Reason Two: Division Turnover
Before getting into the craziest reason, let’s go to one which may be somewhere in the middle. At first glance, the Falcons competing in the NFC South is ludicrous at best, and shock worthy at worst. This year’s NFC South screams “Tom Brady AFC East to NFC South Invitational” in terms of divisional winners, and can many blame that line of thinking?
Sure, even if the soon-to-be 45-year-old wasn’t coming back, it was still tough for the Falcons to compete in-house. The Saints got better (begrudgingly), the Bucs are still complete for now, and the only thing Atlanta has going isn’t even available for 2022. All the projected cap space isn’t coming until 2023, so who knows what’s going to happen?
That said, what if something unforeseen happens with this division? What if, finally the dreaded “cliff” comes for Brady, and the Bucs are bad? Okay, yes, this is crazy talk because of how dedicated (and maybe clinically insane) Brady is in relation to football, but conversely, the last time he missed a whole year, his team still finished 11-5 and just outside the playoff picture. Unless everything goes wrong, or the Lightning strike in friendly fire, it’d take a legitimate “Hand of God” to stop Brady.
As for New Orleans and Carolina, they’re in their own state of flux. Every year, the Saints are always ~$50+ million over the projected cap, yet they continuously find ways to kick the can down the road. Yes, eventually that bill will come around, maybe under their new ownership whenever the time comes.
And in Carolina, the main picture stems in two ways: “Is Baker Mayfield the answer for the Panthers?” and “Will Matt Rhule survive the 2022 season?” These two questions are essentially a cause and effect method; should the former question return with an answer of “No”, then the latter question will most likely get a “Yes”, and vice versa.
So, if everything with New Orleans and Carolina goes sideways, the only team the Falcons have to contend with for the division title are the Buccaneers.