Even though the past two Super Bowls have been represented by the NFC South, it remains quite an underrated division in today’s NFL. The division’s combined record of 11-6 through the first five weeks of the season is among the top, with the Panthers leading the pack at 4-1. It’s also the only division in football that has all four teams with a better points for than points against, for what that’s worth. So, who is the best out there? Let’s take a quick look.
Carolina Panthers (4-1)
Last Week: Victory at Detroit Lions 27-24
This Week: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1)
Ron Rivera’s squad looked fine to start off the season, with their defense showing up in relatively easy games against the 49ers and Bills. The Saints were able to blow them out of the water in Week 3, making Cam Newton look like a mediocre quarterback. However, an impressive victory in New England over the Patriots followed up by another road win against the Lions has many back on their bandwagon. They’ll be tested against the Eagles on Thursday Night Football.
Outlook: Your early hot take of the week centers around the Panthers falling into a tailspin after they lose to the Eagles. They have to travel to play the Bears, who might be a bit underrated, and then have back-to-back divisional clashes with the Bucs and Falcons. I fully expect them to hang around and be competitive in the division, but they aren’t the strongest team in the NFC South, even with a 4-1 record.
Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: vs. Miami Dolphins (2-2)
It’s been that kind of season for the Falcons, who had last-second victories over the Bears and Lions. They handled the Packers with ease at home, but looked all sorts of confused against the Bills. Is this really a 4-1 team? On paper, yes. There’s hardly any doubt that they’ll improve to 5-1 after playing the Dolphins on Sunday.
Outlook: Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, the Falcons have to be the best team in the division and the biggest threat in the NFC South. Even with Matt Ryan, last year’s league MVP, struggling through his first four games, the Falcons are extremely talented and have shown that their defense poses a real problem for opponents. They have three straight road trips after Miami, which include the Patriots, Jets, and Panthers. That’s not exactly easy.
New Orleans Saints (2-2)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: vs. Detroit Lions (3-2)
After opening the season with an oh-so familiar 0-2, the Saints rebounded to get back to .500. It’s been primarily a defensive effort that has been the most impressive part of the team’s victories, but this is also a team that is playing mistake-free football right now. It’s been a long time since Sean Payton’s squad has been able to get over the hump, could this be their time?
Outlook: No one is ready to crown the Saints, and rightfully so. They have lost to the Lions three straight seasons, and no one will hop on their bandwagon anytime soon. Victories over the Lions and Packers, two of the better (maybe best) teams in the NFC could very well change that. We want to see if the defense is real or fool’s gold. Still, offensively you have to feel good about what rookie Alvin Kamara has been able to do throughout the first part of the season, which helped lead to the dismissal of Adrian Peterson. Getting Terron Armstead and Willie Snead back will be a big boost to the offense, but will losing Alex Anzalone be a big issue on defense?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)
Last Week: Loss vs. New England Patriots 19-14
This Week: at Arizona Cardinals (2-3)
Every season you want to believe that the Buccaneers have it figured out. They had a strong draft and good free agency, but have split their first four games, winning against a lowly Giants and Bears squad, but losing against the Vikings and Patriots. If only kickers could do their job, right?
Outlook: The Bucs have their work cut out for them, and can quickly find themselves in a hole. After facing Arizona, the Bucs have the Bills on the road and then host the Panthers and travel to take on the Saints. This is one team that can really see their season slip away quickly if they can’t turn it around.
When it’s all said and done, who do you have as the NFC South winner in 2017?
This poll is closed