Teams in the NFC South will have to earn everything this season in a division that is competitive from top to bottom.
Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are the division’s ‘weak spot’, have the offensive weapons to win any given week.
Learn more about the four teams with our NFC South team guides.
Head coach: Dan Quinn
Star player: Julio Jones
Last season: 10-6, lost in Divisional Round
Key ins: Justin Bethel (Arizona), Brandon Fusco (San Francisco), Calvin Ridley (rookie), Isaiah Oliver (rookie), Deadrin Senat (rookie)
Key outs: Adrian Clayborn (New England), Taylor Gabriel (Chicago), Dontari Poe (Carolina)
Strengths: Offence was the team’s calling card two years ago in their Super Bowl run, but the other side of the ball is emerging and full of young talent.
Weaknesses: Red zone inefficiency hurt them last season as they ranked 22nd in touchdown conversation rate (49.1 per cent).
Verdict: Offence has to get back near 2016 levels, otherwise they won’t have the firepower.
Head coach: Ron Rivera
Star player: Luke Kuechly
Last season: 11-5, lost in Wild Card round
Key ins: C.J. Anderson (Denver), Dontari Poe (Atlanta), Da’Norris Searcy (Tennessee), Torrey Smith (Philadelphia), D.J. Moore (rookie), Donte Jackson (rookie)
Key outs: Andrew Norwell (Jacksonville), Star Lotulelei (Buffalo), Jonathan Stewart (NY Giants), Charles Johnson (retired)
Strengths: Front seven remains the heartbeat of the team as they racked up the third-most sacks in the league last year (50).
Weaknesses: Injuries on the offensive line could haunt them all season.
Verdict: Will have a hard time matching last year’s record, but another playoff berth isn’t farfetched.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Head coach: Sean Payton
Star player: Drew Brees
Last season: 11-5, lost in Divisional round
Key ins: Teddy Bridgewater (NY Jets), Jermon Bushrod (Miami), Demario Davis (NY Jets), Cameron Meredith (Chicago), Patrick Robinson (Philadelphia), Ben Watson (Baltimore), Marcus Davenport (rookie)
Key outs: Kenny Vaccaro (Tennessee), Senio Kelemete (Houston), Willie Snead (Baltimore)
Strengths: Running game between Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram powers the rest of the offence.
Weaknesses: Are relying on rookie Davenport to make a major impact with his pass rush right away.
Verdict: Arguably the most balanced team in the league with few holes on the roster.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Head coach: Dirk Koetter
Star player: Gerald McCoy
Last season: 5-11
Key ins: Jason Pierre-Paul (NY Giants), Vita Vea (rookie), Ronald Jones (rookie)
Key outs: Clinton McDonald (Denver), Doug Martin (Oakland), Robert Ayers (free agent), Chris Baker (free agent), Joe Hawley (retired), Robert McClain (free agent), T.J. Ward (free agent)
Strengths: Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick have an explosive group of pass-catchers to throw to.
Weaknesses: Pass defence last year was horrific as they ranked last in yards allowed (260.6) and sacks (22).
Verdict: Jobs appear to be on the line this season, from the field to the sidelines to the front office, and everyone has reason to be worried.
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