Assuming the NFL season goes ahead as planned, the NFC South is going to have a remarkably different look in 2020. Take, for example, the Buccaneers’ addition of Tom Brady. Tell me you saw that coming in 2019. And then there’s the rocky departure of Cam Newton and celebrated arrival of Teddy Bridgewater from and to Carolina. Tell me that was expected. Oh, and Jameis Winston has been relegated to backup status ... with the Saints.
It’s a brave new world, with pundits widely predicting a 3rd place finish for the Matt Ryan-led Falcons. Quarterback play isn’t everything in the NFL, but it sure counts for a lot. And if you ask me, these pundits aren’t just indicting the defense, which by all measures improved considerably during the second half of last season. They’re speaking on Ryan, our QB1. So let’s take a look at the state of quarterback play in the NFC South.
The Falcons — Starter: Former MVP Matthew Thomas Ryan, Backup: Matt Schaub
Ryan, a former MVP, is coming off his 9th consecutive season with 4,000+ passing yards. If the offensive line can find a way to keep him upright in 2020, and that’s a big “if,” there’s no logical reason to think that streak will be broken. The three-headed monster that is Ryan-Julio Jones-Todd Gurley looks downright scary on paper. And Schaub showed us last year why he’s still under contract with the Falcons. There may be younger, slightly cheaper, and arguably flashier options out there, but Schaub can still ball.
The Saints — Starter: Drew Brees, Backup: Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston
Brees’ PR mishaps, noodle arm, and affinity for throwing 7 yard slants to Michael Thomas aside, he’s still the QB1 of the team most pundits are projecting to win the NFC South in 2020. The end of Brees’ career is in sight, but whether we like it or not, he’s not going down without a fight. Head coach Sean Payton has a couple of backups he’s comfortable with in place as insurance, and knowing him, they’ll get their fair share of playing time even if Brees stays healthy.
The Panthers — Starter: Teddy Bridgewater, Backup: Will Grier, PJ Walker
Panthers fans have quickly forgotten Cam Newton, which is hilarious in and of itself. Bridgewater showed the NFL just how effective he can still be, bum knee and all, keeping the Saints afloat in Brees’ absence last season. Bridgewater is a franchise quarterback and swapping him for Newton was one of the smartest things they could’ve done with their offseason. That said, if Teddy goes down, the other quarterbacks on the roster are the very definition of unproven. They’d better hope their QB1 stays healthy, because things will get real rocky, real fast if he doesn’t.
The Buccaneers — Starter: Tom Brady, Backup: Blaine Gabbert
Brady is a future Hall of Fame quarterback. But this is a brand new team, and the head coach isn’t Bill Belichick. I don’t see this as a seamless transition for him, and it may actually expose him for the quarterback he is now. We always knew Brady would wait one season too long before retiring, and with any luck, this will be that season. Gabbert is, well, he’s Gabbert. He hasn’t consistently resembled a competent NFL quarterback since 2016 and has been plagued by injuries over the last couple of seasons.
So what say you, Falcoholics? Which NFC South team has the best quarterback situation?