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NFC South Preview and Current Odds
BWorld Picks the Saints!
The NFC South looks to be a competitive one perhaps with the exception of the rebuilding Bucs who weigh in at 6/1 odds to win the division. The Falcons are the front runner as far as the oddsmakers and betting public are concerned with a price of +160 followed by the Saints at +180 and the Panthers at +225. Don't be surprised if the Falcons are down a notch this year. They may have over achieved a bit last season. If so, that leaves a battle between the Saints and the Panthers for the NFC South crown. We're looking for the Saints and Dree Brees to bounce back after two disappointing years. Our official pick - The Saints
Here's a look at each of the NFC South teams. The odds presented here are courtesy of the largest sportsbook in the world, Sportsbook.com
Atlanta Falcons (Odds to win NFC South +160) Everyone thought this team would struggle without Michael Vick, but the opposite proved to be true. They flourished under rookie QB Matt Ryan and made a run to the playoffs while finishing 11-5. Expect even bigger things in 2009. Matt Ryan will be expected to play even better in his second year. He faltered toward the end of last year and threw a lot of interceptions. He had never played a season that long so he probably got a bit battle weary as the season drew to an end. Experience will help him to improve.
Michael Turner is a big asset at RB. He is a powerful runner and can knock defenders down. Jerious Norwood is an acceptable backup. He provides a good change of pace. If the Falcons hope to make a Super Bowl bid they will need improved production from the defense. The line and secondary are especially weak. The Falcons have very good special teams. Atlanta has never had two consecutive post season appearances, so this year would be a huge season if they make it back to the playoffs. Their chances of winning at least 10 games are very good.
New Orleans Saints (Odds to win NFC South +180) The Saints have disappointed for two consecutive years after reaching the NFC Championship in 2006. They look set for another big run this year. QB Drew Brees is as good as ever. He had more TDs and yards than Peyton Manning in the past two seasons combined. He has good receivers in TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Lance Moore. Reggie Bush is finally coming into his own, and should have a great year. However, he is fragile so expect him to miss some games.
Gregg Williams will be taking over at defensive coordinator. He will whip this team into shape on that side of the ball. They ranked a dismal 23rd in total defense last year. The Saints have to do a better job on defense if they want to make it back to the playoffs. Jonathan Vilma was an instant success at New Orleans in his first season, leading the team in tackles. Malcom Jenkins was selected in the first round, and should help improve the secondary at CB. Fans of the New Orleans Saints could be in for a big surprise this year!
Carolina Panthers (Odds to win NFC South +225) Coach John Foxís team finished 12-4 in 2008 and did not lose a game at home. Getting back to the playoffs will be far from easy, but not impossible. QB Jake Delhomme is far from the best who ever lived, but he is competent. He has two very capable WRs in Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad. Williams and Stewart combined for over 2,000 yards last year at RB. Stewart still has room to grow. The defensive line is the weakest part of the team. They are undersized, but will be aided by the addition of second round draft pick Everette Brown at DE. The Florida State grad is an excellent pass rusher and he will keep plenty of pressure on opposing QBs.
The defense ranked 20th against the run in 2008, and must do a better job filling gaps. The Panthers do an excellent job of getting to the turnovers, ranking 7th in the NFL in turnover difference last year. While the Panthers ranked 10th overall in offense, they are weak at QB. Delhomme isnít likely to get them a Super Bowl. However, winning the NFC South is more than possible. Look for the Panthers to win at least 8 games, but repeating last yearís record of 12-4 isnít likely to happen.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Odds to win NFC South +600) This is a team in transition. They have been mediocre in recent years but the Bucs appears to be head in the right direction. They must first answer questions at QB. Brian Griese and Byron Leftwich are both proven losers. First round pick Josh Freeman is an alum of Kansas State and should be taking over at QB in the near future. Josh McCown will compete with Griese and Leftwich for the starter role this year. Earnest Graham is very reliable at RB. He is a workhorse runner who averaged 4.3 YPC in 2008.
Adding TE Kellen Winslow should help offensive production. The defense that led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl win earlier this decade is now none existent. The defensive line is average at best. The same can be said about the linebacker corps and the secondary. The Buccaneers will get off to a slow start as they adjust to the new coaching style. They will win more games as the season ends and struggle to start the year. Going .500 is probably too much to ask. Look for this bunch to win 4 or 5 games.