How the NFC South Became the League’s Most Stacked Division in 4 Days

By Saransh Sharma & Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC South for many years was the most QB-driven division in the NFL, with the record-breaking quarterback and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees leading the Saints, and NFL MVP’s Matt Ryan and Cam Newton leading the Falcons and Panthers, respectively (somehow Brees has never won an NFL MVP award). For years, it was a division which saw Newton and Ryan’s teams going on playoff runs, and Brees being left out to dry with no help, or having to pull a Houdini act just to get to the playoffs, and then there’s the Buccaneers, who had famed 2015 No. 1 pick and National Champion Jameis Winston at QB, and despite some up-and-down seasons from him, the team hadn’t gone to the playoffs since 2007. However, since Newton and Ryan’s Super Bowl chokes, Brees and the Saints have built themselves through the NFL Draft, Ryan and the Falcons cannot get over their 28-3 blown lead in Super Bowl LI, Newton is being scapegoated for getting injured in one of the most dangerous sports in the world, and Winston throws nearly as many interceptions as he does touchdowns. Newton and Winston are currently free agents, and have been replaced by Teddy Bridgewater, and Tom Brady, the Greatest of All-Time. So now, the ship is re-written, with the NFC South back to being elite and QB-driven, but these weren’t the only big moves in the division:

Tom Brady Chooses the Florida Beaches

Let’s start with the obvious: Tom Brady. If it wasn’t for the Coronavirus pandemic, the Buccaneer’s signing of the six-time superbowl winning quarterback would be the top headline across the United States. Tom Brady joined the NFL in the year 2000, where he won six Super Bowls, nine AFC Championships, and 17 Division Titles with the New England Patriots. But now, in the year 2020, in one of the craziest offseasons in as long as I can remember, Tom Brady is leaving the team he played on for almost half of his life. Even though it is still months before the regular season’s start, no one can tell if this move was worth it for Tom Terrific. On March 16th, when free agency opened its door, several teams were in the bidding race for Brady, including the Patriots (of course!), Titans, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, and Buccaneers. But on March 20th, Tom Brady officially signed a 2 year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His new contract in Tampa guaranteed a $50 Million deal, also included with $9 Million in incentives. But the most interesting part of Brady’s new contract with the Bucs is the prohibited clause. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not allowed to use their franchise tag or trade Tom Brady while he is under that same contract. 

So, why did Tom Brady join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? It obviously wasn’t for the money because other teams were offering Brady $30 Million per year or more. I think, and I’m going to go on a limb here and state that Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his fit on the team, and the elite group of receivers the Buccaneers possess. The Buccaneers are home to two of the most explosive, elusive wide receivers in the game today: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Last season, the previous starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, threw for an astounding 5,109 yards with those two firing on all cannons on the offense. Now imagine what would happen if you were to take a league average Jameis Winston out of the center and replace him with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. What are the odds Tom Brady and the Buccaneers don’t do something special next season? Tom Brady finally got his A grade receivers for the first time since he had prime Wes Welker, his top 10 offensive line, and a team more younger and healthier, something he never got on the Patriots. If the Buccaneers and Brady don’t make a run for the playoffs next season, I wouldn’t even know what to tell you.

Todd Gurley Goes Back to Georgia

Just two years ago, Todd Gurley was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after having over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. That season was the best season of his career and the Sean McVay Rams offense looked like it was going to be dominant for years to come, despite an early Wild Card loss to the Atlanta Falcons. In 2018, Gurley had over 1,800 scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns, and this time, led his team to the Super Bowl, where he and the offense could get nothing going, getting embarrassed and putting up just 3 points total. Going into that game, however, the big storyline was that Gurley had some knee issues which slowed him down a bit in the playoffs, but mainly in the Super Bowl, where Super Bowl 50 hero CJ Anderson took the majority of the carries at Running Back. Just a month after the Super Bowl loss, Gurley was told by doctors that he had arthritis in his right knee. Gurley got surgery, yet the ‘arthritic component’ to the knee injury still remained, meaning that the arthritis could cause him to be injured yet again. Gurley went into the 2019 season with the possibility of being benched for guys like Malcolm Brown or Darrell Henderson, and there was even trade talk during the season. Gurley finished with career lows in carries and yardage, but was still 5th in the league in touchdowns. The lack of carries and yardage played a big role in the Rams lack of success this past season, going 9-7 and missing the playoffs. 

