NFC South: Toughest Division in the NFL?
Is the NFC South the toughest division in the NFL?
In 2014, the NFC South was the laughing stock of the NFL. None of the four teams finished with a winning record, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s record of 2-14 earned #1 overall pick in the following draft.
However, a lot has changed in the two seasons following 2014. The last two NFC Champions were NFC South teams (Panthers in 2015, Falcons in 2016), and the last two NFL Most Valuable Players were the quarterbacks of those respective NFC Champion teams.
In fact, the NFC South seems to have four very good (and two elite) NFL offenses. Let’s look at some of the numbers from this past season:
Points Scored in 2016
- Atlanta Falcons – 540 (1st)
- New Orleans Saints – 469 (2nd)
- Carolina Panthers – 369 (15th)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 354 (18th)
Total Offensive Yards Gained in 2016
- New Orleans Saints – 6,816 (1st)
- Atlanta Falcons – 6,653 (2nd)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5,542 (18th)
- Carolina Panthers – 5,499 (19th)
Clearly, Atlanta and New Orleans have elite offenses. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was deservedly the MVP, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a future hall of famer, seemingly breaking passing records every season.
While Tampa Bay and Carolina may not have eye-popping numbers, they still have tremendous offensive potential on their rosters.
For the Panthers, Cam Newton is only one season removed from his 2015 MVP campaign, Greg Olsen is an elite tight end, and Christian McCaffrey was just added in the draft.
For the Buccaneers, Jameis Winston is steadily improving and adjusting to NFL play, and he is complemented by two great receivers in DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans.
Defensively, the NFC South isn’t on the same level, as the four teams all ranked in the bottom half of the NFL for average yards gained by opposing offenses per play this past season.
However, there were defensive stats where the NFC south shined.
Total Turnovers forced in 2016
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 29 (3rd)
- Carolina Panthers – 27 (tied for 5th)
- Atlanta Falcons – 22 (tied for 9th)
- New Orleans Saints – 21 (tied for 10th)
So, overall, the NFC South may not have the best defensive units, but they force turnovers well and have no shortage of defensive stars with players like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Desmond Trufant, Vic Beasley, Dontari Poe, and so on.
But let’s look at the bottom line. Where does the NFC stack up in win totals over the last two seasons?
Total Wins (2015 and 2016)
- AFC East – 72 wins
- AFC West – 72 wins
- NFC South – 69 wins
- NFC East – 65 wins
- NFC North – 64 wins
- NFC West – 58 wins
- AFC North – 56 wins
- AFC South – 54 wins
All four teams in NFC South have won at least six games in each of the last two seasons, and no other division can claim that.
This division, simply put, is a bloodbath. Most divisional games go down to the wire, with each side having a fighting chance. It has elite offenses, defenses that are trending upwards, and leaders with the intangible ability to will their team to victory. It will be a fun division to watch in 2017.