1. Atlanta Falcons
Until someone steps up in the NFC, the Falcons are the team to beat.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the defense realizes its potential and they can consistently run the ball, the Bucs will be back in the playoffs.
3. Carolina Panthers
Getting Christian McCaffrey was the right move, but can they keep Cam Newton upright this year?
4. New Orleans Saints
This could be the last year we see Sean Payton and Drew Brees together in the Bayou.
Head Coach: Dan Quinn
Key Position: Secondary
After not being able to hold onto a sizable lead in the Super Bowl, this unit will be under a microscope to see if they can bounce back. The pass rush should be better than last year and that will help them avoid any costly penalties at crucial moments.
Key Acquisitions: DT Dontari Poe (Kansas City Chiefs), T Ty Sambrailo (Denver Broncos), FB Derrick Coleman (Seattle Seahawks), WR Andre Roberts (Detroit Lions)
Key Rookies: DE Takkarist McKinley, LB Duke Riley
Head Coach: Dirk Koetter
Key Position: Running Back
Jameis Winston needs to have a balanced offense with the vast array of weapons at his disposal now. If Doug Martin doesn’t return to form this year, will it be Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims or Peyton Barber? Someone has to step up and establish a rushing attack for the Bucs.
Key Acquisitions: DT Chris Baker (Washington Redskins), K Nick Folk (New York Jets), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (New York Jets), S J.J. Wilcox (Dallas Cowboys), WR DeSean Jackson (Washington Redskins), S T.J. Ward (Denver Broncos)
Key Rookies: TE O.J. Howard, S Justin Evans, WR Chris Godwin, LB Kendell Beckwith
Head Coach: Ron Rivera
Key Position: Quarterback
Cam Newton took quite a pounding last year and it wasn’t because he ran the ball a whole lot. The offensive line looks better, but this is a crucial year for Cam and whether he can bounce back and get the offense back in its rhythm from two years ago. Drafting McCaffrey should help in that regard.
Key Acquisitions: CB Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings), DE Julius Peppers (Green Bay Packers), S Mike Adams (Indianapolis Colts), T Matt Kalil (Minnesota Vikings)
Key Rookies: RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Curtis Samuel, T Taylor Moton, DE Daeshon Hall
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Key Position: Defense
They were getting destroyed again last year and it resulted in the third consecutive 7-9 finish for the Saints. Drafting Marshon Lattimore and signing A.J. Klein were solid moves that should continue to help bolster a defense that is struggling to keep opponents at bay when the offense is firing on all cylinders.
Key Acquisitions: G Larry Warford (Detroit Lions), LB A.J. Klein (Carolina Panthers), LB Manti Te’o (Los Angeles Chargers), QB Chase Daniel (Philadelphia Eagles), RB Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings), WR Ted Ginn (Carolina Panthers)
Key Rookies: CB Marshon Lattimore, T Ryan Ramczyk, S Marcus Williams, RB Alvin Kamara