Season Takeaways NFC South

Season Takeaways For All 32 NFL Teams: NFC South Edition

How did your favorite team perform in the 2018-19 season and what are the biggest questions that need to be addressed this offseason and beyond? This week, I'll be reviewing the four teams in the NFC South.

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It's been another exciting season in the NFL. At the beginning of each year, each team/fanbase has a slue of expectations for their team whether you're in the middle of a rebuild, seeing how rookie talent pans out or plotting for contention in the playoffs. Regardless of the team, expectations always change. Injuries, free agency and coaching changes all play a role in how a team re-evaluates their priorities, and there's never a shortage of any of those three in this league. Here's how the NFC East faired this season.

1. New Orleans Saints - The window to win a Super Bowl may be closing

The missed pass interference/helmet-to-helmet call in the NFC Championship has put a sour taste in what was a great season for the Saints all things considered. The last time the Saints made the division championship game they went on to win the Super Bowl and many believe that they had a great chance to compete against whatever team emerged out of the AFC. However, losing a 13-point lead at home and then failing to get a touchdown with the first possession in overtime makes it harder to justify the position they find themselves in.

Drew Brees just turned 40 and I think it's only because Tom Brady is still playing that the "washed up/declining performance" narrative has escaped him. Granted, the Patriots have dominated both the headlines and the NFL for the greater part of two decades whereas the Saints have somewhat flown under the radar. With Drew Brees increasing in age, a limited receiving core and star running back Mark Ingram approaching unrestricted free agency this offseason, it'll be interesting to see if the Saints can continue their upward momentum.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Too many injuries to overcome

28-3 jokes aside, the Atlanta Falcons had everything they needed for another playoff run when the season opened. 2016 MVP Matt Ryan was looking to bounce back off a below-average year for his standards alongside other star players Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. The Falcons were another one of those teams that just found themselves plagued by injuries. Their defense took major hit after major hit which eventually placed them in the bottom half of the league by the end of the season.

Offense remained complicated for the Falcons as well. Running back Devonta Freeman missed four of the first six games of the season due to complications with his foot and knee before being placed on the Injured Reserve in Week 6. There's also been much to say about the Falcon's former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and the correlation between him and the Falcons' lower offensive outputs. The Falcons will now look to Drik Koetter, former head coach at Tampa Bay and Falcons offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014, to revitalize their offense to its full potential.

3. Carolina Panthers - Get Cam healthy

The Panthers suffered from what was probably the biggest season-ending implosion in recent memory this season. By Week 9, the Panthers were 6-2, favorites to win their division with many media personalities taking them to win the conference and get a shot at the Super Bowl. From there, the Panthers lost 7 in a row to end their season 7-9 with a second-place finish in the division and missing the playoffs. The most concerning part is the teams they lost to. The Panthers fell to Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Atlanta during that stretch.

At some point, the psychology of losing that many games in a row probably had a lot to do with the Panthers crumbling. But as with most underperforming teams this season, injury definitely played a role as well. Star Tight End Greg Olsen ended his season during the team's Week 13 loss to Tampa Bay and Cam Newton suffered a phantom injury throughout most of the season.

Newton admitted that his injury played a large part in the team's outcome, and the Panthers were so convinced he was unable to play they let him rest for the last two games of the season. In a recent video posted to his YouTube channel, Newton reveals that he suffered some cartilage damage that limited his range of motion. In doing so, Newton was limited in both his accuracy and the distance he could throw downfield. Now that he knows the root of his issue, hopefully the Panthers will take the right steps moving forward to get him back on the field and get the team back to winning.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Too many individual parts

At the beginning of the season, the Tamba Bay Buccaneers surprised everyone in the football world the first handful of weeks into the season. After some absolutely outstanding play from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was filling in for a suspended Jameis Winston, it really looked like Tampa Bay was going somewhere. Turns out that "somewhere" was to the bottom of the division. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended their season 5-11.

A lot of the Buccaneers' woes have come from the quarterback position. After drafting Winston in 2015, he's been prone to play very inconsistently. This year alone, he threw as many interceptions (14) as he did touchdowns (19). Despite this, he has his highest QBR in his career at 71.8. It's hard to determine whether or not he's improved or not as many of his stats appear to move inversely. His yards, touchdowns and total interceptions have trended downward. On the other hand, his yards per attempt and completion percentages have trended upwards.

But fans and the team as a whole remain optimistic with the hiring of head coach Bruce Arians potentially being the key to figuring out Winston. Next season will tell, however, whether or not it's time to finally move on.

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5 Reasons Participation Trophies Shouldn't Be a Thing

Participating does not mean you deserved to be recognized
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1. Who Learns By Winning All The Time?

