Heller: NFC South Answers to my Preseason Series “3 Burning Questions”


With the regular season over, here are the answers to my three burning questions from before the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Make or break for Winston? Jameis Winston threw for a league-high 5,109 yards and also threw 33 touchdowns. A great season? He also threw 30 interceptions. We’ll have to wait and see if the Buccaneers will re-sign him. Winston says his price tag is $30 million per season.

Barber the man? Running back Peyton Barber was benched because of his early fumbling issues. Second-year back Ronald Jones II led the team in rushing with 724 yards. 


Will the defense be better? Although it doesn’t show in their win-loss record, the defense played well, especially with them being on the field 30 extra times.

RELATED: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Finish with Top 5 Defense

New Orleans Saints 

Most dangerous team in NFC? Yes, although they had a few hiccups throughout the season. Drew Brees missed a handful of games, but backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater held things together in his absence. Brees claimed another record for the most career passing touchdowns while receiver Michael Thomas also set a record for most receptions in a season. Unfortunately, their year ended abruptly on Wild Card weekend.


Will they miss Ingram? Latavius Murray had an okay season while Alvin Kamara struggled. Ingram was the guy last season to complement Kamara and it was just a different dynamic. 

Is being on this defense one of the easiest jobs in the league? It’s easy to mask holes on defense when your offense scores 30 points a game, but the Saints’ defense was a solid unit all season in their own right. 

Atlanta Falcons 

Matty Ice or Ice Cold? For the first half of the season, he was definitely the latter, looking like a fraction of his former self. But in the second half of the season, he returned to the form he displayed in seasons past.

Who’s going to block that guy? The offensive line held together quite nicely throughout the season. While no, they weren’t perfect, they weren’t a liability either. 


Do opposing defenses still fear Jones? Not as much as in the past. More often than not, Julio Jones only garnered single coverage, which hasn’t been the case in seasons past. 

Carolina Panthers

Will McCaffrey run amok again? He was the top running back in the league once again. A huge chunk of his yardage and effectiveness came in the first half of the season when the team was still winning games. His second half was still jaw-dropping, but his production did decrease. It’s unclear if his explosiveness took a toll on him or if other teams concentrated on him that much more. 

Next level for Cam? Apparently not. Newton missed the whole season with an injury. Kyle Allen was given the starting nod and he played effective enough and guided his team to a few wins. However, once defenses caught on to him, he quickly dropped down to being a mediocre quarterback. 

More defensive firepower? This defense did their part effectively enough to keep this team in most of their games. But the more the offense struggles, the tougher it was for the defense.

The Saints didn’t surprise anyone by handily winning the division, but they were unable to win a game in January. On the other hand, the Panthers underperformed and didn’t come close to securing a Wild Card spot.


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