However, despite the rough year and the arthritis issue still looming, Gurley still is amongst the top in the league in terms of carries, yards, and touchdowns for running backs since he was drafted in 2015. The part that is hard to put together about him getting released is the fact that he produced great stats even with the injury scares and such, and even in his down year, it was his team that lost faith in his ability, as he just simply did not get the ball enough. 24 hours after being released, Gurley signed with the Atlanta Falcons for a 1-year prove-it deal, but I expect this to become long-term and a lethal combination for years to come, with Gurley being the clear favorite in the backfield, and QB Matt Ryan and WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Gurley now has the best offensive line he has had since 2018, has an offense that is Super Bowl-caliber when healthy, and is very balanced. Expect Head Coach Dan Quinn to have the offense run through him early on in the season, and Gurley to just cruise to another great season from there.

Teddy Bridgewater is Officially a Starting QB Again

580 miles north of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the Panthers in Charlotte have also grabbed a new franchise quarterback, at least for the next three years. Teddy Bridgewater, star on the Minnesota Vikings (before his devastating injury), and savior on the New Orleans Saints, just signed a three year, $63 Million deal with the Carolina Panthers. The deal included a signing bonus of $15 Million and a number of incentives sprinkled in. Teddy Bridgewater just got his bag in Charlotte, but that means the exit for one the best quarterbacks in the NFC South, Cam Newton, who has been on the decline the last few years with the Panthers. I love Teddy Bridgewater’s new signing with the Carolina Panthers, but something feels wrong for me. The Carolina Panthers are not exactly the New Orleans Saints or Minnesota Vikings, both teams with one of the biggest and loudest fan bases in the country. And the way Teddy has moved throughout his NFL career, he has thrived on loving fanbases, something I feel Carolina won’t give him immediately. 

Teddy Bridgewater is also the man under center for one of the few teams in the NFL, where the fanbase believes a running back, in this case Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers, can lead their team to success. Bridgewater needs to “bridge” a great relationship with CMC off and on the field, because a great tandem of players in the backfield would really help the Panthers move ahead in an already stacked NFC South. Bridgewater also has great depth and deep threats through receivers DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and newly signed Robby Anderson (wideout who played for the Jets last season). With an offense possessing the ability to do really great next year, only time will tell for Bridgewater. A strong start to the season and no injuries will propel Teddy Bridgewater into the limelight with his new Carolina Panthers. 

Emmanuel Sanders Tries to Go for 4 Super Bowls with 4 Teams

As seen by the headline, Emmanuel Sanders has the chance to go to his 4th Super Bowl and for his 4th NFL team, something that no NFL player has ever done. Sanders’ career resume is one of the most consistent you will ever see in terms of stats, but he has not had his chance to shine ever since Peyton Manning retired from the NFL in 2016, leaving the Broncos with limited talent at the quarterback spot, hindering Sanders the most. Despite all of that, Sanders gave it his all in Denver for the next 3 seasons, before getting traded midseason this year to the San Francisco 49ers, who were 7-0 at the time, and eventually became the NFC Champions, and if Jimmy Garoppolo did not overthrow him in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, he probably would have won a Super Bowl with them, and stayed with the 49ers.

The move to go to New Orleans was a rather shocking one by Sanders. Many believed he would go to Dallas or Washington, the teams that showed lots of interest in him and needed a veteran presence at the wide receiver position, and were pass-happy offenses. But Sanders instead went to the most pass-happy offense in the NFL in New Orleans, and he has the chance to play with Drew Brees, the 3rd quarterback that will be a future-Hall of Famer throwing the ball to him. Much like in Pittsburgh and Denver, Sanders will play second fiddle behind Michael Thomas, as he was behind Mike Wallace and Demariyus Thomas in Pittsburgh and Denver. That being said, Brees now has Thomas, Sanders, Jared Cook, Tre’Quan Smith, and Alvin Kamara as his targets, which presents the scariest core of receivers in that department. With Sanders now in the mix, the Saints receivers have the edge over teams like the Buccaneers, but the big question will be, can Brees outplay Brady, and can he keep the Saints as not only NFC South favorites, but Super Bowl favorites? Sanders will play a huge role in deciding that, and consider his luck in the NFL, he will probably go to a Super Bowl as a Saint as well.

Super Bowl LIV: Does Speed Kill, or Defense Win Championships?

