Predicting NFC South standings after 2024 NFL schedule release

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

Kirk Cousins signing with the Atlanta Falcons—and then watching them immediately draft his replacement—is the No. 1 story in the NFC South this offseason. Can the Falcons return to the playoffs after a six-year absence?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are running it back, re-signing several key starters from last year's division-winning team. They brought back Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans and made Antoine Winfield Jr. the highest-paid defensive back in the NFL.

Can the New Orleans compete for a playoff berth? What's next for the Carolina Panthers after finishing 2023 with only two wins?

With free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release in the books, it's time to predict how the NFC South will play out in 2024.

NFC South predictions after schedule release: Bucs compete with Falcons















1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8)

Tampa Bay ran it back in the offseason by re-signing several important starters, and it leads to the same results as a year ago. The Bucs win the division due to a better divisional record, securing their fourth straight NFC South title.

The Buccaneers will have to overcome a challenging schedule, particularly in the middle, with a four-game stretch against the Baltimore Ravens, Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers. However, in its final six games, Tampa Bay gets two against Carolina, along with matchups against New Orleans and the Las Vegas Raiders.

Continuity is key. Baker Mayfield enters year two in Tampa Bay and has a talented supporting cast, including a returning Mike Evans. The Bucs find a way to get to nine wins and retain their division title.

2. Atlanta Falcons (9-8)

Atlanta had a bizarre offseason, signing Kirk Cousins and then drafting Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall. Despite that, the Falcons are in position to take a step forward in the NFC South.

Even if Penix is their future, not addressing the glaring need at cornerback will come back to haunt the Falcons. Getting a healthy Cousins will help the offense reach heights we haven't seen since Matt Ryan was in Atlanta, but the defense is a concern.

Where are the sacks going to come from? Atlanta ranked 32nd in pass rush win rate last season, per ESPN. Kevin King, who is coming off a torn Achilles and hasn't played an NFL game since 2021, could start in the secondary. The Falcons' defensive issues will hold them back in 2024.

3. New Orleans Saints (8-9)

New Orleans made some smart moves in the draft—Taliese Fuaga and Kool-Aid McKinstry were great picks. But there is a limit to how far this team can go. Derek Carr is an OK starter at quarterback, but can he lead the Saints to double-digit wins? It's doubtful, especially without much receiving depth beyond Chris Olave. Alvin Kamara averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season and is entering his eighth year in the league.

The Saints have talent but will lack the consistency to make a playoff run.

4. Carolina Panthers (3-14)

The only way is up, right? The Panthers didn't get the benefit of picking in the first round of the draft and instead had to watch the Chicago Bears select Caleb Williams.

Brian Burns led Carolina in sacks last season, but he now plays for the New York Giants. The Panthers have strengthened the offense around Bryce Young by drafting Xavier Legette and Jonathon Brooks and trading for Diontae Johnson, but this team still has a long way to go.

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