Last season the NFC’s Super Bowl team came out of the NFC South, that being the Cam Newton led Carolina Panthers, who had a great season before losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Newton and the Panthers ran through the division, going 15-1 in the regular season before getting rid of the Seahawks and Cardinals to get to the Super Bowl.
Reaching those heights again in 2016 will be tough, as despite not winning the big dance, the Panthers have to regroup and get ready for what will be another grind.
Here’s our preview of the division, and while the Panthers are still very much the favorites, we will see if anyone else can have an impact.
1. Carolina Panthers (13-3)
Despite losing Josh Norman the Panthers should be right back at the top of the division. A lot of how far they go will depend on health, as well as if Cam Newton can play the role of Superman again in 2016 and be the MVP he was a season ago. Clearly the Panthers success lies with him and how up or down he is in 2016, and while going 15-1 is asking a lot, this is the best team in the division, and they should roll to another division title and a Super Bowl run this year.
2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
I liked the moves the Falcons made this offseason, as center Alex Mack is one of the best, and Mohamed Sanu should help out in the receiving department with Roddy White gone. Devonta Freeman came on last season as a force in the running and passing game, and Matt Ryan needs to get back into being a top flight QB if this team is going to make noise with Dan Quinn running the show. Some seem to feel this team is stuck in the mud, but I feel they can make some noise in the NFC and challenge for a wild card.
3. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
The Saints added some new weapons finally for Drew Brees, but their defense still leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s been their downfall the last few years. Sean Payton and the Saints are going to have a tough season if their defense doesn’t turn things around, but to think they are going to turn into one of the better D’s in the league is asking a lot. Look for Brees to put up yards, and the offense to still have their moments and keep them in games, but the defense is still a long way away from being able to keep this team in games.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
This is a dark horse team that could overtake the Saints for third in the division, as they seem to be a team with a lot of potential. Jameis Winston showed last season that he’s got the stuff to be a solid NFL QB as a rookie, and if he stays grounded he can be a rising star in the NFL. They tried to shore up the defense, and that should keep them in more games in 2016. Look for Tampa Bay to be a year or two away from being a true force, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see them land an upset or two in 2016 as they get ready to move up the ladder.