I know that it is very late to be writing this, with the Super Bowl less than 24 hours away, but I’ll blame it on the flu. Anyways, better late than never, I guess. Let’s get into the game and my prediction:

Super Bowl LIV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers, 6:30PM EST, FOX

The talk of the week has bene about the difference in styles of these teams. Kansas City, whom I predicted to be in the Super Bowl since the preseason, is a very fast-paced, Olympic track-star studded-type of team with the guy who may become the Greatest Player of All-Time one day in Patrick Mahomes. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a team that uses the clock, but slow and steady is what wins them the race. The most run-heavy team in the NFL ran so much that in the NFC Championship Game, QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball just 8 times (out of which he only completed 4), but lucky for them, Raheem Mostert had 220 yards on 29 carries and FOUR touchdowns. The defense of San Francisco is the best in the NFL no doubt, with the most ferocious pass-rush of them all, led by Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, DE Nick Bosa, and former Chiefs LB Dee Ford. Their defense is led by a Super Bowl champion in Richard Sherman, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks and their vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ defense. Sherman hopes to get his team to that level this year and win this game. But his matchup, Tyreek Hill, might present him with some serious challenges.

To beat the Chiefs is doable, but to truly slow down Patrick Mahomes has only effectively been done once this season. In Week 9, the Chiefs hosted the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football, and Mahomes was held to under 200 yards passing in the game and had multiple turnovers and his only touchdown was on the ground in a 19-13 loss. The Colts won that game through playing lots of zone, but mixing it up a ton, whether the type of coverages, or the personnel packages. The 49ers can do that very well, especially under their current Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, but going back to Tyreek Hill, he is the one whom I think will break the game open. In the NFC Championship Game, despite the emphatic win, Packers WR Davante Adams had 9 catches for 165 yards receiving, and Sherman really struggled guarding him, mainly on the 69-yard catch-and-run that started the comeback for Green Bay. As great as Adams is, he’s no Tyreek Hill in terms of speed, and Sherman, who has been criticized all season for his lack of speed despite his great talent, he might have trouble with Hill. I mean, Hill said he will try out for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics for the US Track Team, so you know this guy is a problem for him. I think that alone is going to be how the 49ers defense is beaten. Of course, TE Travis Kelce is there and no one can cover him, but Hill will be the difference. Also look out for WR Mecole Hardman, another track star-type of talent. Kansas City will score a lot of points.

All that being said, can such a run-heavy offense actually slow down Kansas City’s rapid-fire scoring. Well, no, to beat Kansas City, Jimmy G will need to throw more than 8 passes, but San Francisco can definitely slow momentum from Kansas City down with long, time-consuming drives. Jimmy G will be using guys like TE George Kittle and WRs Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders a lot in the passing game, but they need to make big plays downfield to keep San Francisco in it. The run game led by Mostert could be a little slower than expected, as Titans RB Derrick Henry was held to just 69 yards rushing on 19 carries, so the 49ers will desperately need their receivers to step up. The good thing to note is that the 49ers came on top of another high-scoring team earlier in the season in New Orleans, when they won 48-46 in the Bayou, where Sanders had 157 and a touchdown on 7 carries, and Jimmy G threw 35 passes and had 349 passing yards.

All that being said, I think that the Chiefs offense simply has too much talent to handle, and Patrick Mahomes is unstoppable right now, and I do not see the 49ers slowing him down anytime soon. Prediction: 41-34, Chiefs.

2019 NFL Midseason Predictions

The first half of the NFL season has presented us with many surprises, and a surge of a new generation of NFL talent. The San Francisco 49ers remain the only undefeated team in the NFL currently, the Cincinnati Bengals remain the only winless team, and players like Christian McCaffrey are taking over the league and putting on an MVP-worthy performance. Here is what has happened this season, and what will continue throughout the season.

The Panthers are 5-3 Without Cam Newton, and Will Make the Playoffs

Currently, the Panthers are on the outside looking in as the 8-seed in the NFC and 2ndin the NFC South, but their 5-3 record, Christian McCaffrey’s video-game numbers, and the new-look defense has put them in a position to compete with Kyle Allen, not Cam Newton, at quarterback. Allen, who took over for the now-on-IR Newton in Week 3, has gone 5-1 as the starter, losing only to the undefeated 49ers. Allen hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary, just played mistake-free, smart football that has kept his team in a position to win. Sure, they have 2 dates with New Orleans, a home game against Seattle, and tough road games against Green Bay and Indianapolis, they should be able to win the home games, Indianapolis, and potentially one game against New Orleans to go at least 9-7, and considering how teams like the Eagles, Vikings, and Rams have struggled this season, Carolina should be able to get the 6-seed in the NFC.

Like I Predicted in Preseason, Aaron Rodgers Will Be the MVP

Aaron Rodgers got off to, well, a sluggish start in the new Matt LeFleur offense, but Green Bay’s defense stepped up big. Then, Rodgers said that the offense needed to ‘step it up’, and A-Rod and the Pack offense has not looked back since. Currently standing at 6-2 and the 3-seed in the NFC, they will be one of the top NFC Super Bowl contenders along with the Saints. Rodgers is currently 5thin passing yards and 4thin passing TDs, is among the top of the MVP race along with Russell Wilson and Christian McCaffrey, and if he keeps this pace up, he can outpace Wilson in the MVP race and get his 2ndNFL MVP award.

