NFC South Pre-Training Camp Power Rankings

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Keanu Neal (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Keanu Neal (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The start of training camp is just around the corner, and the NFL preseason is not too far after. So, how does the NFC South stack up? Every team has made additions in the draft and free agency in order to improve and have a better chance of success in 2017, so let’s rank the division.

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#1. Atlanta Falcons

  • 2016 Record: 11-5
  • 2016 NFC South Champions
  • 2016 NFC Champions

As the reigning NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons secure the top spot. They have no shortage of offensive firepower, with MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, elite wide receiver Julio Jones, and a dangerous backfield including Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Falcons also have defense that is trending upwards, with play-makers like Desmond Trufant, Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley, and Deion Jones. Also, the defense was further strengthened in the draft and free agency, with the highlighted additions of Takkarist McKinley, Duke Riley, and Dontari Poe. Most expect the Falcons to repeat as NFC South Champions in 2017, but they will have to conquer difficult schedule to do so.

#2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • 2016 Record: 9-7
  • 2016 NFC South Runner Up
  • Missed 2016 Playoffs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed major improvement under new head coach Dirk Koetter in 2016. Young quarterback Jameis Winston proved his ability to lead an NFL offense, and he was greatly complemented by top-NFL wide receiver Mike Evans. The Buccaneers also added more offensive play-makers this offseason, including veteran receiver DeSean Jackson and first round draft pick O.J. Howard. On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay has the pieces of a potentially great defense. Kwon Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves III present a sound foundation to build around in the future, and experienced players like Gerald McCoy bring valuable knowledge and leadership to the team. Overall, the Buccaneers have the makings of a very good team and seem to be the most likely candidate to upset the Atlanta Falcons as NFC South Champions in 2017. Don’t sleep on the Bucs.

#3. Carolina Panthers

  • 2016 Record: 6-10
  • Last in 2016 NFC South
  • Missed 2016 Playoffs

The 2016 Carolina Panthers left many fans scratching their heads as they followed up their 2015 Super Bowl appearance with an unimpressive 6-10 record. Quarterback Cam Newton did not look up to his 2015 MVP form, and the Panthers defense was not as smothering as it was in the past. In spite of this, Carolina can bounce back in the coming season. They have an offense that can be very dynamic, with elite tight end Greg Olsen and newly drafted running back Christian McCaffrey. However, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has recently drawn criticism for gaining weight over the offseason, and the success of the offense hinges on Newton’s play. Will “Superman Cam” show up in 2017, or will he repeat his 2016 performance? On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers have star linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, but the defense hasn’t been able to show it’s full potential of late due to unfortunate injuries. The Carolina Panthers look as if they can be very competitive in 2017, but there are several uncertainties surrounding the team currently.

#4. New Orleans Saints

  • 2016 Record: 7-9
  • Third in 2016 NFC South
  • Missed 2016 Playoffs

With future hall of famer Drew Brees under center, the New Orleans Saints seem to always have an elite offense in recent history. Also, they have the disposal of a very good backfield, including Mark Ingram and former MVP Adrian Peterson. Time will tell if Peterson can perform at a high level once again, but his presence is nonetheless exciting. In addition to their running backs, the Saints have a talented receiving corps, highlighted by Michael Thomas and deep threat Ted Ginn Jr. However, while the offense looks ready to set records, the defense is a different story. Cameron Jordan headlines the defensive line, but he doesn’t seem to have much support. In the secondary, there are injury concerns, with Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams suffering season ending injuries in 2016, and 2017 first round draft pick Marshon Lattimore having hamstring issues in the past. Ultimately, the success of the Saints depends on the defense. If the secondary can stay healthy and the pass rush can improve, then New Orleans can start making the rest of the NFC South nervous.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: Players that should be in the Hall of Fame