By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


I’ve chosen to stay in the NFC for my hardest division. I believe that the NFC South will be the hardest division to win this year. Not only are two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game in this division, but there are big-time playmakers on all four of the teams. 

Let’s start with the team I think will have the hardest time this season: Atlanta. 

Yes, they have Matt Ryan. Yes, they have Todd Gurley. Yes, they have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. 

But the one thing that the Falcons don’t seem to have is a strong defense. They have some really strong pieces like Dante Fowler Jr., and rookie Marlon Davidson, but I still feel that the Falcons will need someone to step up big time on the defense if they want a shot at the division. 

The Falcons will open their division play on week four when they host the Panthers. 

That leads us to the Panthers. They have one of the most exciting running backs in the league in Christan McCaffrey and two really good wide receivers with DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. 

The Carolina defense looks like it will be solid as well, with some playmakers like Shaq Thompson and Tahir Whitehead making some big tackles. 

But my biggest question is Teddy Bridgewater and his level of play. Yes, he was 5-0 last year when he took over as the quarterback for the Saints when Drew Brees went down with an injury but he hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2015 when he led the Vikings to the playoffs. And after that, he didn’t play much due to a scary injury that almost cost him his career. 

If Bridgewater shows week in and week out that he can play like he did last season for the Saints or when he went 11-5 with the Vikings, then I can see this being a three-team race. 

The Panthers will get their first divisional test this week when they head to Raymond James Stadium to face the Buccaneers. 

That leaves us with the Saints and the Buccaneers. The divisional title is going to end up in one of these two cities this season. Yes, the Bucs did not look the best at times last week when they lost to the Saints but with no preseason as well as a shortened camp, things were bound to be messy. 

Both teams have huge weapons on the offensive sides of the ball. Scotty Miller looks like he is setting up what will be a huge season for the Bucs, but he is not the only WR who Tom Brady will be looking to this year. The Buccaneers have one of the best duos in the league with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, factor in some stud tight ends, Brady has some solid ball catchers. 

Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy are three very good running back options for the team as well. 

As for the Saints offense, people know what Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are capable of doing but with the addition of  Emmanual Sanders during the offseason gives Brees another person to catch the deep ball. Jared Cook will also be a key piece of the Saints offense this year. 

While both offenses stack up pretty well, both defenses are full of big hitters who are able to get off the field on third down. 

The Saints have a solid line composed of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Janoris Jenkins and Malcolm Jenkins who laid the pressure on Brady last weekend. Plus, with ball hawks Janoris Jenkins, Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore in the secondary, big plays are bound to happen. 

On the other side, the Bucs have the NFL’s sack leader, Shaquil Barrett who is leading another loaded defense. With Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston and Vita Vea anchoring the line, Barrett won’t be the only linebacker making big plays this season. 

With a solid rotation with Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Devin White and Lavonte David, the Bucs have some of the best linebackers in the league as a whole. 

The only place where the Bucs seem to struggle and where the Saints thrive is in the secondary. The Bucs secondary is young. Jordan Whitehead is the oldest player in that backfield and he was only drafted in 2018. Sean Murphy-Bunting showed lots of promise in the loss last week, but he can’t do it on his own. Jamel Dean and rookie Antonie Winfield Jr, are going to need to step it up. 

We will see how the Bucs defense stacks up versus the Panthers this weekend while the Saints won’t face a divisional foe again until week six when they will face the Panthers. 

But Nov. 8 will be a huge week for both these teams as they meet once again. Whoever wins that game could easily win the division. 


[email protected]