September 27, 2023

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The Bucs Are Not The Only NFC South Team Expected to Be Better in 2023

7 min read

Atlanta Falcons

Final regular season game of 2022 was a sign of things to come?

It was the final game of the regular season last year, and the Buccaneers had already claimed the NFC South Division Title by beating the Panthers the week before. Brady played limited snaps, and other starters were on a limited snap count, if they even played at all. The Bucs lost that day 30-17, but still; one would think that the Bucs should have handled Atlanta with little effort. That thought comes from how the two teams compared over the last 3 seasons. Going back to 2020, the Bucs had beaten the Falcons 5 straight times, with a pair of 40-plus outputs in 2021 underlining the disparity.

Mariota wasn’t the answer for Arthur Smith’s offense

The Falcons started last season with Marcus Mariota under center. Towards the end of the season, though, it was clear that Mariota could not run Arthur Smith’s somewhat complicated offensive scheme. A scheme that should have gotten tight end Kyle Pitts more involved in the Falcons’ passing game. Mariota, though, was not able to make all the throws that were demanded by the play-calling. Before being benched after game 13, he finished with 15 TDS, 9 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 55.6. Desmond Ridder replaced him for the last four games of 2022. While not overwhelming in his play, He was more adequate than Mariota had been, not throwing any interceptions and allowing rookie wide receiver Drake London’s skills to shine. In fact, London’s 6 receptions for 120 yards against the Bucs was the first time all season any Falcons’ receiver broke the century mark in yards — simply put, the Falcons put it on us, regardless of who was on the field. Taylor Heinicke was brought in to play behind Ridder as insurance; in case second-year player Ridder falters as the starter.                                                                                                                                         

Offensive line and skill positions

The Falcons have put together a more than adequate offensive line and brought in a handful of skill position players that will make them a handful for any opposing defense. The Falcons’ rushing and passing defense last season both finished in the League’s top half, and they should be better this season. Ideally, this should allow the team to be much better overall this season and easily challenge for a South Division Title. Drake London can look to have a much improved second season and could emerge as one of the best receivers in the NFC this season. Versatile WR/RB Cordarelle Patterson can be a beast; at times — and can be a matchup problem for many teams. With the 8th pick in this year’s NFL Draft, the Falcons selected running back Bijan Robinson out of Texas. His accomplishments with the Longhorns include finishing 3rd all-time in rushing touchdowns (33), 4th in career rushing yards (3,410), and total touchdowns (41), and he owns the record for the highest yards per carry in a game (19 yds). It remains to be seen, but it should make an already adequate rushing game even more formidable. Then there is the riddle of Kyle Pitts and when, if ever, he will begin to pay dividends on the team selecting him fourth overall in 2021. My feeling is that 2023 will be Pitts’ best season by far if he can avoid injury. With players like running back Tyler Allgeier, wide receivers Mack Hollis and speedster and former Buc Scotty Miller, the Falcons are in a position to be a player for the division title in 2023. They shouldn’t be taken lightly in Arthur Smith’s offensive scheme. They are a candidate to go worst to first in the South Division, and for good reason. Now let’s take a look at the Panthers in 2023.

2023 free agent additions

Taylor Heinicke – QB

Kaleb McGary – OT re-signed

Jessie Bates III – S

David Onyemata – DT

Germain Ifedi – OT

Mack Hollins – WR

Mike Hughes – CB

Cornell Armstrong – CB

Tae Davis – LB

Brad Pinion – P

Keith Smith – FB

Kaden Elliss – LB

Lorenzo Carter – DE



Carolina Panthers

 Frank Reich, the new head honcho in Carolina

The Carolina Panthers made some big moves in the off-season. They hired head coach Frank Reich to run the show and pulled off a blockbuster trade to solidify and stabilize their quarterback situation —trading D.J. Moore, the number #9 overall pick and the 61st pick in the second round of this season’s draft. The Panthers also gave the Bears their first-round pick in the 2024 draft and a second-rounder in the 2025 draft. All so they could go out and take Alabama’s quarterback Bryce Young, number one overall in this year’s NFL draft. This is only the third quarterback taken by the Panthers in the first round in their history (Kerry Collins, Cam Newton, also a first-round number #1 overall). They gave up quite a bit for the Bears’ first overall pick, so they must really believe in Young and his ability to be the man. Coach Frank Reich announced today (7/26) at Panther’s Camp that Bryce Young will be the starting quarterback for the team this season — so that poorly kept secret is running free now. The Panthers just paid a steep price for Bryce Young, brought in a new coach, and upgraded their running game. Young will have to go to work straight-away and show everyone he is the guy Carolina believed they were getting.

