There has been a lot of talk this offseason about the NFC South being wide open. With the retirement of Tom Brady, the sharks smell blood in the water and are ready to crown a new king of the south. There is some truth to this thought process.
Most people are writing off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are reigning back to back division champions. With household names like Brady, Julio Jones, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Fournette gone, it’s proven to be too difficult for most to analyze this Bucs roster. As a result, it has become common to see Tampa Bay projected as one of the worst teams in the NFL next year.
In theory, this leaves the door open for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers to compete for the NFC South title. With no dominant team among this group there can be a case made for any of them. This also means that a case can be made against them.
In this series I will highlight the teams in the NFC South and why each of them have a clear path to failure. Each team is flawed and any of these flaws could be the downfall of a given team.
New Orleans Saints
There is no team in the division with more unanswered questions than the Saints. While this team could be good if all of those question marks turn into strengths, the likelihood of that happening seems slim to none. In fact, there is reason to believe most of these won’t go the Saints way.
The first thing that stands out is how many games will we see that Saints playmakers. Michael Thomas was the offensive player of the year in 2019. Since then he has only played in 10 games over the last three years. Will he finally be healthy enough to play as he enters his 30s?
Then there is the looming suspension for Alvin Kamara. This has been coming for a year and a half after getting into a physical altercation at the pro bowl. The NFL chose to not suspend Kamara last year, but rather put it off to the 2023 season for unknown reasons.
Regardless of what this suspension looks like, Kamara might not be a huge factor this season. He had a career low four touchdowns last season and didn’t make the pro bowl for the first time in his career. This might be a reflection of his age and him slowing down.
This is a common theme on this Saints roster overall. Some of New Orleans key players in recent years are getting towards the end of their career. Star defensive end Cameron Jordan will turn 34 before the season starts and star linebacker Demario Davis already is 34. These are key players in an otherwise questionable front seven and I just don’t know how much gas they have left in the tank.
These are things I might give the benefit of the doubt to if I trusted the leadership. In terms of coaching, I believe the Saints have the worst head coach in the division and maybe the entire NFL. Dennis Allen has a career record of 15-38 and has never finished better than third place in his division. I don’t expect that to change this year.
I mentioned that if everything goes right then the Saints could make some noise this year. The biggest reason for this is new quarterback Derek Carr who I believe is the best quarterback in the division. Combine that with a promising Chris Olave and this offense could be dangerous Thomas and Kamara work out.
I also really like the Saints secondary. Marshon Lattimore, Tyrann Mathieu and company make a very good back end of the defense. If the likes of Jordan and Davis can continue to anchor things up front then the defense can still be respectable.
I legitimately understand why so many people think the Saints are the team to beat in the NFC South. These mentioned strengths are well established and you know what you’re getting in a division full of questions. That’s a logical view of any division.
However, I think a lot of potentially major issues are being glossed over. Key players are unknowns as to if they will play and how well they’ll hold up as they get older. Because of this, there is a real chance to bottom falls out on this team and they go from perceived first to actual worst.