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Projecting the future outlook of the NFC South

NFC South

Every once and a while there will be a historically bad division in the National Football League. We haven’t seen it happen a few times in recent memory. The NFC East was won by a 7-9 Washington Commanders team in 2020. The Seattle Seahawks went 7-9 in 2010 and won the NFC West. They were also the first team with a record under .500 to host a playoff game and defeat a defending Super Bowl champion.

As always, the New Orleans Saints are the team history must made against when it comes to setting records. The Saints 2009 repeat as Super Bowl champions ended when the Seahawks defeated the Saints 41-36. Four years later the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. They would defeat the Arizona Cardinals at home but would lose to the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.

There have also been a few teams that have won divisional titles with an 8-8 record as well. In 2022, it looks like the NFC South will be added to the list of divisions that were won by bad teams once again. Its Week 15 and no team has run away with the division. But here is something that sounds intriguing. What if the NFC South has the same type of landscape for 2023? It’s highly possible based on numerous factors that all four teams in the South are facing right now. Today, we will look at the potential forecast of each team in the division and a projected outlook for 2023.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-7

2023 Estimated Cap Space: $-44,699,794

Biggest Needs: QB, RB, OL

Projected Outlook for 2023

Despite the Bucs having the greatest quarterback to ever play in Tom Brady, they have struggled mightily to lock up the division. They have had numerous games this season where they have been outplayed by their opponent. No matter how the season ends for Tampa Bay, there will be a lot of decisions to be made. More in particular to their starting QB position. Brady will be a free agent after this offseason and reports have indicated that all options are on the table.

The Bucs can address Brady’s potential departure in multiple ways. They can utilize the route of the draft, the free agency/trade method, or the team can move future assets in return for a chance to move up and select a QB that they really covet. If they really want to tear everything down, they have players such as Mike Evans, Devin White, and Chris Godwin, that they can move to acquire future assets.

Carolina Panthers: 5-8

2023 Estimated Cap Space: $-3,638,681

Biggest Needs: QB, HC

Projected Outlook for 2023

The Carolina Panthers is making things interesting in the NFC South. They only sit one game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for control of the division. Carolina also holds the tiebreaker over the Bucs because of a 21-3 victory that occurred in the month of October. They have two huge games at home against Pittsburgh and Detroit before the rematch with Tampa Bay happens. A win against both teams is crucial if they want the January 1 rematch with the Bucs to mean something. Regarding Carolina’s future, they are missing two important pieces such as head coach and quarterback that could lead to long-term success. Perhaps, the future head coach is already on the roster right now in Steve Wilks.

Since taking over as the interim HC, the Panthers are playing with renewed motivation that has paid off on the field. If the interim label is removed from Wilks, he must find out who the Panthers quarterback of the future will be. Based on the recent draft, the Panthers will be selecting at nine. Carolina could stay put at the spot and address another need for the roster. The second-round of the draft could be where Carolina takes their QB of the future.

Atlanta Falcons: 5-8

2023 Estimated Cap Space: $70,053,343

Biggest Needs: QB, RB, OL, WR

Projected Outlook for 2023

The Atlanta Falcons is still alive for winning control of the NFC South. However, they have decided to give rookie Desmond Ridder an audition to see if he is their quarterback of the future. He will have the final four games of the season to prove it. The 2023 third-round pick is taking over for an injured Marcus Mariota. The veteran QB will be spending time on injured reserves list to treat a chronic knee injury according to head coach Arthur Smith.

Even if the Falcons do not win the South this season, there’s a lot to look forward to. Atlanta is expected to be among the top five teams to have the most cap space going into 2023. They could use the money to address multiple needs on the roster but finding out who the quarterback will be is going to be their top priority. That’s why it’s important to evaluate how Ridder will perform during the final four games of the season. Teams can do a lot during free agency if they have a viable QB playing on a cheap rookie deal.

New Orleans Saints: 4-9

2023 Estimated Cap Space: $-60,576,210

Biggest Needs: QB, RB, WR, DL

Projected Outlook for 2023

How the mighty have fallen. The Saints used to be perennial Super Bowl contenders that represented the NFC South. Dating back to 2017, New Orleans was on top of the division for four-straight seasons. 2022 was a campaign that everyone viewed as a year to get back to their winning ways. Based on the output, that’s far from the case. New Orleans squandered every chance that they had to position themselves as a top team in the division. It all came crashing down two weeks ago when they blew a 13-point lead against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are still mathematically alive for a playoff berth, but there are outside factors that are beyond their control.

In 2023, New Orleans has no first-round draft pick due to a trade that occurred with the Philadelphia Eagles. The transaction allowed the team to take WR Chris Olave in the first-round, but the quarterback position has not been addressed. Outside of finding a QB, the Saints now have multiple needs to address such as wide receiver, running back, offensive line, and defensive line. Also, there has been recent story written by’s Jeff Duncan on the possibility of Sean Payton returning to the team as their head coach next season.

On numerous radio appearances on Monday, Duncan also stated that the idea of Payton returning was a long shot, but the option is on the table. If Payton returns to the Saints in 2023, he would be inheriting a bigger mess than what he left behind. However, Coach Payton is no stranger to cultivating a championship roster from scratch. He pulled it off in 2006 when the Saints were in a far worst position when it comes to talent on the roster. Overall, I expect Dennis Allen to be fired, retained, or a new head coach not named Payton will be roaming the sidelines next season.

Future Outlook of the Entire NFC South

If you are a fan of any of the teams listed in the post, prepare yourself for another bad division in 2023. There’s too many uncertainties at important positions to label a clear cut dominant team next season. However, the positive of playing in a bad division is that a team can be successful despite having numerous deficiencies on the roster. Regarding the negative cap space, the Buccaneers, Panthers, and the Saints should be in compliance by the league deadline.

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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