This is a good time of year to take stock. We’re more than a month away from the beginning of training camp, and then many things will happen in the course of about a month, from a slew of practices to preseason games to roster cutdowns. Right now, with only a handful of OTAs left for the Falcons until a long stretch of calm and quiet, it’s an excellent time to see where this team is at and whether our expectations to this point have been fair.
Any review and reflection should include the division. As I wrote back in January, the division looks drastically different in 2021, with the Buccaneers bearing the closest resemblance to the team they were in 2020 after essentially reloading for another title run. The Panthers continue to make big additions via the draft, added a new GM, and now have Sam Darnold atop their depth chart at quarterback. The Saints have an open Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston battle at quarterback and bled a few key players like Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, Emmanuel Sanders and Malcom Brown. The Falcons, obviously, traded Julio Jones and overhauled their front office and coaching staff completely, cobbling together an affordable series of additions while they try to at least stay competitive this year.
A year ago, the Bucs won the Super Bowl and will be expected to do so again, even if they’re unlikely to be as healthy as they were in 2020. Beyond that, every team now has significant question marks that make 2-4 in the division pretty muddled, to the point where it would not shock me if the Falcons snuck in to the 7th seed with something like a 10-7 or 9-8 record, and it would equally not shock me if they finished in the basement at something like 6-11. That’s just as much a reflection of the unpredictability of the Panthers (who are an improving team, but still captained by someone who looks like a so-so quarterback) and the Saints (who look demonstrably worse but unfortunately cannot be ruled out).
I don’t know how the departure of Julio Jones changes your predictions—when we polled everyone in May, 48% of you said you were predicting 9-10 wins—so I’ll be interested to hear more about that here. Let’s get your takes. Based on the offseason to this point for all four teams, are you still expecting the NFC South to shake out the way you thought it would early this year, and where do the Falcons figure into that?