Coming off one of the toughest Super Bowl losses in recent memory, the Atlanta Falcons will be hard-pressed to replicate their 2016 efforts entering this season.
Much of it has to do with the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left the team to take San Francisco’s head-coaching gig.
This could hurt quarterback Matt Ryan’s numbers, and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman might not be as effective.
At least Atlanta’s defense is improved.
But the Falcons could easily be challenged by the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who surrounded quarterback Jameis Winston with weapons like wide receiver DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard. Oh, and that Mike Evans guy is pretty good too.
The Bucs might be the best bet to challenge Atlanta for a division crown. But don’t count out the Carolina Panthers. Sure, last year’s 6-10 finish was a disappointment, especially coming off a Super Bowl appearance the previous season. But like the Bengals, the Panthers have talent on both sides of the ball.
Carolina’s only questions are whether or not quarterback Cam Newton will stay healthy and if the secondary can hold up.
As far as the New Orleans Saints are concerned, they’ll be one of the tougher bottom-dwelling teams in any division.
That’s what happens when you have quarterback Drew Brees under center.