We’re finally through the preseason, and now teams are resting up and preparing for Week 1 of the NFL season. After watching, reading, and listening to the movements and transactions of the four teams from the NFC South, I have dusted off the crystal ball to provide my expected win-loss records of each team. Additionally, I’ve included each team’s offensive and defensive MVPs. Also, I’ve also included players whose performance will surpass our expectations in my NFC South 2022 Season Predictions. Let’s get started with my projected first place finisher, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11.5 Win Total
In a cruel twist of fate, the Buccaneers have faced the most adversity with multiple injuries. These include season-ending injuries to Aaron Stinnie (Knee) and Ryan Jensen (Knee). Tom Brady has returned to the team after his hiatus. While the injuries have been prevalent on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has remained relatively healthy. This is a top five team in the NFL. As a result, they are a Super Bowl favorite paired with the winningest quarterback of all time. If the backup offensive linemen can plug-in and play well, then a ten-win season is the floor for this team.
Offensive Line Questions
It’s worth noting that new starting center Robert Hainsey left the last preseason game with an ankle injury. The good news is the team does not expect him to miss any time. I have no concerns about this defense. They may not be a top three unit in the league, but they are primed to enter the season healthy. New head coach Todd Bowles will have more input on his defense after spending previous seasons as the defensive coordinator.
"Overall, it's been a very good month."
🗣: HC Todd Bowles pic.twitter.com/mjxloLtHpu
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 28, 2022
Tom Brady is my pick for the offensive MVP of this team. I did consider Leonard Fournette. However, if Brady can operate this offense, and they can finish inside the top 10 of offenses in the NFL, he belongs here.
My pick for defensive MVP of the team is Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Reporters, teammates, and coaches have raved on the former first-round pick. With the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul, there are plenty of defensive snaps available. As a result, I’ve got a sense we’re going to be hearing his name frequently on Sundays.
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is so damn athletic y’all, just chased down Malik Willis from the other side and brought him down… #gobucs force a turnover on downs pic.twitter.com/mGoEjiWGI3
— 𝗭𝗮𝗰 𝗕𝗹𝗼𝗯𝗻𝗲𝗿🎙 (@ZacOnTheMic) August 20, 2022
2022 prediction: 12-5, 1st in the NFC South
New Orleans Saints: 8.5 Win Total
Did you know the last time the Saints lost a regular season game to the reigning NFC South Champion Buccaneers was in Week 1 of the 2018 season?! This Saints team is incredibly focused after winning nine games last year. They accomplished this even after losing Jameis Winston to a torn ACL. They were also without Michael Thomas all season. The Saints went 5-2 in Jameis’ seven starts last season. Now he returns with Thomas and first-round selection Chris Olave. Also, it never hurts to have Alvin Kamara in the backfield.
The biggest mystery will be how rookie tackle Trevor Penning replaces Pro Bowler Terron Armstead. The reports on Penning have been positive, but it is a tall task to replace a top five offensive tackle. Penning was recently diagnosed with Turf Toe, and there have been no reports on if he will miss any time as a result of the injury. Dennis Allen is taking over the head coach position after Sean Payton retired, but Allen is incredibly familiar with the organization after being the defensive coordinator of the Saints since 2015.
Alvin Kamara is my pick to be this team’s offensive MVP. Similar to the Buccaneers’ offense, there are many players worthy of the MVP label, but I had to go with Kamara because he is now in an offense with actual depth at wide receiver unlike previous seasons. Now it is much more difficult to stack the box against the Pro Bowl running back.
Alvin Kamara's ADP on @UnderdogFantasy is rising📈
✅No. 1 – Target Share
✅No. 3 – Dominator Rating
✅No. 5 – Yards Per Route Run
✅No. 7 – Yards Created#Saints #nfl #FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/zNopHzfTgh
— PlayerProfiler (@rotounderworld) August 26, 2022
My pick for defensive MVP of this team is Tyrann Mathieu. This defense is incredibly loaded with talent, but I had to go with the shiny new acquisition the team signed this offseason. Historically, the Saints move around the safety position more frequently than most teams, and Mathieu can be that chess piece. The safety duo of Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams combined for nine interceptions over the last two seasons while Mathieu himself had a combined nine interceptions over the last two seasons. There is potential for an increased number of turnovers in 2022.
