How the NFC South has done:
vs. NFC East:
vs. NFC North:
vs. NFC West:
vs. AFC East:
vs. AFC North:
vs. AFC West:
vs. AFC South:
NFC South Cities Line up to Host Super Bowl
Published: May 12, 2016
If there is any justice in this world, an NFC South city soon will be hosting a Super Bowl.
Maybe even more NFC South cities. Atlanta, Tampa Bay and New Orleans are finalists for the 2019 Super Bowl - so is Miami. A vote for that game will come in two weeks at the league's May meeting in Charlotte. The losers for that game also will have chances at the 2020 and '21 games.
I think all three of those NFC South cities deserve Super Bowls, but I may be biased since I cover the NFC South. But all three cities have what it takes to put on a good Super Bowl and I'll explain.
Right now, I would say Atlanta is the favorite to be granted the 2019 game. Sure visions of the ice storm that paralyzed Atlanta during the Super Bowl after the 1999 season are still strong among many owners. But that was a fluke and Atlanta usually has decent weather during January.
Why do you need decent weather when you have an indoor stadium? It's not just about the game. It's about fans being able to get to and enjoy the many events in the week leading up to the game.
But getting around the city isn't the only concern. In recent years, the NFL has shown a strong willingness to give Super Bowls to cities with new stadiums. Atlanta's going to open a sparkling new stadium in 2017 and the 2019 Super Bowl could be its reward.
"We've submitted all documentation," Falcons owner Arthur Blank. "We think we've dotted every 'I' and crossed every 'T'. We think we have a very competitive bid."
Besides the $1.4 billion new stadium, Atlanta has a lot going for it. The stadium will be right next to a vibrant downtown that has plenty of hotel rooms to handle the Super Bowl cluster. It's only a short walk or cab ride from the stadium to downtown, where all the events leading into the game would be held.
Blank and team president Rich McKay have plenty of power within the league, and they'll be twisting arms and calling in favors to try to get a Super Bowl. But they won't be the only ones. Tampa Bay and New Orleans have hosted very successful Super Bowls in the past and owners around the league like having the big game in those cities.
Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium, which is still in great shape, is getting an expensive facelift in part to help make the stadium a more attractive Super Bowl host. Tampa Bay's outdoor stadium also makes it an attractive venue.
The January weather almost always is better in Tampa Bay than it is in Atlanta and New Orleans, although it's not quite as good as Miami. Owners like the way everything is close together and, even though they won't admit it, they like Tampa Bay's night life, especially the nightclubs along Dale Mabry Blvd.
New Orleans also has plenty of nightlife, and the location of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is close to the French Quarter and the Central Business District, which have plenty of hotel rooms.
The Superdome has gotten its share of upgrades in recent years. It could still use another elevator or two to help the media get from the press box to the locker rooms after the game, but that's just a pet peeve among media members. Fans don't really care.
All three NFC South cities are going to put on strong presentations, and the division is going to come out of the meeting with a Super Bowl. Maybe even two or three.
Saints Will Be Better Than Experts Expect
Published: May 11, 2016
They won't play a game for months, but the New Orleans Saints already are in a rapid decline.
At least that's the opinion of some experts. In recent power rankings, the Saints came in at No. 30 on NFL.com and No. 27 on ESPN. In the ESPN rankings, the Saints came in slightly ahead of the San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns.
That's not good company to be in, but that's where the experts see the Saints. I'm sorry, but I don't see it that way. The Saints aren't going to win the Super Bowl, but they're far from being a terrible team. If things break right, the Saints could even land in the playoffs.
I say this because I learned long ago that you never can count out the Saints for two reasons. First, they've got Sean Payton as their coach. Second, they have Drew Brees as their quarterback.
The only coach-quarterback combination that's better is New England's Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
In Payton, the Saints have one of the top-five coaches in the league. He's supremely confident and fearless, and that rubs off on his team. He might be the league's best offensive innovator. He's a master motivator. Since taking over the Saints in 2006, Payton has rebuilt a franchise and given it steady respectability. Payton and the Saints helped rebuild the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and won a Super Bowl in the 2009 season.
Yeah, the Saints have tailed off in recent years, but they're a team that could snap out of it at any time. They don't deserve to be ranked No. 27 or No. 30. I'm thinking they should start off somewhere between No. 15 and No. 20 with plenty of room for growth.
The other reason I feel that way is Brees. Even at 36, he's one of the best three quarterbacks in the league, capable of putting an offense on his back and carrying it. Brees may not have the supporting cast he once did. Standouts like Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston are gone.
But I've got a hunch you could put 10 good high school players around Brees and he still would find a way to produce. Brees makes everyone around him better. Even with the changes, the offense is going to be just fine and will keep the Saints in games.
Of course, that brings us to the defense, which is another story. Last season, the Saints were historically bad on defense, and that cost them dearly. But they've done a lot to rebuild that defense this offseason. The biggest move was drafting Sheldon Rankins, a can't-miss defensive tackle. Rankins is going to bring strength and speed - two elements that were lacking - to the interior of the line, and that's going to make the entire defense better. Just being a little better on defense will help the Saints tremendously.
Like I said, the Saints aren't going to win the Super Bowl. But they're going to be better than the experts expect.