The NFC South has been and remains one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, filled with excellent rivalries and surprise divisional winners on a nearly seasonal basis. This is not the AFC East, where three sad sack teams compete every year to lose less badly to the Patriots. This is a place where magic can happen for almost anyone.
That begs the question of which team is best-positioned to succeed in the NFC South over the long haul, and in my eyes, there are two obvious choices.
The first is your Atlanta Falcons. They have a franchise quarterback who should have any where from 2-5 good seasons left in him, plus a killer supporting cast and a young, burgeoning defense. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that many teams in the NFL are in a better spot right now, much less the division.
The second team is the Buccaneers. They have a young potential franchise QB in Jameis Winston, a quality offense, and a defense that can become something if they continue to build it Because their QB is so much younger than Atlanta, you can squint a little and see them being relevant longer, even if their roster overall isn’t as strong as the Falcons’ right now.
The Panthers are good right now, I’d argue, and likely a force in the short-term. The Saints are arguably the weakest team in the NFC South at the moment and have the oldest quarterback out of anybody, which means they could be in the cellar both right now and over the long haul.
We can’t really say what this division will look like in 3, 5, or even 7 years, but if you’re taking bets on the two teams likeliest to remain relevant as we roll into the 2020s, I’d bet heavily on the Falcons and Buccaneers as of today, with the Falcons having an obvious edge in terms of talent, but the Bucs having more long-term cap flexibility at the moment, and a much younger QB to build around.
If I sound a little ambivalent about declaring a clear juggernaut in the division—I’d love to say it’ll be the Falcons, definitively—it’s because this division has always changed hands rapidly. Aside from the Saints, there’s no team that definitely figures to bottom out in the next five seasons. I just feel more confident about the Falcons and Bucs competing than I do anyone else.
Who do you see dominating the division in the long-term, if anyone?