Growing up, I know for a fact I learned a lot more from doing something wrong than when I did something right. In baseball, if you don’t get in front of the ball, odds are it’ll end up going right past you. The way I see it, life should be lived the same way. Sometimes life flies right past you. It takes some failures to realize that in order to keep moving forward, you have to stay in front, and take the challenge head on, no matter what it is. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. If it were not for failures, no one would know how to take challenges head on, much less want to. If no one ever failed, there would be no motivation to succeed. If everyone gets a participation trophy, no one learns any lessons.

2. Everyone Needs To Learn How To Lose

Losing is inevitable. Everyone loses at some point in their lives. What separates people is how they take those losses. We need to teach people how to take losses with honor and with humility. How do we expect to teach these qualities when children grow up believing they have always won, when they have always received a trophy no matter what place they came in. We may think that we are keeping kids from their feelings being hurt, but when does the real world ever care about peoples’ feelings? What we are really doing is telling kids that they will never lose. This only sets them up for greater failure down the road.

3. Since When Is Competition a Bad Thing?

Participation trophies eliminate any competition in sports. If everyone always wins, then they lose all motivation to get better. This is just another metaphor for life in the real world. Those who grow up receiving participation trophies their whole life, thinking they have never lost, believe they will magically get their dream job and dream life. In the real world, competition lies at every doorstep, and in many cases, there is only one winner, one person eligible for that dream job position. Those who have received participation trophies believe that they are entitled to that position and that is just simply not the case.

4. Many Want To Win, Few Put In The Work

I remember vividly the first time I did not receive a trophy after a season of playing soccer. It was my team’s end of the year party and the coach had finished the cliché speech on how he had a great time coaching our team and wishes us the best in the future. After the speech, everyone just started heading home. I immediately looked to my dad and asked where our trophies were. His response was very blunt; he told me in a laugh, “You have to win to get a trophy.” It was at this moment that I became one of the most competitive people I know. A lot of kids today are never taught this lesson. They believe that they can go through life being mediocre and still achieve everything they want. The few people who have put in the work to become winners and earn their trophy are the ones who end up succeeding in life. These are the same people who have also felt what it was like to lose. They have taken those losses and turned them into motivation in order to work harder and do what it takes to win. These people will always come out ahead of those who are happy to settle for participation. Now, what I have written may seem harsh, but I am not only writing about participation in sports. I am writing about settling with participation in life. If you want to succeed in life, you must not settle for mediocrity. You have to strive to better yourself every day. That is the difference in receiving a participation trophy and earning a winner’s trophy.

5. Sometimes, Life Just Isn’t Fair, and That Is Okay

Sometimes, even when you try your hardest, even when you take all the right steps, things just don’t go your way. Sometimes, you really do deserve that winner’s trophy and you just don’t get it. It is at these times when you have to keep pushing. The world does not give everyone an equal opportunity. Some people have to work much harder than others. However, The ones who work hardest, and continue to work harder, always end up where they want to be. The fact is though; no one is going to want to work hard if they are being rewarded for something below their best. No one will work their hardest if all their lives, they have been given a participation trophy.

Cover Image Credit: HBCU Sports

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Will The Seahawks Extend Bobby Wagner?

The star veteran linebacker will turn 29 in June.

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The Seattle Seahawks have made a few notable moves so far in the 2019 NFL offseason. They traded star pass rusher Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for significant draft capital and made quarterback Russell Wilson the highest-paid player in NFL history after his self-imposed April 15 deadline for a contract extension. In addition, they selected Ohio State wide receiver D.K. Metcalf in the 2019 NFL Draft after he surprisingly fell to the 64th overall pick at the end of the second round. However, there are still a few questions to be answered. Most notably, will the Seahawks extend veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner?

Seattle drafted two linebackers in Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven in this year's draft. However, Wagner has been one of the NFL's top linebackers throughout his seven-year career and is considered by many to be the best along with Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Although a versatile player, he is perhaps most known for his elite tackling ability and efficiency in that department. In the 2018 season, he missed only one tackle out of 139 attempts and was given a 139.0 tackling efficiency score from Pro Football Focus, more than double the score of runner-up Jon Bostic. However, he is entering a contract year and approaching his 29th birthday, so Seattle must make a decision on his long-term future.

Wagner is expected to become the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL after being overtaken by five other players of his position since he signed his initial four-year, $43 million contract extension on August 2, 2015. He has been one of the most consistent linebackers in the league and has stayed relatively healthy throughout his career with few character concerns. After Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley set the market for the position with his five-year, $85 million contract, the Seahawks will have to offer a significant amount of dough to their star to keep him. Wagner has stated that he will play the 2019 season as if it is his last in the Emerald City and reports say that he is not keen on taking a hometown discount to stay with the team.

The Seahawks were in a similar situation with veteran safety Earl Thomas last offseason when he held out for a contract extension that paid him his perceived value. We all know how that turned out. Could the same scenario happen with Wagner? All we know for sure is that Seattle has another large decision to make for another veteran star player.

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