Panthers: ESPN predicts balanced NFC South, dominant NFC

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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 2: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons is sacked by Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on October 2, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 2: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons is sacked by Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on October 2, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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According to ESPN, the Carolina Panthers will be among one of the most difficult divisions again in 2018…

The Carolina Panthers played in Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 NFL season after winning the NFC South and compiling a 15-1 record. In 2016, the Atlanta Falcons followed suit with an impressive regular season and Super Bowl appearance of their own.

Last year, both teams again made the playoffs but it was New Orleans who won the division before losing in the divisional playoffs on a 61-yard game winning touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs in Minnesota.

Over the past few seasons every NFC South team has been competitive, even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have just eight more losses than wins after playing six divisional games a year. The division was tight in 2017 and is expected to be again.

ESPN recently released their Football Power Index (FPI) rankings for the entire NFL and again the NFC South looks dominant. Three of the four teams rank in the top-10 of the league with the Panthers falling the lowest.

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With just four-tenths of a point separating first, New Orleans, and third, Carolina, in terms of projected wins every divisional game will be key this year. The Saints (9.2), Falcons (9.0) and Panthers (8.8) all are predicted to have winning records while the Buccaneers (6.5) could surprise people with some divisional upsets of their own.

Occupying three of the top-10 positions, the NFC South is arguably the toughest division in football as the NFC West and North were the only other divisions with multiple teams placed in the rankings. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers were No. 4 and No. 10, respectively, with the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers finishing fifth and seventh.

Overall, eight (Philadelphia Eagles, No. 2) NFC teams comprise the first ten positions with only the New England Patriots (No. 1) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 3) representing the AFC among the standings.

Next: Bounceback Candidates for 2018

If correct, expect another tough regular season with well prepared and extremely talented teams from the NFC occupying all six playoff positions next January.

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