Welcome to the post-McCaffrey era

Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey are no longer in Carolina. The team ended that era officially by sending Christian McCaffrey off to the 49ers last season. The team then found themselves without a true #1 RB. Chuba Hubbard played fairly well at times last season along with D’onta Foreman, who rushed for a thousand plus, but neither came even close to filling the huge hole left by the departure of McCaffrey. So, the Panthers picked up FA running back Miles Sanders, hoping he can just do for them what he did for the Eagles last season, while Foreman signed with, of all teams, the Chicago Bears. For diehard Panthers fans, this isn’t your father’s Panthers team anymore. Frank Reich will do his best to take Carolina where he couldn’t take the Colts over the last four-plus seasons he was in Indy (40-33-1). These days if you can win more than you lose, that’s half the battle — welcome to the Frank Reich/Bryce Young era.

Help has arrived

In addition to Miles Sanders, the Panthers also brought in Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark at wide receiver and tight end Hayden Hurst for Bryce Young to throw footballs at. Thielen is a solid wide receiver, while Chark has had flashes of brilliance that leave his fans wanting more. Can Carolina be just what the doctor ordered for a new start for the former Jaguar; time will tell. Without any doubt, Carolina will be better this season and will be gunning for our Bucs after we took them out of the chance for a division crown last year.


Free agent pickups in 2023

Henry Anderson – DE re-signed

Vonn Bell – S

Bradley Bozeman – C/G

D.J. Chark – WR

Andy Dalton – QB

Hayden Hurst – TE

Justin McCray – G

Miles Sanders – RB

Adam Thielen – WR

Shy Tuttle – DT

DeShawn Williams – DT


New Orleans Saints

Carr takes over at quarterback in the Big Easy

For the last year, or two, former Raider quarterback Derek Carr wasn’t exactly happy in Las Vegas; fast forward to pre-season 2023, and Carr has found a new home for his skill set. After the Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill/Andy Dalton experiment never got off the ground, the Saints now have a bonified successful starter at the helm for the first time since Drew Brees retired. That fact alone should make the Saints harder to beat. Then you must factor in the team signing former Lion Jamaal Williams at running back. Williams had a breakout season for the Lions in 2022. They are hoping that success continues down south. For the Bucs, that isn’t a welcoming development. It’s well-documented the shear level of difficulty the Bucs have when taking on those damn Saints —there isn’t a more hated opponent in the entire league that the Bucs play, and count your blessings that we get them twice a season. For example: during the season of our latest Super Bowl Championship (2020); two of the five losses were to the Saints. Yes, the Bucs were able to defeat the Saints in the playoffs on their way to another Lombardi; however, it’s crystal clear that even when the Saints have an inferior team, chances are they will still come out on top. Even after Brady joined the Bucs, things with the Saints really didn’t change. Let’s take a look at who the Saints brought in to get better beyond D. Carr and Jamaal Williams.


Free agent additions in 2023


Derek Carr – QB

Jamaal Williams – RB

Juwan Johnson – TE re-signed

Khalen Saunders – DT

Nathan Shepherd – DT

Ty Summers – LB re-signed

Blake Gillikin – P re-signed

Storm Norton – OT

Ugo Amadi – S

Lonnie Johnson – CB

Johnathon Abram – S

Malcolm Roach – DT re-signed

Isaac Yiadom – CB

Bryan Edwards – WR

Andrew Dowell – LB

So there you have it, just a quick look at the division rivals and a few of the players they added to their roster to try and wrestle the division title away from the Bucs in 2023. Keep the faith and GO BUCS!!