1. New Orleans Saints
They addressed a few areas, but this is the same team that is clamoring for a chance at another Super Bowl title.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They are going all in to win and getting QB Tom Brady on board will see to that. Assuming they’re in the playoffs who knows what will happen next.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Once again the offense is among the most talented in the league, but can the defense match that and stay healthy?
4. Carolina Panthers
Owner David Tepper believed enough in former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule to give him a 7-year $60 million dollar contract.
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Key Position: Running Back
This group was a strength in 2018 and they didn’t match that in 2019. Alvin Kamara was rewarded with a lucrative extension. And while there’s no doubt to how important he is to the offense, injuries slowed him down last year. Can he avoid any nagging injuries and show what made him a steal as a 3rd round pick when he was drafted. Losing Mark Ingram to free agency at the end of 2018 had an effect, but Latavius Murray was a viable replacement for goal line and I-formation setups. While QB Drew Brees is still able to make his throws, he is getting up there in age. The running game has to be better.
Key Acquisitions: S Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles), WR Emmanuel Sanders (San Francisco 49ers), QB Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Key Rookies: OG Cesar Ruiz, LB Zack Baun, TE Adam Trautman
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
Key Position: Running Back
Someone will emerge out of a running back group that includes Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy and Ronald Jones. They also drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the 3rd round who should also get some looks. Jones is likely to get the first attempt and this should be his best season with QB Tom Brady and the receiving corps at his disposal being the primary focus of opposing defense’s. If he regresses I would say Fournette would be next with his high ceiling and improved play in the passing game last season in Jacksonville. McCoy at this point would be nothing more than a 3rd down back or change of pace. Vaughn might be saved for later in the year or have his moment in 2021.
Key Acquisitions: QB Tom Brady (New England Patriots), RB Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars), TE Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots), RB LeSean McCoy (Kansas City Chiefs), K Ryan Succop (Tennessee Titans)
Key Rookies: OT Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield Jr., RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Head Coach: Dan Quinn
Key Position: Defense
They greatly improved when head coach Dan Quinn made a switch mid-season and named Raheem Morris the defensive coordinator last year. They went back to a 4-3 alignment from a 3-4 and their zone coverage scheme played to their strengths and the result was a 6-2 record in the second half. If Quinn wants to keep his job after this season, those results will have to translate into a full season for 2020. Signing DE Dante Fowler Jr. was a great move as he immediately becomes the teams best pass rusher. First Round pick A.J. Terrell becomes their best corner and fits the scheme implemented last year by Morris. If LB Deion Jones and S Keanu Neal stay healthy the whole year, Atlanta could surprise some with their defensive prowess.
Key Acquisitions: CB Darqueze Dennard (Cincinnati Bengals), DE Dante Fowler Jr. (Los Angeles Rams), RB Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams), TE Hayden Hurst (Baltimore Ravens)
Key Rookies: CB A.J. Terrell, DT Marlon Davidson, OL Matt Hennessy, LB Mykal Walker
Head Coach: Matt Rhule (University of Baylor)
Key Position: Everything
I like QB Teddy Bridgewater. If it wasn’t for a devastating knee injury he would probably still be in Minnesota. Alas, he got a nice 3-year contract from Carolina after an impressive stint last season in New Orleans. He isn’t the long-term answer though at quarterback. There are good receivers in DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. Signing WR Robby Anderson was an underrated signing. The offensive line is a work in progress, but the star of the offense is RB Christian McCaffrey. So goes McCaffrey, so goes the Panthers offense. The defense has a good group on the defensive line, including their first round pick DT Derrick Brown. The back end of the defense could be their downfall as that group has fallen short of reliable playmakers.
Key Acquisitions: WR Robby Anderson (New York Jets), QB Teddy Bridgewater (New Orleans Saints), CB Rasul Douglas (Philadelphia Eagles), OT Russell Okung (Los Angeles Chargers), DE Stephen Weatherly (Minnesota Vikings), LB Tahir Whitehead (Las Vegas Raiders)
Key Rookies: DT Derrick Brown, DE Yetur Gross-Matos, S Jeremy Chinn, CB Troy Pride Jr.