Why Every Team Won’t Win Super Bowl LVI: NFC Southby Ryan Potts July 16, 2021 0 comments
As offseason programs carry on in the NFL, every team has some level of excitement. Some teams are looking to contend in 2021. Others only want to move in the right direction. However, the NFL is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season.
At the same time, only one team can lift the Lombardi next February. 31 teams will fall short. Here’s why each team will not have what it takes to win the Super Bowl next year.
Let’s continue into NFC by taking a look at the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees was often the scapegoat later in his career when the Saints lost. Critics would cite his lack of a deep ball in 2019 or 2020 and turn on the future Hall of Famer.
With Brees having retired, who is the new scapegoat? Naturally, it will be the new quarterback of the Saints: either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. Brees, despite his declining arm strength, still was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Brees led the NFL in passer rating over the 2019-2020 stretch.
Winston and Hill may have stronger arms than Brees, but they each come with a fatal flaw that will derail the Saints. Winston, for all his talent, is one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the NFL. A Brees to Winston transition is one of the largest drops in passing IQ in the current NFL. To Winston’s credit, he is the superior option in the Saints’ locker room. While Sean Payton used Hill as QB1 in the games Brees missed, New Orleans had to vastly diversify the playbook. Hill is certainly talented, but it seems his best use in the New Orleans offense is more of an expanded tight end role than a true quarterback.
Well, New Orleans, take your pick. No matter what talent you have across the defense or offensive line, it still boils down to Winston or Hill. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas may be elite, but you must get them the football. Your options are a quarterback that threw 30 interceptions his last season as a starter and a glorified Trey Burton. Congratulations.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is not going to be a “Tom Brady will fall off the face of the Earth” kind of article. Even if Brady does fall off (he won’t), Tampa Bay has all of the tools around him to win a second consecutive Lombardi. Instead of Brady’s downfall, Tampa Bay could suffer a setback on the defensive side of the ball.
While Tampa Bay is loaded with defensive talent, and one could argue that the Bucs have 10 legitimate stars on defense, many of the stars are on the older side. Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Lavonte David will be entering their age-34, age-32, and age-31 seasons respectively. Shaquil Barrett will be 29. Seeing these players decline slightly would not be too ridiculous. The secondary has a different issue. While the unit as a whole is one of the best in the NFL, none of the individual pieces are elite quite yet (although Antoine Winfield Jr. may be in 2021). Exceptionally deep receiving corps can take advantage of the secondary.
Playoff results often boil down to matchups. In Tampa Bay’s playoff run, they faced a star receiver in each round (Terry McLaurin, Thomas, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill), but Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs were the only team with a secondary star (Travis Kelce). If a team can throw three or even four star-level pass-catchers, they can topple the Bucs. Tampa’s performance in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys could alleviate this concern. Albeit minor, it could come into play if a team faces Tampa Bay in the playoffs with a slew of star weapons rather than just one or two. Few teams have this many weapons, but the playoffs are matchup-dependent.
Remember, this team will be quarterbacked by Sam Darnold. Carolina has surrounded Darnold with some talent including Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, but two stars do not make an offense turn into a formidable one. The offensive line is wobbly at best, and the Carolina defense is too young to be playoff contenders let alone Super Bowl contenders. The future is bright, and, although it would have been brighter with Justin Fields rather than Darnold, Carolina has put itself in this predicament. They will not win many games in 2021, but growth is the name of the game.
Matt Rhule is a talented coach who has orchestrated massive turnarounds at each FBS program he went to. However, as the saying goes, “Rome was not built in one day.” The Panthers lack the requisite offensive or defensive talent to be anything more than an 8-9 team. It takes a lot of faith in Darnold, a quarterback who has seen his QBR decrease with each season he has played in the NFL, to imagine even nine wins. While yes, Darnold quarterbacked the Jets to a 7-6 record in 2019, the Jets scored 17 points per game in their last three wins, so one can chalk up the winning record to the defense.
Atlanta has spots of talent around the roster, but the issue in recent seasons has been collapsing in key spots. In 2020, Atlanta went 0-8 in games decided by seven or fewer. For the sake of this article, pretend the blame goes on the players more than the departed Dan Quinn. While Quinn led the way to the first three losses, Raheem Morris was at the helm for four consecutive single-digit losses between Weeks 13 and 16.
Atlanta has a new head coach in former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, but teams that have a reputation of choking often need extraordinary events to reverse the curse. For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Capitals employed two of their sports’ iconic superstars for their lone championships. The 2004 Boston Red Sox had to come back from down three games in the ALCS. Similarly, the 2016 Chicago Cubs had to come back from down three games to one in the World Series.
Barring divine intervention, the Falcons will not win Super Bowl LVI. Could they be competitive? Sure. However, no city is as talented as blowing leads as Atlanta, and no team has a more high-profile debacle than the 28-3 Falcons. Do not underestimate just how much the Falcons can collapse in a matter of a few minutes.
Are you an optimist? All four of these teams have a chance to win the Lombardi.