Regardless what anyone says in the middle of July, no one knows who will be representing the NFC and AFC in Super Bowl LIII.
Not even yours truly, though I’m never shy about offering an opinion, sometimes a different one on the same topic to cover myself.
For instance, the New Orleans Saints will win the NFC. Then again, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta and the L.A. Rams have plenty of game, too. In the AFC, I like Jacksonville but don’t go to sleep on Pittsburgh, New England, Jacksonville, the L.A. Chargers or Kansas City.
My point is no one knows how the NFL will play out in 2018.
But when it comes to the NFC South, I am omniscient. You can take these predictions/observations to the bank:
- Order of finish — New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay.
- Playoff teams — New Orleans, Atlanta.
- Coach likely to be fired at season’s end — Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay.
- GM likely to be fired season’s end — Jason Licht, Tampa Bay.
- Best coach who hasn’t had to serve a one-year suspension — Dan Quinn, Atlanta.
- Best coach who’s had to serve a one-year suspension — Sean Payton, New Orleans.
- Coordinator likely to become a NFL head coach again — DC Dennis Allen, New Orleans. Not LB coach Mike Nolan (New Orleans), TE coach Dan Campbell (New Orleans), DC Mike Smith (Tampa Bay) nor OC Norv Turner (Carolina).
- Coordinator on hottest hot seat — OC Steve Sarkisian, (Atlanta).
- Highest paid QB — Matt Ryan, Atlanta ($28.2 million per season through 2023 after signing five-year, $150 million extension during offseason).
- Best underpaid QB — Drew Brees, New Orleans (two-years, $50 million).
- Most overrated QB (tie) — Cam Newton, Carolina; Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay.
- QB with best chance to be released at season’s end — Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay.
- Most likely QB to surpass Peyton Manning (71,940) and become NFL’s career passing yards leader this season — Drew Brees (70,445), New Orleans.
- Best all-purpose RB — Devonta Freeman, Atlanta.
- Best 2nd-year RB — Alvin Kamara, New Orleans.
- Most overrated 2nd-year RB — Christian McCaffrey, Carolina.
- Best WR with fewest TDs — Julio Jones, Atlanta (9 TDs last two seasons).
- Most bang-for-your-buck WR — Michael Thomas, New Orleans (14 TDs last two seasons).
- Best TE — Greg Olsen, Carolina.
- Best OL — C Alex Mack, Atlanta.
- Best pass rusher — DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans.
- Best LB — Luke Kuechly, Carolina.
- Best pass defender — CB Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans.
- Best safety — FS Keanu Neal, Atlanta.
- Best kicker — Matt Bryant, Atlanta. Honorable mention: Will Lutz, New Orleans.
- Best FA pickup/trade (tie) — DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Tampa Bay); DT Dontari Poe, Carolina.
- Loudest stadium — Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
- Biggest upside for incoming draft pick — WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta.
- Best female owner — Gayle Marie Benson, New Orleans.
- Best male owner — Arthur Blank, Atlanta.
- Most shameful outgoing owner — Jerry Richardson, Carolina.
- Biggest fair-weather fan base — Atlanta.
- Most loyal fan base — New Orleans.
- Best statue outside stadium — The “Rebirth’‘ bronze statue in Champion’s Square celebrating Steve Gleason’s emotionally charged blocked punt against Atlanta on the night the Superdome reopened in 2006.