The NFC South has fallen on hard times. The New Orleans Saints were the only team last season that had a winning record among the four teams.

Drew Brees had a great season in 2018, but faltered a bit at the end, and some are wondering if the 40-year-old can still compete. (Image: USA Today Sports)

There are signs of improvement among the other three organizations. Atlanta has a new offensive coordinator, who has pledged to make the offense more explosive. Carolina is hoping Cam Newton’s injured shoulder is better and that he can return to Pro Bowl form. Tampa Bay got a new head coach with a proven track record of turning around stumbling franchises.

NFC South                2018 Record  Division Odds   Super Bowl Odds

New Orleans Saints    13-3                 -175                  +1000

Atlanta Falcons            7-9                  +350                 +4000

Carolina Panthers        7-9                  +500                 +4000

Tampa Bay Bucs          5-11                +1200              +10000

Odds Courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

Still it looks like the Saints will be the dominant team in the division. They are the -175 favorite to be at the top at the end of the season. Atlanta is +350, while Carolina is +500.

Will the Falcons and Panthers challenge the Saints? Will Tampa Bay make some noise? We look at three issues facing the AFC South this season.

Can New Orleans Make Another Deep Playoff Run?

Drew Brees is 40-years-old and there were whispers last year that his velocity was waning towards the end of 2018. Still he managed to guide New Orleans to the NFC Championship game before losing on a controversial no all to the Rams.

Brees returns and the team added free agent tight end Jared Cook will give him another weapon.

“We saw enough in the spring to see the size and the stature and some of the challenges of covering him,” coach Sean Payton said of Cook. “He’s picked things up quickly. He is another target, especially if we’re getting coverage rotated on the weak side.”

Getting Ted Ginn Jr. back healthy will also help. But the success of New Orleans will rest on Brees and how well he can perform in 2019.

Will Bruce Arians Have an Immediate Impact?

It seems everywhere Bruce Arians has gone he has been able to get immediate results from mediocre teams. Tampa Bay is hoping that trend continues.

Arians will have his work cut out for him. He inherits a defense that was 27th out of 32 teams in yards allowed, and next to last in points given up.

His biggest challenge might be getting quarterback Jameis Winston back to a consistent signal caller. Winston has taken a quick liking to his new coach.

“I’m going to work regardless, but it’s always a plus when your head coach believes in you,” Winston said. “Every coach brings something different. I’m just really excited to get to work with them,” Winston said. “Obviously, we’ll get to know each other more now that it’s training-camp time.”

Is Atlanta’s Offense on the Rebound?

Atlanta was sixth in the league in offense last year, which 26 other teams would have gladly taken. But the Falcons points per game average was at 25.9, nearly 10 points less than when they made it to the Super Bowl in 2016.

Coach Dan Quinn ditched the no huddle offense that quarterback Matt Ryan used to run, but now with Dirk Koetter the new offense coordinator, it is back. So too might be the Falcons.

A couple of variables have to tilt in Atlanta’s favor. One is the offensive line, that has two rookies potentially starting. The other is the wide receivers staying healthy. Tight end Austin Hooper is a nice plus to have as well.