The NFC South has a chance at being the premier division in the NFL in 2019. The Saints, Panthers and Falcons all could make the playoffs and the Buccaneers are not totally shabby – although still pretty shabby. It’s likely that only two are playing in January.
New Orleans Saints – Red has given the Saints short shrift for years thinking that tired old Drew Brees would actually become tired and old. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t happened yet. They tell Red, that there is nothing like attending a Saints game in person and Red believes it after having just been in New Orleans on a Sunday afternoon game day and seeing a plethora of gold lame miniskirts together with Saints jersey, caps, hoodies, sweats, dinner jackets and every other possible combination of black and gold being proudly worn by all. It just kind of makes a body want to root for the Saints because there will be so much happiness (and excessive drinking – not that there won’t be excessive drinking in N’Awlins anyway). So despite departures Mark Ingram, Ben Watson, Alex Okafor et al, with Brees, Kamar, Thomas and others will be trying hard to erase the sting of getting screwed in the NFL Championship game when Rams’ cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman pretty much tackled Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis on what could have been the game winning play. And to the dread of many (but not Red) that one play brought about a rules change for 2019. Rule 6c states: “For one year only, expands the reviewable plays in Instant Replay to include pass interference, called or not called on the field.” Somewhere Mike Renfro is smiling. The Saints will be not happy with anything short of a Superb Owl appearance. New Orleans wins division at 11-5.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons have been slip sliding away (with apologies to P. Simon) since blowing a 28-3 lead in SB LI missing the playoffs altogether after a wretched 2018 campaign. Fortunately for the F Troop, all of their tough non-division games are at home (Rams, Eagles and Seahawks) and feature two triple inverse time zone hexes. They do play two non-division 2018 playoff teams on the road (Colts and Texans) but come on (see Red’s AFC South Picks later). There is enough talent on the offensive side to put up points with Matty Ice, Julio and Davonte and others. And with Dan Quinn taking over as DC, expect the Falcons defense to step it up as well. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they have to play in the same division as the Saints. Atlanta 9-7 and a possible wild card spot.
Carolina Panthers – After another disappointing 7-9 season (after a 6-2 start oops), HC Ron Rivera will be coaching like a man on a hot seat having taken a big shit and realizing that there is no toilet paper. In other words, he will pull out all stops to post a winning record in 2019. A word of advice: don’t delve too deeply into Red’s analogies. RR’s hopes rest on the surgically repaired shoulder of Cam Newton and the dual threat of All Pro Christian McCaffrey. The loss of the Kalil brothers will hurt the O line, but Rookie Greg Little and new center Matt Paradis shore things up. On defense, signing pass rusher Bruce Irvin and drafting some linebackers should help. But not quite enough. Carolina goes 9-7 and misses out on a tiebreaker.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Red was high on Jameis Winston at one point. Apparently that’s not all Red was high on. With an almost record setting turnover pace at Head Coach (5 in the 10 years since Jon Gruden left), the Bucs have made exactly zero playoff appearances in the last decade. And now un-retired broadcaster and new Head Coach Bruce Arians gets to extend that streak. Enough said. Tampa Bay sucks gas and finishes 6-10.