense that was ranked in the middle of the pack last season, but Carolina could have the best defense in the division. Prediction: 7-10

 

New Orleans Saints

Record In 2021: 9-8

Key Player: Quarterback – Jameis Winston

Player To Watch: Safety – Tyrann Mathieu

The Saints come into the season with a new head coach in Dennis Allen and a bunch of new weapons on both sides of the ball.

Jameis Winston was off to his best start ever in 2021 before an ACL injury finished off his regular season. The team acquired Jarvis Landry and drafted Chris Olave tu bolster a receiving unit that should get All-Pro Michael Thomas back. The offense will be without Alvin Kamara for the first six games, but veteran Mark Ingram should provide some steady running to compliment the passing game.

The Saints’ defense was great last season, only allowing two opponents to eclipse the 30 point mark. New Orleans bought in veteran ball-hawk Tyrann Mathieu and drafted Alontae Taylor in the second round to bolster a pass defense that was towards the middle of the pack in yards allowed.

The Saints have a team with a bunch of boxes checked and still (somehow) with a bunch of questions yet to be answered. Prediction: 10-7

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record In 2021: 13-4

Key Player: Linebacker – Devin White

Player To Watch: Wide receiver – Julio Jones

The Buccaneers were one of the best teams in the league last season. Tom Brady enters year three in Tampa Bay sporting a 14-9 record, two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win. He will have some new blockers up front, which could cause some early season woes.

Wide receiver Julio Jones joins an already stacked unit featuring Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and a slew of talented tight ends at his disposal. Workhorse running back Leonard  Fournette rounds out the league’s second ranked offense from 2021.

The Defense was also effective, especially in terms of allowing points. They’ve added defensive lineman Akiem Hicks to a very stout front seven and defensive back Logan Ryan to bolster their secondary.

If Brady can overcome the offensive line issues this team should repeat as division champions. Prediction:11-6

Ab Stanley

Atlanta, GA

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