NFC South: Mired in Mediocrity?
With no sure favorite, Saints’ division race will be crowded.
The New Orleans Saints 2023 season is finally here and the Who Dat? Nation is looking forward to returning to the top of the division and the playoffs after a two-year absence. With all four teams in the NFC South essentially rebuilding their rosters, there are a ton of questions regarding who has the talent to win it. But divisional games only account for six of the season’s 17 games. It is highly likely that it will be the results of the 11 other games on each team’s schedule that, ultimately, will determine how the season shakes out at the end.
Tom Brady led Tampa Bay to the last two division titles; however, he decided to hang up his gear after last season, so the Bucs are looking to either journeyman Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask, who has played in one NFL game, to take over under center. That’s enough to give Caesar’s Sportsbook the worst odds to win the division.
Carolina took former Saints quarterback Andy Dalton in the offseason, but the Panthers have already announced that Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, will be the starter. Young won’t be the Panthers’ only newcomer; head coach Frank Reich will be in his first year with the team. While Carolina has a lot of potential, they may face some struggles. At 5 feet, 10 inches, Young is undersized for an NFL QB, and he may have some bumps and bruises adjusting to the speed and physicality of professional football. Caesar’s has the Panthers slated to finish third in the South.
Speaking of taking former Saints, the archrival Atlanta Falcons have seemingly rebuilt their team in the Saints’ image. The Falcons will play Desmond Ridder at quarterback. Expect them to focus on trying to control the clock with their running game with rookie back Bijan Robinson and their solid offensive line. They’re going to try to keep their vulnerable defense off the field as much as possible. Caesar’s predicts the Falcons will finish second in the division.
“Vegas” has New Orleans as favorites to win the NFC South this season, but potential glory could easily be derailed. With new QB Derek Carr and RB Jamaal Williams, the return of WR Michael Thomas, and the 3-game suspension of RB Alvin Kamara, the offense will need to jell before opening day. Last year, the Saints had a top-10 defense. There are a lot of new faces on the line and the team will depend on them to stop opponents’ run game and take control of the clock. Travel at the start of the campaign is brutal, as the Saints will play four of their first six games on the road. The good news is that the team will face opponents from the AFC South and NFC North, which are not stacked divisions, as well as the Patriots, Giants, and Rams.
Sports books have predicted the Saints to win 9.5 games this season. If they can get off to a great start and stay healthy, I can see this team winning upward of 11 or 12 games. If the injury bug strikes key players or the team suffers distractions and sloppy play, it could be another long season. But the Superdome and Saints fans provide one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. Now, we’re all ready to be in that number once again.
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.