Who Will Win the NFC South This Year?
In the past year or two, the NFC South Title has been incredibly uncontested. In both the 2018 and 2019 season, the Saints have won the division by 6 games.
This year, however, the NFC South is expected to be way more competitive than it has been recently.
The Saints and the Falcons have not really changed much in the offseason. If anything, Atlanta has gotten worse, and New Orleans has slightly improved. The Falcons have lost Pro Bowl defensive end, Vic Beasly as well as two time Pro Bowler and Bay Area native, Austin Hooper. The Saints, meanwhile have found Drew Brees another weapon in former Denver and San Francisco receiver, Emmanuel Sanders.
The Panthers and the Buccaneers have gone in completely opposite directions. The Panthers have lost franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, three-time Prow Bowl tight end, Greg Olsen, and three-time first-team all-pro defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have made a splash acquiring future hall of famers, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
Though they are at the end of their careers, there should not be a single NFL fan (other than those from New England) who is not excited to see legendary quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady square up at least twice a year.
With the additions of the arguably best player in NFL history in Tom Brady and his favorite target and arguably best tight end in NFL history, Rob Gronkowski, some are considering Tampa Bay to be the NFC South champs.
Tom Brady has been an incredible quarterback with mediocre receivers throughout his entire career. For now, one can only imagine how good he’ll be with the elite talent of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Unfortunately for Brady and the Bucs, Brees has some weapons of his own in Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and the Swiss Army Knife, Taysom Hill.
One thing to keep in mind as that Brady is not what he used to be. Last year, his completion percentage was down 3%, he had only 24 touchdowns, his least since 2008, and a passer rating of 88.0, 9.0 worse than his career passer rating, 97.0.
Brees, on the other hand, is as sharp as he’s ever been. In his 2019 season, Brees’ completion percentage was a whopping 74.3%, 6.7% more than his career completion percentage of 67.6%. The Dallas native also had a touchdown to interception ratio of 27-4, almost three times more than his career ratio. Lastly, Brees had a career-high passer rating of 116.3 which is almost 18.0 higher than his career rating.
While both quarterbacks are two of the best of all time, with ample receiving corps, Brees is hitting his stride at 41, while Brady’s talent and career seem to be waning.
Though Brees and Brady are the hearts of these NFC South franchises, their defenses can not be overlooked as a factor of their success.
Both teams are certainly not known for their passing defenses. The Saints have the statistically 20th best passing defense in the NFL, allowing 3,868 passing yards. The loss of Eli Apple surely will not help an already depleted Saints secondary. Things look even worse for Tampa Bay whose statistically 30th best passing defense has lackluster talent in the backfield. Last year, Tampa allowed 4,322 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air.
The running game, however, is a completely different story. While the Saints had the 4th best run defense in the league last year, allowing only 1,461 yards, the Buccaneers had the statistically best run defense in the NFL last year, allowing only 1,181 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While they have pretty similar defenses, statistically, the Saints had the 13th best defense and the Bucs had the 29th best defense in 2019.
With that being said, I’m not sure the defense will play too much of a factor in the division race.
What this season-long battle will really come down to is which quarterback will be able to perform better.
In recent years, Brees has looked athletic and strong, and he seems to be in his prime at 41 years old. Meanwhile, last year, Brady looked lazy and not himself. Granted, Brady had some pretty pathetic talent to throw to in New England the past couple years; however, Brady is at least a little bit responsible for his worse performance. Though he is getting probably the best receiving corps in his career in Tampa Bay, it may be too little too late for Brady’s career.
While all the hype is behind the Bucs, Brees will most likely lead the Saints to a fourth straight division title in the NFC South.
Pierson Scheinberg is a student who lives in California, and attends the College Preparatory School. Pierson lived in Baltimore, Maryland until August 2017 when he moved to the Bay Area. Pierson is an avid golfer who enjoys watching all sports. He is a writer and sports analyst for At the Buzzer.