This is week 2 of ‘Why your team can win Super Bowl LIII’. In these 4 articles, we will take a look at two divisions each week. One from the NFC, and one from the AFC. Last week we took a look at the NFC North & AFC North, so if you want to check that out, click this link. Now, this week we will dive into the NFC South & AFC South divisions. I explained more in depth about this series last week, so I’ll cut right to the chase and begin.
New Orleans Saints
Last year ended in absolute heartbreak for the Saints. They were defeated in the NFC Divisional Round by the Minnesota Vikings on a last second touchdown, and fans were left in despair. Although the Saints’ season ended in heartbreak, it should not take away from the solid season that New Orleans had on both sides of the football. The offense finished #2 in total yardage, only behind the Patriots, and the defense finished #17 in the league, which was a phenomenal improvement from their #27 finish in 2016. Not to mention, the Saints have not one, but the two rookie of the year players from 2017 in Marshon Lattimore and Alvin Kamara. The fans in New Orleans have a lot to look forward to in 2018. Now, how can the Saints take the next step forward in 2018 and hoist the Lombardi come February? Well, there are a few things, as with all teams, that must go right for the Saints. The main one being their tough division. If the Saints want to take the next step forward in 2018, they must take care of business in their crowded division. That however is easier said than done. Although the Saints were crowned division champions in 2017, they were one bad game away from finishing in third place. The Saints must first take care of business in their division like they did this past year in order to recreate or even take the next step towards the Lombardi.
The Panthers had a bad offseason and Training Camp to say the least thus far. They lost All=Pro offensive guard Andrew Norwell to free agency after he departed for Jacksonville, and offensive tackle Daryl Williams recently suffered an injury in Training Camp. One positive thing that Carolina did this offseason was sign C.J. Anderson after he recorded a 1,000 yard season in Denver. Anderson should be a great compliment for Christian McCaffrey, similar to the role that Jonathan Stewart took on for Carolina in 2017. Well let’s cut to the chase. How can the Panthers hoist the Lombardi in February? How can we see Cam Newton and Ron Rivera up on the podium lifting the sacred trophy? It won’t be easy, but let’s not count the Panthers out. In 2015, nobody had them going 15-1 before the season started, so let’s not jump the gun just yet. The Panthers 2018 season will come down to the offensive line. As I mentioned before, the Carolina line took a hit this offseason with the departure of Andrew Norwell, and it doesn’t appear to look good for blooming offensive tackle Daryl Williams. If the Panthers want any shot at the Lombardi, they must keep Cam Newton upright. It is as simple as that. We all know Newton can run, but trust me, the last thing Carolina needs is Cam Newton running for his life every passing play.
The Falcons always seem to be Super Bowl contenders whenever the season is about to start up. We all know the jokes, “Falcons blew a 28-3 lead”, but I will tell you this… this team is a dark horse to win Super Bowl LIII. In my eyes, the Saints win this division, with the Falcons right behind them. I think with Carolina taking a step back this coming season, the opportunity is now for Atlanta. They must do their best to keep up with New Orleans, even if they don’t win the division. Wildcard teams that go far are typically described as gritty, and teams that win close games. Just like the 2011 New York Giants, the Falcons road to the playoffs will be nothing short of hard, but it is possible for this team to go far if and when they reach the postseason. The Falcons chances at another shot at the Lombardi comes down to two things. One being the performance of Matt Ryan, and the other being the play-calling. When Matt Ryan is on the top of his game, he is as good as any gunslinger in the NFL. The Falcons will need him to return to his 2016 form if they want a good shot. The play-calling in Super Bowl LI was simply abysmal. If the Falcons take 2 knees and send out Matt Bryant for a field goal when they were up by 8 points, the game would’ve been sealed and the Falcons would be Super Bowl Champions. Instead, they drop Matt Ryan back to pass and he takes arguably the worst play-call in NFL history (other than maybe Seattle not running it) down to the ground with him as he gets sacked by Trey Flowers. Absolutely absurd. I’m not even a Falcons fan, and I was beyond angry at offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for his garbage play-calling in the biggest drive in Atlanta Falcons history. Bottomline is, if Matt Ryan can return to his MVP form, and the offensive play-caller has a brain inside of his skull, the Falcons can very well be one of the teams in Miami come February.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ok let’s move on to the AFC South. I’m joking of course. The Buccaneers are almost a lock to start 0-3 this upcoming season. They open up against the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers. This three game set is the most difficult start to a season in NFL history as far as opponents win percentage from the last season goes, and the Bucs will be playing in it without their starting quarterback Jameis Winston. If we take a look at NFL history and teams that start 0-3, only 2.9% of those teams have made the playoffs since 1980. Sorry, Bucs fans.
The Jaguars had an excellent bounce-back year in 2017. The team that many of us forgot about before this year put together a phenomenal defense, and a solid offensive attack. The Doug Marrone led Jaguars made it all the way to the AFC Championship where they were defeated by who else but the New England Patriots. Nonetheless, excellent season for a franchise that was once quite frankly the laughing stock of the NFL. Now, what will Jacksonville have to do to get over the hump? Well, they’re going to have to do a lot of things, including stepping it up on offense. Although the offense finished 6th in the league as far as total yardage goes, they’re going to have to take that next step to keep up with the stellar offenses in the AFC. It will sure be an exciting season of Jaguars football to say the least.
The Titans snuck in the playoffs a year ago, and it appears with a healthy Texans team in 2018, it may be difficult to repeat. Even with Marcus Mariota taking a step back in 2017, the Titans were still able to make the playoffs, and even win a game. Now, in order for the Titans to have any shot at the Lombardi, I would love to see Mariota not only get back to where he was in 2016, but for him to get even better than his 2016 self. Yes. That’s right. This Titans team need Mariota more than ever next year with the division getting even stronger. I myself however, don’t see the Titans making the playoffs. Their division is too crowded, and the AFC wildcard race probably won’t be easy. But, the Titans can be one of those teams like we’ve seen in the past that if they get in the playoffs, they can be scary.
This Texans team that we will get to watch in 2018 will be one of the most exciting teams to watch. Watson, Hopkins, and Miller are one of the, if not the most exciting trio in the league to watch. The defense is stellar when healthy, and the offense has the ability to blow a game wide open at any given moment. If the Texans want any chance at hoisting the Lombardi in Miami, the need one thing and one thing only to go their way. They msut stay healthy. Last year, Watson and Watt both missed extended periods of time, and that quite frankly derailed their entire season. If this team doesn’t get slammed with the injury bug, they will be as good as anyone in the AFC. The 2018 Houston Texans will definitely be one of the teams that I tune in to watch when my team is not playing.
Andrew Luck is back! After a long grueling year, the Colts finally have their quarterback back again. However, I don’t think it will be enough for the Colts to get into the playoffs, but there is always a chance. A lot has to go right however. This will be a short one, but the Colts have a better chance in a few years to win the Lombardi, than they do now. Stay positive Colts fans!
Next week we will take a look at the NFC East & AFC East divisions!