Tom Brady and the Bucs, big favorites in the NFC South
Tom Brady and Tampa Bay look to retain the divisional championship, but the Saints, Falcons and Panthers may have other ideas.
When Tom Brady came to Tampa Bay he was supposed to dominate the NFC South. It didn’t happen in 2020 (although the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl), but that was Drew Brees’ last season in New Orleans and now there’s no one to match ‘TB12′ in that Division.
2022 is all for Tom Brady’s in the NFC
Unless something extraordinary happens, things aren’t going to change much in 2022, with Brady and the Bucs the heavy favorites, and not just to win the NFC South... Many pundits see Tampa back in the Super Bowl in early 2023.
Though Brady has a potent supporting cast to pull it off (Julio Jones, Russell Gage and Kyle Rudolph join a corps of playmakers that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette and Cameron Brate ), the Bucs offensive line has suffered many significant casualties, including center Ryan Jensen.
If the Buccaneer ship sinks this year, however, then the divisional race will be one of the most entertaining in this year’s NFL.
And the first on the list of possible candidates are the New Orleans Saints, who begin a new era with head coach Dennis Allen, the team's defensive coordinator for six seasons.
Unlike the Bucs, New Orleans is strong on both lines, both offensively and up front, but needs quarterback Jameis Winston to stay healthy and more consistent than his record indicates. As a starter it sits at 33-44.
The Atlanta Falcons also begin a new era, because in free agency they lost Matt Ryan (now in Indianapolis) and now the starting quarterback is Marcus Mariota, who has been left as the second overall selection in the Draft.
The Falcons defense was one of the worst last season and if there isn’t a dramatic improvement this year, this could be the last chance for coach Arthur Smith (7-10 in 2021).
The great unknown is the Carolina Panthers, who were the brave ones who gave Baker Mayfield a new opportunity.
The first overall pick in the 2018 Draft was forced out of Cleveland after the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson. Mayfield found a new home in Carolina and perhaps his last chance to prove he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
To compete in the NFC South, the Panthers need the best version of Christian McCaffrey, who has missed 22 of the last 33 games due to injuries.
With McCaffrey and wide receivers D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson, Shi Smith and Rashard Higgins, Mayfield could be a nice surprise in new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense.
The makeover of the Panthers offensive line (one of the worst in the league last season) includes rookie tackle Ickey Ekwonu and free agents Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett, center and guard, respectively.
Brady and the Bucs are the favorites in the South, but don’t rule out an upset in that Division, which could come from one of the Saints, Panthers or Falcons.