2022 Prediction: 11-6, 2nd in the NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: 5.0 Win Total
For the first time since 2007, the Falcons start a fresh, new season without Matt Ryan at quarterback. Marcus Mariota is the starter, and the team drafted Desmond Ridder to back him up. However, it’s important to note that in each year of Mariota’s career, when he is a starting quarterback, he has never stayed healthy for the entire season. Drake London, the team’s first-round selection, will be given every chance to shine as the receivers behind him are an unproven crew led by Bryan Edwards and Olamide Zaccheaus.
The interior part of the offensive line needs to provide more consistent play after last year when the Falcons finished No. 31 in the NFL in total Rushing yards. The Falcons have added free agent acquisition Elijah Wilkinson to slide in at left guard, but this unit still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s fair to say that Mariota will have to use his scrambling ability to make plays.
Defensive Line and Edge Rushers
All-Pro Grady Jarrett is still there to plug up the middle, but the defensive line has concerns behind the all-star after losing Vincent Taylor for the year. The team also lost Foye Oluokun who was the leading tackler in 2021 along with 2021 team sack leader Dante Fowler.
Keep an eye on two edge players that the coaches have been praising this offseason: Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. The coaching staff will need a lot from its rookies and second year players in order to take a step forward.
Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone making some early plays here in this game. A good sign for the rookie defenders.
— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) August 27, 2022
My pick for the Falcons’ offensive MVP is Kyle Pitts. Pitts has had a tremendous camp, and the beat writers of the Falcons have consistently praised him for making impressive catches day after day. The lack of proven pass catchers will lead to more opportunity for Pitts, and after breaking the team record for most receiving yards in a rookie season, he can capitalize in his second year.
My pick for the Falcons’ defensive MVP is A.J. Terrell. Terrell doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, but I’ll let his play in 2021 do the talking. He allowed only 29 receptions last season which comes out to almost two receptions a game. He also never had an opposing receiver rack up more than 45 receiving yards in a game. That season he matched up against Terry McLaurin, Stefon Diggs, Brandon Aiyuk, and D.J. Moore. He will continue to add to his impressive resume in 2022.
2022 Prediction: 8-9, third in the NFC South
Carolina Panthers: 6.5-Win Total
This is a “Prove-It” year for not only new starting quarterback Baker Mayfield but also head coach Matt Rhule. Another 10-loss season will put an end to his NFL coaching career. There have been rumors of the team potentially trading second year receiver Terrace Marshall who has had an up-and-down camp. But it’s important to note the team likes free agent acquisition Rashard Higgins, and Shi Smith had an outstanding camp.
Offensive Line and Defensive Line
Ikem Ekwonu was given the left tackle job, and while he has showcased talent while run blocking, his pass blocking hasn’t been ideal from a top ten draft selection. Free Agent acquisitions Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett should provide better offensive line play this season.
The team acquired three projected starters (Matt Ioannidis, Damien Wilson, and Cory Littleton) for the front seven during free agency. Returning linebacker Frankie Luvu has been a camp standout. He will push for more snaps in the regular season.
The team has slowly brought back second year corner Jaycee Horn after injuring his foot in 2021. There’s optimism he is 100-percent and can be a cornerstone of this defense. Lastly, kicker Zane Gonzalez suffered a “serious” groin injury, so the team will be active in the kicker market.
.@bakermayfield was looking sharp in the final tuneup before the games count. 🎯 #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/P758mE9KVk
— NFL (@NFL) August 27, 2022
My pick for the Panthers’ offensive MVP is D.J. Moore. Since Moore was drafted, he has played with the following quarterbacks: Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, and Sam Darnold. Even with that unexceptional list of quarterbacks, Moore has continued to be the alpha receiver, averaging over 1,100 yards receiving his last three years in the NFL. Baker Mayfield should provide a boost to this offense and many people expect Moore to continue to be the established alpha receiver of the Panthers.
Some lightwork from Mr. 2 💫 pic.twitter.com/9KCZeaOvZP
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 13, 2021
My pick for the Panthers’ defensive MVP is Jeremy Chinn. The Panthers lost defensive tackle depth and starting linebackers from 2021. While they did make transactions to provide support to those positions, we must not forget the reckless safety, Jeremy Chinn, that can play so well in the box. Chinn was a heat-seeking missile in 2021 who led the team in tackles. If the front seven struggles to gel at any point this year, Chinn will be the guy to provide support and stop big plays before they happen.
TIP DRILL TEAMWORK ‼️ pic.twitter.com/BIKX5Gs0bn
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 27, 2022