Last season the dirty south turned into an all out slug fest with New Orleans reigning supreme but Carolina and Atlanta good enough to earn a Playoff spot as well. All three teams return their top players making them legitimate contenders once again. As for the Buccaneers, Head Coach Dirk Koetter and franchise Quarterback Jameis Winston have their work cut out, as Tampa Bay tries to avoid lagging behind once again.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans had an outstanding 2017 season that came to an abrupt end on a play that I'm sure they would like to forget forever. A play that should serve as motivation this season, as the Saints bring back a strong team that can definitely get back into the Playoffs and make amends for last years season ending blunder.
With Pro Bowl players like Cam Newton, Luke Kuechley, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen and Kawwan Short. Carolina has made the Playoffs in 4 of the last 6 seasons, highlighted by a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. After reaching the promise land and coming up short, getting back on the big stage is the top priority for the Panthers.
Let's give Atlanta credit. After falling apart and completely blowing a 28-3 Super Bowl lead the year before. The Falcons were able to survive as the "hunted" and fought their way back into the Playoffs last season, only to loss a heart breaker to Philadelphia in the Divisional Round. Atlanta is another team that returns all of its top players and figures to be in the Playoff mix again.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Let's just call it what it is. The Buccaneers have been bad for a long time. Sure they've had a few winning seasons here and there but they've only made the Playoffs twice in the last 15 years and both were first Round losses. Tampa has some talent and solid pieces on the roster but lacks winning leadership and direction. With that being the case, I'm not sure if the Bucs can turn the corner anytime soon without someone or something igniting a sense of urgency into the franchise.
NFC SOUTH OFF SEASON GRADES
Tampa Bay: B
New Orleans: C
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Season Preview - September 7, 2018
Preseason View -August 6, 2018