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2016 NFL Preseason: Grading The NFC South


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Aug 17, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

Josh Benjamin ,  


Sports Nut/Numbers Guy

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.




The NFC South is a division whose competitive balance has varied over the past number of years. Three different teams have held the division’s crown in the past five seasons. The four teams that make up the division have two Super Bowl championships and five NFC championships between them.


ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 27: Reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton hopes to add a fourth straight NFC South crown to his resume in 2016 (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)



Each of the NFC South’s teams also has an excellent quarterback running their respective offenses, so this is a division that always tends to be fun to watch with few exceptions.

And even though the NFC South is home to the reigning NFC champions, the 2016 season is far from a lock in terms of a team from this division making it to Super Bowl Sunday again. Why? The answer is in the teams’ preseason grades.


Atlanta Falcons


Center Alex Mack could be a big reason why Atlanta shows grand improvement in 2016 (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)



Atlanta is in a transitionary phase under coach Dan Quinn and 2016 could prove to be another step forward after going 8-8 in 2015. Much of that has to do with the fact that star quarterback Matt Ryan finally has some top-level protection in front of him. GM Thomas Dimitroff added longtime Cleveland Browns center and three-time Pro Bowler Alex Mack on a five-year, $45 million deal that offered $28.5 million in guaranteed money. This made him the highest paid center in the league and considering the overall inexperience along Atlanta’s offensive line, making him as such may have been necessary.

Dimitroff also took some of the pressure off of star receiver Julio Jones when he signed Mohamed Sanu to a five-year, $32.5 million contract. The team’s secondary was improved when Florida safety Keanu Neal was picked in the NFL Draft.

Atlanta could face some stiff competition within the NFC South this season but in terms addressing direct needs by utilizing both the draft and free agency, the offseason could not have gone better. All that really needs to happen on top of that is for a defense that ranked 16th in the league last year to show some improvement. Grade: B+





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