YOU TALKIN’ TO ME – MARCH 20
By Leo Haggerty & Rob Kriete

WHICH NFC SOUTH TEAM WILL BE THE BUCCANEERS BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN 2021?

Brooklyn, I know this is going to shock you, but I believe it still will be the Saints.  Yeah, I know Drew Brees has ridden off into the sunset but here’s my reasons for talkin’ to you.

First, and foremost, New Orleans is the defending National Football Conference South Division champs.  Yes, #9 was a big part of leading The Big Easy Gang to a 20-10 regular season record over Tampa Bay during his illustrious career.  Still, those other guys that don the Black & Old Gold ain’t bad.

Second, Head Coach Sean Peyton is still calling the shots.  He’s been at the helm of the Saints since 2006 and has a 143-81 career record in New Orleans.  With that being said, let me point out two salient facts.  One is that a Peyton-coached team has only finished below 500 four times and, on all of those occasions, the team was a respectable 7-9.  The other is that the 57-year-old Eastern Illinois alum has had eight double-digit win seasons and that includes the last four.  He’s built a winning culture and that will continue even with the departure of Brees.

Finally, there is a very obvious rivalry between the two franchises.  The Bucs know that the road to the NFC South title, and most probably a first-round home game or a bye, goes straight up I-75 and then west on I-10 to New Orleans.  Now, the Saints know they have to beat the Pewter Pirates to retain their crown.  That will make for two great games in 2021.

Ok. Brooklyn, the balls in your court.  Yea, I’m talkin’ to you, big boy.

Come on, Low Ball.

As usual, Low Ball, I see things a bit differently. First, the entire division has a heated rivalry. Whether it is the rebuilding Panthers or the (previously) dominating Saints, all the teams in the NFC South play each other extraordinarily tough despite team records every year.

Besides, is Jameis the answer in New Orleans?

I say the biggest challenge for the Bucs in 2021 will be the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan will back and this team will surprise the NFC in 2021. After a disastrous start to the 2020 season, the Falcons played much better down the stretch despite two late-season losses to the Buccaneers. With a stable of better-than-league-average receivers that include Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and of course, Julio Jones, the Falcons have the ability to turn a 180 and be a contender quicker than most imagine.

Atlanta Falcons owner, Art Blank, wants to win now, too. I expect changes to this team on the defensive side of the ball in 2021 to make this team stronger than we have seen in recent seasons. Combine this fact with the idea that the New Orleans Saints just lost their Hall-of-Fame quarterback to retirement and the Carolina Panthers continue to rebuild, the Atlanta Falcons will present the biggest divisional challenge to the Bucs in 2021, Low Ball.

To be fair, though, Low Ball, I see the NFC South to the Buccaneers’ division for the taking in 2021.