The Talk of Fame Network enters Week 2 of our eight-part series on the eight NFL divisions, and this week we’re focusing on the NFC South, AKA the best division in football. Since the NFL’s divisional realignment 15 years ago, the NFC South is the only division that has sent all four of its teams to a Super Bowl: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The NFC South also has represented the NFC in the last two Super Bowls. So who becomes the favorite to win the NFC South and represent the NFC in the 2018 Super Bowl? We turn the floor over to you, our faithful listeners and readers – who’s going to win the NFC South in 2017? It’s your call in this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll:
Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons posted an 11-5 record last season to win both the NFC South and the NFC. Atlanta finished second in the NFL in offense but 25th in defense and 28th against the pass. Quarterback Matt Ryan is the reigning NFL MVP, Devonta Freeman is a 1,000-yard rusher and Julio Jones the most explosive receiver in the game. So the offense is again Super Bowl-ready. To upgrade the defense, the Falcons signed tackle Dontari Poe away from Kansas City in free agency and used their first-round draft pick on edge rusher Takk McKinley. Second-rounder Duke Riley from LSU adds another run stuffer at middle linebacker to the mix.
Carolina Panthers. The Panthers failed to defend their NFC championship, falling from first in the South to worst with a 6-10 record. Carolina finished 19th in the NFL in offense and 19th in passing but fell apart on defense, tumbling to 21st overall and 29th against the pass. The Panthers reached the Super Bowl two seasons ago with quarterback Cam Newton playing at an MVP level and a shutdown defense. Carolina used its first two draft picks on offensive weapons – halfback Christian McCaffery and wide receiver Curtis Samuel – to enhance Newton’s chances of returning to an MVP level of play. The Panthers addressed the defense by re-signing pass rusher Julius Peppers in free agency.
New Orleans Saints. The Saints went 7-9 last season despite finishing first in the NFL in both offense and passing. New Orleans suffered the division-wide epidemic – no defense. The Saints finished 27th in defense and dead last against the pass. New Orleans addressed that defense by choosing the best cover corner in the draft in Marshan Lattimore of Ohio State, then came back in the third round and claimed Utah safety Marcus Williams. Coach Sean Payton also took steps to make the best offense in the NFL better by drafting tackle Ryan Ramczyk in the first round and signing guard Larry Warford and wide receiver Ted Ginn in free agency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were 9-7 despite finishing 18th in the NFL in offense and 23rd in defense. Quarterback Jameis Winston has passed for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, and the Buccaneers have put the weapons around him in 2018 that should push him toward the 5,000 mark. Tampa Bay signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency and selected the best tight end in the draft with its first-round pick in Alabama’s O.J. Howard. The Bucs addressed the defense by upgrading the safety position, drafting Texas A&M’s Justin Evans in the second round and signing J.J. Wilcox away from the Cowboys in free agency.