Odds with Analysis
The division with the worst odds to have a team win the Super Bowl? The NFC South. That’s what happens the year after no one in the division had a winning record. The Panthers made it to the playoffs (hosting and winning one Game) and they finished 7-8-1 in the regular season. Because of the recent pedigree of the Saints, they are oNCe again favorites for 2015, but not by much.
Odds to win NFC South
New Orleans Saints +205
Atlanta Falcons +220
Carolina Panthers +230
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +775
Even with how disappointing the season went for the New Orleans Saints in 2014, they still finished just a half Game out of first place in the division, despite allowing 424 points. They’ll try and turn things around this season, but they didn’t make too many notable moves on the defensive side. The Saints added veteran depth for the most part, while guys like rookie Stephone Anthony and Brandon Browner are expected to go right into the starting lineup. A big problem remains with injuries, as Jairus Byrd is still out due to an issue unrelated to last year’s knee injury. This group may be improved, but don’t expect them to make a huge jump. The offense should keep on scoring with Drew Brees at the helm, but they look a little different. They added some bulk on the line in the offseason with Max Unger and Andrus Peat and may take up more of a running approach, more so than in the past. Brees won’t have Jimmy Graham to throw to and Marques Colston is still starting despite being 32 and looking beat up the last couple years. The pieces in the offense may be different, but it’s never safe to underestimate Drew Brees.
The Atlanta Falcons are an interesting prospect to win the division with new head coach Dan Quinn leading the way. With Brees getting older, Matt Ryan is slowly becoming the best quarterback in the division, but that won’t happen until the Falcons can actually with the South consistently. Julio Jones and Roddy White are still there for Ryan, while they also added Leonard Hankerson, Justin Hardy, Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki in the offseason. Throw in Tevin Coleman at running back and as long as these guys stay healthy (Coleman and Devonta Freeman started camp with hamstring issues), this could end up being one of Ryan’s best seasons, with new coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The line should also be better than a season ago, as almost every guy got hurt last year. And with Quinn taking over, there is a different air about the defense, although much like the Saints, still lack in plenty of areas. The biggest differeNCe may be at end where they drafted Vic Beasley and added Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien SChofield. New linebackers Justin Durant and Brooks Reed are also expected to be starters. The problem for the Falcons, much like in 2014, is that a lot of these guys are injury-prone. But if they can stay relatively healthy this season, this team could easily reach 10 wins.
The same might not be able to be said about the Carolina Panthers, although their odds are almost the same as the Saints and Falcons. Their defense took a big step back last year and that was the main reason for them being a worse team, though they still won the division. The Panthers still have the same front seven intact, while adding Shaq Thompson and David Mayo in the draft. The secondary should be improved though if Charles Tillman can make it through the whole season and a couple other guys improving. The biggest issue may be on offense oNCe again where the line didn’t get that much of an upgrade outside of Michael Oher. Cam Newton got beat up through the 2014 season and that could be the case again. The loss of Kelvin Benjamin is huge and Greg Olsen now becomes Newton’s top target, while Devin FuNChess, Jerricho Cotchery and Tedd Ginn are fighting for time at the receiver slots. Going into the season with Jonathan Stewart as the starting RB doesn’t seem like a good idea either, as he rarely has been through a full season even when splitting time with DeAngelo Williams. All of these teams should be better than a year ago, but for the Panthers to win the division a third straight year, the offense will need to take a step forward under Newton.
There isn’t much to say about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a terrible 2-14 season. They were expected to be better last year, but that wasn’t the case and now they’ll have Jameis Winston at quarterback, who will likely have his growing pains. While Winston has plenty of options and a slew of mediocre multi-dimensional running backs, the offensive line will still be a problem and that’s never good for a rookie quarterback. The defense has new faces all over the place, but that doesn’t always mean a good thing. Still, it would be a surprise if this group wasn’t better than a year ago, especially if Gerald McCoy can stay healthy the entire season. However, the Bucs are still a long shot to win the division.
The odds for the top three teams are very similar this year for good reason after what happened last year. The Falcons may be the best play among them with a new coach and improvement on both sides of the ball. Ultimately, the Saints and Panthers have more question marks than the Falcons, which may be the only way to separate these teams.