Below we predict how each team in the NFC South will fare when the 2020 NFL season kicks off in, what we assume will be, September.
Prediction: NFC South 2020 Standings
1. New Orleans Saints (2019 record 13-3)
The NFC South was New Orleans for the taking until the Bucs won the TB12 Sweepstakes while his old buddy, Rob Gronkowski, decided to come out of retirement and join the GOAT for some fun in the sun this season.
However, the NFL odds are still listing the Saints as the favorite, albeit not by much, to win the division at +110 with BetOnline, slightly ahead of the newly retooled Bucs at +120. But folks, don’t believe the hype because the Saints are the best team, not only in the division but in the conference.
They added Emmanuel Sanders to complement Michael Thomas, giving Drew Brees another weapon to throw to while shoring up their interior line through the draft with Michigan center/guard Cesar Ruiz at No. 24. As a matter of fact, the Saints are so smitten with Ruiz that they gave Pro Bowl guard, Larry Warford, his walking papers in order to free up about $7 million in cap space.
New Orleans also landed a first-round prospect, Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun, in the third round making him one of the biggest steals of the draft, followed by a talented tight end in Dayton’s Adam Trautman also in the third round. The Saints are the class of the division and should be just as good this year as last while looking to atone for their stunning early exit to the Vikings in the wild card round last year.
2020 Record: 12-4
2. Tampa Bay Bucs (2019 record 7-9)
It’s showtime Bucs fans! Tampa Bay will get the twilight years of Tom Brady’s career but they will be happy to take whatever vestige remains of arguably the greatest quarterback to ever lace up the cleats. One thing that Brady brings, which is a stark contrast to the recently departed Jameis Winston, is ball safety.
Jameis Winston had 33 interceptions last year to 30 touchdown passes but nobody remembers the passing numbers because the mistakes were so often and so egregious. Brady is careful, some might say too careful, with the football and at age 43 (in August) he is no longer as nimble in the pocket and as quick with his once hair-trigger release. That’s not to say he isn’t still a top tier quarterback but expectations should be tempered because they are also getting a rusty tight end with very little tread left on his tire in Gronkowski.
The Bucs will be better with Brady under center but they only added Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. through the draft to their woeful pass defense and that will still be a big weakness this season. The season win total over at BetOnline for the Bucs is 9 ½ (O-140) but I find that to be a number inflated by the hype train surrounding the Brady and the Bucs which means I’m going under 9 ½ and getting +110 for my money in my NFL picks!
2020 Prediction: 9-7
3. Atlanta Falcons (2019 record 7-9)
The Falcons had a disappointing season last year but it was really due to just a horrendous first half as they went 1-7 to open and then ripped off six of eight wins in the second half. I believe that bodes well for the Dirty Birds as Atlanta bolstered their defense through the draft when they selected Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first round and then plucked Auburn defensive end, Marlon Davidson, in the second round.
However, getting Temple center, Matt Hennessy, in the third round is one of those under the radar picks that will pay dividends in protecting Matty Ice this season. The usual suspects on offense will continue to perform with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley while Todd Gurley, if healthy, could be a serious boon to the Atlanta backfield.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, they will have to play the Bucs and Saints twice apiece which gives them, what I believe, at least three losses right there. And their schedule doesn’t get much easier with games against Seattle (home), Dallas (away), Green Bay (away), Minnesota (away), and Kansas City (away). Those are all potential losses as well. Rough schedule for the Falcons which is why they will be lucky to be .500 this year.
2020 Prediction: 8-8
4. Carolina Panthers (2019 record 5-11)
Cam Newton is out and Teddy Bridgewater is in for the Cats this season. In addition, tough as nails middle linebacker Luke Kuechly retired in the offseason after plying his trade with the Panthers since 2012 and making seven trips to the Pro Bowl. That’s a void that will be impossible to fill but let’s give credit where credit is due, Carolina knew they needed help on defense and sure enough, they spent all seven of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball.
The Cats’ pass rush got immediately more dangerous when they selected Auburn defensive tackle, Derrick Brown, at No. 7 overall and then got a gift when Penn State defensive end slipped all the way down to No. 38. Let’s be clear, the Panthers will sack the quarterback this year which will cause turnovers and improve field position for their offense. It’s too bad they couldn’t ramp up the other side of the ball but rebuilding takes time and this draft was a winner for Carolina.
2020 Prediction: 6-10