NFC South Tailgate: Talking winners, losers, sleepers and more

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

NFC South

Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC South played host to last year's Super Bowl champion, as the Buccaneers soundly defeated the Chiefs to win the Lombardi Trophy. Tampa Bay has as good a chance as anyone to make it out of the NFC again in 2021, but what about the rest of its division? How will the Saints fare in their first season without Drew Brees? Will Matt Rhule's second season with the Panthers result in a breakout? Can the Falcons return to contender status under rookie head coach Arthur Smith?

Top Team

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With Tom Brady back under center, all of his offensive weapons returning and its defense remaining largely intact, Tampa Bay is a heavy favorite to dethrone the Saints as NFC South champions. The Buccaneers are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL right now and the ship should sail even more smoothly in Brady's second season working with Bruce Arians.

Bottom Team

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan might still be taking the snaps at quarterback, but the Falcons are trending more toward rebuilding than they are contending right now. Atlanta shipped Julio Jones to the Titans during the offseason in an effort to free up some salary cap space and boast a ton of question marks entering the 2021 season. Smith's first season as a head coach will be one littered with challenges.

Sleeper

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers struggled to a 5-11 record in Matt Rhule's first season as head coach, but are primed to take a step forward in 2021 with Sam Darnold now at quarterback. Darnold struggled mightily throughout his three seasons with the Jets, but now has the benefit of playing behind an improved offensive line and with a deeper stable of weapons led by Christian McCaffery, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. Carolina's defense will dictate how high it can climb in the standings.

Breakout player to watch

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Ridley spent the first three years of his career working in the shadow of Julio Jones, yet still managed to produce at a high clip. Now that Jones suits up for the Titans, Ridley will have a chance to establish himself as one of the NFL's elite wide receivers after catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

First coach on the hot seat

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rhule is going to get more than just two seasons to get the Panthers back on track, but his prospects of doing so could become a bit bleaker if Carolina does not make tangible progress in 2021. Rhule, nor any other coach in the NFC South, is truly going to be on the hot seat this season, but Rhule might find himself inching closer to it if the Panthers perform worse than they did last year.

Best Uniforms

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Gold and black is one of the best color schemes in football and the alternate white and gold jerseys the Saints have been rocking recently are among the best in football. The team's logo also fits perfectly with the New Orleans community.

Best Stadium

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons built a beautiful stadium after the Georgia Dome met its demise. Mercedes Benz Stadium is a sight from the outside and features a unique replay ring and opening that allows natural light in. Mercedes Benz Stadium also boasts some of the better concessions and in-stadium amenities in sports.

Best Fans

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This one is not up for debate. Saints fans are about as die-hard as they come and are among the best fanbases in all of sports, let alone just the NFL. New Orleans is an ideal football town and boy do they love their Saints in the bayou. More NFL Tailgates: AFC East. AFC North. AFC South. AFC West.

1

1