Lamar Jackson Proved Everyone Wrong… and He Won’t Stop Anytime Soon

Lamar Jackson was critiqued by Bill Polian before last year’s NFL draft and was told to convert to Wide Receiver. Jackson was drafted in the first round as a QB by the Ravens and guaranteed that they would get a Super Bowl out of him. He eventually took the starting job from Joe Flacco and led the Ravens to the playoffs. This season, Lamar has been able to use his arm along with his legs and become an elite QB. Last Sunday, he beat the record-setting Patriots defense and the GOAT Tom Brady to end their undefeated season up to that point. Now, he put the Ravens in position to potentially go to the Super Bowl, currently leading the Ravens to the 2-seed in the AFC, good enough for a first-round bye and homefield in the AFC Divisional Round. Expect Lamar to keep playing the way he always does, prove people wrong, and keep winning.

The Eagles Need to Sign Either Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown

So, yeah, Philadelphia, the Super Bowl 52 Champions, have changed a lot roster-wise since then. They have lost LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, a plethora of signings that have not worked out, such as DeSean Jackson and Zach Brown, and many underperforming players, such as Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, and just about everyone on defense. Oh, and they lost their savior Nick Foles, but everyone knew Wentz would be starting either way. Anyways, the Eagles have lost many games this season due to their poor receiver play, most notably Agholor. Wentz has been let down by receivers dropping passes than I could catch, and has lost many winnable games because of it, like the game at Atlanta where Agholor dropped the ball, the game at home against Detroit where rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside dropped a wide-open TD. The other games they lost, being to Dallas and Minnesota on the road, they’ve simply been blown out due to poor overall team play. If Philadelphia really wants to compete and be the Super Bowl-contending team they once were, they NEED to sign a big-name wide receiver. They missed out on Josh Gordon, as he went to Seattle to join Russell Wilson and his already-stacked WR core, so now that leaves them with Dez Bryant, who tweeted today that he is ready to reach out to teams soon, and of course, the drama-king of the NFL, Antonio Brown. While both risky due to character issues and health, either would be an immediate impact to a team that desperately needs hands. With AB, the Eagles can challenge Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans, and with Bryant, they can at least win the NFC East if not contend with Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans. Whoever they decide out of these two, they need to sign one of these in order to be a legit contender.

My Saints-Chiefs Super Bowl Prediction Remains the Same

I still see these two teams meeting in the Super Bowl. In the AFC, do I think that the Ravens are ready? Not yet, simply because the defense has been suspect for the majority of the season. Does New England beat Kansas City in the playoffs again, if they meet up? No because the offense isn’t at the point where they can keep up with Kansas City. Their inconsistency in the run game will outweigh the consistency of Julian Edelman, James White, and Mohamed Sanu’s production. In the NFC, is Green Bay good enough on defense to sustain the play of A-Rod and the offense? To me, this is the very-early frontrunner to win next year’s Super Bowl, but not this year. Seattle lies in the same realm, with their defense not being able to get to the level of Wilson and the offense. The Saints and Chiefs have complete rosters, and defenses good enough to meet the level of the offense and keep them in it. Kansas City has dropped games this year due to Mahomes playing through injury and not because they have regressed as a team. If anything, they are probably better, especially with their run game, and New Orleans, the NFL’s most complete team currently, just has everything you want in a team, with their next-man-up mentality, going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater replacing the injured Drew Brees and Latavius Murray replacing the injured Alvin Kamara, and their big-play ability on defense as well. So, expect some fireworks in Miami on February, and expect the Saints to take home the Lombardi.

NFL Conference Championship Weekend

This is the weekend where teams will receive a ticket to MetLife Stadium for the Super Ice Bowl. Here are the predictions for who wins and who goes home.

 New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos; 3:00PM EST

The Pats historical run without rook WR Aaron Dobson and star TE Rob Gronkowski has highlighted a team for the ages, with big plays from WR Julian Edelman and RB LaGarrette Blount. The Broncos got away with a huge game, with a 24-17 over the San Diego Chargers. The Patriots will go to MetLife Stadium. Final Score: 26-23, Patriots.

San Fransisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks; 6:30PM EST

The 49ers came away with huge wins over the Green Bay Packers, 23-20, and the Carolina Panthers, 27-10. The Seahawks survived after the the New Orleans Saints huge comeback, winning 23-15. The 49ers and Patriots will meet in a Clash of Clans at MetLife. Final Score: 30-23, 49ers.