<
>

NFC South Q&A: Will Carolina make it four division titles in a row?

play
Falcons have the talent to catch the Panthers (1:00)

Which NFC South team has the best chance to catch the Panthers? NFL Insider Dan Graziano breaks it down. (1:00)

Today's question: Which team has the best chance to overtake the Carolina Panthers and win the division?

Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: Good question. The division has been Carolina's the past three years while the Bucs have struggled with finding the right coach and rebuilding, the Falcons got a new head coach, and the Saints parted ways with a lot of high-priced contracts and had a historically-bad defense. The Falcons got off to a red-hot 5-0 start last year, fizzled and then went on to beat the Panthers. Granted, that 5-0 start was against a weak group of opponents, but they finished a respectable 8-8 under a brand new head coach who could do wonders for that defense.

I think Atlanta may have a slight edge over the Bucs and Saints because it has the least amount of holes, but I can see Carolina winning the division again. The Bucs have some growing to do under a new head coach, a second-year quarterback and a new defense. The Saints need to find their old identity on defense and develop some stars with that young offense.

Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: I'd say it's pretty much a three-way tie. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers all finish 8-8. Of the three, it's probably fair to say that Tampa Bay's arrow is pointing up, New Orleans' arrow is pointing down, and Atlanta's arrow is stuck in neutral. However, I still believe the Saints have the highest ceiling for now because of Drew Brees and that offense. They're capable of outscoring any team in the league. They almost beat the undefeated Panthers in both of their meetings last year -- including a 41-38 thriller in the Superdome in Week 13. The window will eventually close on Brees and the Saints (maybe not until he's in his 40s). But in the meantime, they are still capable of another playoff run if they can just figure out a way to field the 20th- or 25th-best defense in the league instead of the 31st or 32nd.

Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: The Falcons have the offensive firepower to unseat the Panthers with arguably the league's top receiver in Julio Jones, a touchdown-making Pro Bowl running back in Devonta Freeman and a three-time Pro Bowl center in new addition Alex Mack to protect quarterback Matt Ryan. And remember, Atlanta handed Carolina its only regular-season loss in 2015 by a score of 20-13. But the Falcons remain suspect on defense despite addressing needs in the draft and free agency. If they can average around 30 points per game, like three teams did last season (Panthers, Cardinals, Patriots), I think they'll have at least a shot to contend for the division crown. But that's a big "if" when you're facing Carolina twice along with Denver, Seattle, and Arizona -- all ranked in the top six in total defense a year ago. I'm not completely sold on Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay, either, despite the fact that the Buccaneers knocked off the Falcons twice last season. And although I never count out Brees, I don't think the Saints can stop anyone on defense.