In the end, the NFC South goes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yet again. One of the saddest divisions in football went right down to the wire, but the Bucs delivered just enough quality football in the end to squeak one out.
Incredibly, two of the division’s teams actually finished above .500, something I did not see coming in late November. Unfortunately, one of them was not our Falcons, who managed to cash in their third consecutive 7-10 season.
Here are the final standings.
NFC South final standings
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-8
New Orleans Saints: 9-8
Atlanta Falcons: 7-10
Carolina Panthers: 2-15
The Buccaneers beat the Panthers 9-0 to seal their divisional title. That’s a fitting end of the season for this division winner, with a team that could barely get any offense going saved by a Carolina fumble into the end zone and stifling defense the rest of the day. Tampa Bay is almost certainly getting bounced immediately, but hey, they’re running the South these days.
The Saints stomped the Falcons and it didn’t even matter in the end, as the other games in the NFC didn’t got their way and they’ll be watching the playoffs from home. This team still has major questions in terms of roster construction and cap space, but they did finish with a winning record and played better down the stretch, giving them some hope for 2024. I hate that.
The Falcons, meanwhile, are bracing for an overhaul that wasn’t supposed to come. They have to get a new franchise quarterback, are probably turning over most of or all of their coaching staff, and badly need to shore up their pass rush and receiving options. The baseline talent is here and there’s cap space to make splashes in 2024, but I’ll believe this team has put it together when I see after this season.
The Panthers stink out loud, went 2-15, and don’t even get to reap the benefits of their top pick. They have a meddling owner, need a new coaching staff and maybe front office, and may or may not have a franchise passer. They’re in rough shape, and will be spending at least one more season in the basement, in all likelihood.