Each NFL team within each division has their own set of questions to be answered, but the NFC South certainly has more than its fair share. Last season, the New Orleans Saints burst out of the gate as usual in a stretch that included Tom Brady’s lunch money in his first game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and again in the week 9. But it was the latter who had the last laugh when he walked away with the whole cafeteria – defeating Drew Brees and Co. in the division round at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome en route to winning Super Bowl LV.
And while the Saints and the Buccaneers vied for a position atop the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons died painfully from a thousand self-inflicted cuts, rendering their 2020 completely without. ceremony. Both clubs finished with a combined 9-23 record, but as the Panthers have taken steps to potentially improve, the Falcons could be on the verge of carving out their squad’s hearts as they openly accept of offers for Julio Jones. And with that, let’s take a look at the most flammable set of questions coming from arguably the most cut-throat division in football.
There are a lot of them, but these four headliners in the series.
Atlanta Falcons: to Julio or not to Julio?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the NFL is a business.
Organizations do their best to sell their fans on the opposite of loyalty, sometimes to the point where they use it as a way to try and negotiate financial savings on a deal with a player. Ultimately, however, players almost always find out the hard way that when a team wants to be done with them, they will. Such appears to be the case for Julio Jones, who signed a lucrative three-year $ 66 million extension with $ 64 million guaranteed in 2019 that ties him to Atlanta until 2023, unless he is released or traded, and the latter is quickly becoming a growing possibility. . Newly hired chief executive Terry Fontenot isn’t too keen on the deal his predecessor made with Jones, and openly admits he’s buying the future Hall of Famer – albeit in a supposedly “classy” way. Matt Ryan disagrees with this, however, highlighting Jones ‘value to the Falcons’ offense and his quarterback career as a whole, but with phones ringing in Atlanta with offers for Jones and Fontenot apparently conceded to ship his All-Pro receiver out. of the city for a ceiling; the question no longer looks like an if, but rather a when.
Yes, the Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts in April, but there’s only one Julio, and he’s still one of the best (arguably the best) receiver in the NFL. Fontenot does not let a small fact like this hamper savings. Even though free will – where they would presumably need the money – is now all but dead and gone for 2021.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can Tom Brady Do It … Again?
Sounds like a silly question, I know.
I mean, let’s be real here for a second. We’re talking about Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. The same who helped turn the New England Patriots into a dynasty before leaving to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win a Super Bowl ring in his first year with the club. . All of this despite the challenges posed by a raging COVID-19 pandemic. And yes, the same with seven Super Bowl rings and five Super Bowl MVP honors, but the question has yet to be asked – Brady himself keeping it at the forefront of his super-competitive mind as a means of motivation over a year. based. So, let’s get back to the question of whether he can do it even though we know he is capable, because we also know that all it takes is a hiccup at the wrong time to prevent it from happening. the case. The Buccaneers have achieved the monumental feat of the offseason of keeping their entire squad together from 2020, which will go a long way in helping Brady potentially hoist an eighth (!!) Lombardi Trophy next February. The rest of the league is already adjusting, however, as evidenced by the Chiefs putting the Kansas City Great Wall ahead of Patrick Mahomes for a possible Super Bowl rematch.
Not having lost a stage and still tied to the same offensive and defensive weapons from last season, Brady and the Buccaneers are the first to repeat, but pole position does not guarantee victory. This only increases the chances.
Carolina Panthers: Is Sam Darnold the solution?
It’s now officially Sam Darnold or bust in 2021.
After trading for the former No.3 pick in a deal that sent three draft picks to the New York Jets, the Panthers remained in contention to select a quarterback with their No.8 pick in this year’s draft. , but instead turned to the defensive side of the ball and grabbed top cornerback Jaycee Horn. In fact, they didn’t draft a quarterback at all, and followed that up by exercising Darnold’s fifth-year contract option. This locks Darnold into 2022, but put a pin on it for now as it all depends on what he does or doesn’t do this coming season which will determine if he’s there to take advantage of the pay of the year. next to Charlotte. There are mixed reviews on what Darnold is and may or may not go forward, but head coach Matt Rhule once again tries to find his now and later QB after the failed experience. with Teddy Bridgewater. If Darnold realizes his potential in Carolina, Rhule will be all smiles and can start to really grasp the other needs of the team. But, if Darnold doesn’t, Rhule will enter year three with another round of questions in the post, and those will inevitably turn into speculation that he is the right man for the coaching job. -chief.
So while Rhule’s seat is freezing cold at the moment and in large part because he really feels like a good fit for the team, what he’s able to take away from Darnold will go a long way in ensuring that this remains the case. There’s a lot of pressure on Darnold going into the season, absolutely, but also on those who wanted to trade for him instead of signing a player like Justin Fields – who was still available when the Panthers timed.
New Orleans Saints: Who Wins the Battle for QB1?
For the first time in two decades, Drew Brees is not on the list.
The future Hall of Fame from the first round of voting has officially retired from the NFL this offseason, and while it’s not a surprise move, it’s a move that is expected to shake up the quarterback. rear of the Saints. Tied to a late first-round pick, the Saints are said to have done everything in their power to make a successful move to get into the top 10, and although some rumors indicate they weren’t making it for a quarterback- rear – you would not be wise. believe that. Considering the capital required to do so and the fact that they obviously don’t have a definitive long-term answer to the job, had they found a dance partner, it’s likely that one of QB’s top prospects would be in The Boot as we speak. That didn’t happen, however, and so it’s up to head coach Sean Payton to work his magic and ultimately turn Taysom Hill into the franchise’s quarterback or show he corrected Jameis Winston, a former top pick who was replaced by Brady in Tampa. No one can question Winston’s competitiveness – or Hill, for that matter – but his decision-making has been an albatross to his otherwise promising career.
It’s up to Payton to help him clean that up and the decision to sign him again for 2021 hints that the Saints believe they can and love what they saw in him as he learned from behind. Brees in 2020. His shoulder in wanting to prove he’s not just a gimmick, will fight tooth and nail to beat Winston for the QB1 position, but Ian Book, the rookie fourth-round pick, is also now in. the conversation. Can Book hit the ground despite being a midrange pick, or does he need some time? Can Winston regain optimal shape while eliminating the turnover that caps his ceiling? Can Hill really be more than just the handyman called in when needed, rather than leading the whole team every week?
NFC South is filled with burning questions like these in 2021, and the team that answers them best will be the ones that rise to the ashes as the division champion in January.