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NFL Betting Preview: NFC South

12 August 2019

Since its creation in 2002, the NFC South has been arguably NFL’s most competitive division. The Saints and the Panthers lead the way with 5 titles, followed by the Falcons with 4 and the Bucs with 3. New Orleans have now won back-to-back titles. Can the Saints be the first team ever to win 3 in a row?

By Steve Tomasin

New Orleans Saints (+800)

Last Season (13-3)

WHO DAT!? The Saints ran away with the division last year behind another season of outstanding play by Drew Brees. Coach Sean Payton has been on the cusp of returning to a 2nd Super Bowl for a couple years now. Can the Saints finally break through this year?

Offense

Even though Brees threw for less than 4,000 yards last year, his completion percentage was a historic 74.4%, breaking his record from the previous year. He continues to defy Father Time and is the backbone of this potent Saints offense. RB Alvin Kamara is set to be even more involved in the offense, as the Saints let RB Mark Ingram go to Baltimore in free agency. Latavius Murray signed to play Robin to Kamar’s Batman, but we could see 1,000 yards each rushing & receiving from Kamara this year. WR Michael Thomas returns as Brees’ favorite target.

Final Thoughts: The New Orleans Saints are still a top offense in the league no matter which way they attack, pass or run.

Defense

In 2017, the Saints defense was surprisingly one of the best in the league. 2018 was a bit of a return to reality, although against the run they were still one of the best (2nd). Standout veteran DE Cameron Jordan will continue to create havoc for QBs. The Saints have good players in their secondary, they just need them to execute on their talent.

Final Thoughts: The Saints should continue to be a force against the run, but a repeat of #2 is unlikely. The pass defense should finish better than last year’s 29th spot.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

Just like every year, the Saints are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, as they should be. However, the NFC South is a very competitive division, so it won’t be as easy as last year to repeat a 13-win season.




Atlanta Falcons (+3300)

Last Season (7-9)

The Dirty Birds were primed to get back to the Super Bowl in 2018 and avenge their meltdown loss to the Patriots two seasons ago. Key injuries to defensive superstars early in the season put an end to that idea. With the defense healthy and the offense still one of the best in the league, the Falcons should be a formidable challenger for the division title.

Offense

QB Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan had his 2nd best statistical year ever. WRs Julio Jones and rookie Calvin Ridley (both former Alabama players) were big reasons for that. The Falcons passing game is as dangerous as ever. The running game, however, took a hit as RB Devonta Freeman missed practically the entire season. His replacements, Tevin Coleman (signed with San Francisco) and rookie Ito Smith did not perform up to Freeman’s standards.

Final Thoughts: Health will play a large role in the Falcons’ offensive success. If they do avoid injuries, this unit will remain among the top scoring in the league.

Defense

Star players LB Deion Jones and S Keanu Neal missed a combined 27 games last year. A huge blow that led to the Falcons finishing 25th in total defense. When this unit is healthy and playing together, a finish closer to 2017 (8th in total D) is much more realistic. The Falcons did not do much to address their pass rushing issues, which is their most glaring defensive weakness.

Final Thoughts: Both Jones’ and Neal’s injuries were a bit fluky, so they should be firing on all cylinders this year, and the defense will benefit greatly.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

The Falcons have pretty favorable odds to win the Super Bowl, especially considering their win total is not too far off from the Saints.



Carolina Panthers (+5000)

Last Season (7-9)

The Panthers were another team which fell short of their 2018 expectations. Carolina started off well and were 6-2 before suffering through a 7-game losing streak. That is a rare occurrence in the NFL. Don’t expect the Panthers to repeat those circumstances.

Offense

QB Cam Newton played banged up through much of the year and officially missed 2 games. He enters 2019 still nursing a bad shoulder, but reports expect him to be OK. The Panthers certainly need Cam to be healthy as the offense runs through him. RB Christian McCaffrey enters his 3rd year and was a machine logging 219 carries and 107 receptions. McCaffrey is the Panthers’ most important offensive weapon and he could also be a candidate to log 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving. One of Cam’s other favorite weapons, TE Greg Olsen is expected to return for at least one more year after spending half the year on IR. That is good news for the offense, as the WR group is young and raw, but talented.

Final Thoughts: The Panthers offense has a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde feel to it. One week: 30 pts. Next one: 9 pts on three field goals. They need to find some consistency.

Defense

The Panthers seeming always have a solid defense. The biggest reason for that is veteran LB Luke Kuechly, who has had injury concerns in the past but played all 16 games last season for the first time in three years. He is surrounded by a good mix of young players and experienced veterans in the secondary and defensive line. The pass rush was enhanced thanks to 1st round edge rusher Josh Allen out of Kentucky. He takes over for recently retired Julius Peppers.

Final Thoughts: Backed by a solid run defense and emerging and improving pass defense, the Panthers unit should remain a tough opponent.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

Depending on the health of Cam Newton, I could see the Panthers making a Super Bowl run this year.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6600)

Last Season (5-11)

It was surprising the Bucs won even 5 games last year. Former head coach Dirk Koetter couldn’t decide who he wanted to play at QB between Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston. Many players and coaching decisions were at fault for such a bad year, so Koetter was fired and Bruce Arians was hired out of a brief retirement.

Offense

No more QB controversy in Tampa Bay, as Ryan Fitzmagicpatrick is off to Miami and Jameis Winston stands alone to prove he was worth the #1 overall pick just a few years ago. It cannot be argued that he doesn’t have enough weapons. The Bucs are stacked with receivers. WRs Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and TE OJ Howard are all set to have big seasons under Arians’ offensive mind. The running game leaves a bit to be desired as RB Peyton Barber was serviceable but not flashy. Former 2nd round pick RB Ronald Jones is expected to step up and be much more involved.

Final Thoughts: The pairing of a new head coach with all the talent on the Bucs offense has many salivating at the potential of this unit.

Defense

Tampa Bay will need to improve big time on their 29th ranked total defense finish from a year ago. Hoping to help, they drafted LB Devin White from LSU 5th overall to replace Kwon Alexander, lost to the 49ers. Returning stud LB Lavonte David should show White the ropes and become the new dynamic linebacking duo. From there, many of the same players who underperformed last year will need to step up to support the strong LB core.

Final Thoughts: The Buccaneers don’t have many impactful defenders outside of their linebackers. So, it could be another rough year on defense.

Betting Outlook (Preseason)

Although there is much buzz around this team, they still are not complete enough to warrant any sort of confidence in the Bucs returning dividends.

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