Odds and Picks
A year ago, the Panthers were large favorites to win the NFC South and it was almost by default due to what happened in 2015. But as the NFL saying goes, don’t pay attention to what happened the previous season. The Falcons ended up winning the division by two Games with +600 odds to do so. They’ll try and repeat, but this time as favorites.
Odds to win NFC South
courtesy of 5dimes (early August)
Atlanta Falcons +165 (field wins -190)
Carolina Panthers +250
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +335
New Orleans Saints +440
Never put too much into the previous season and that may have to be the case with the Atlanta Falcons (over/under 9.5) this year with offensive guru Kyle Shanahan gone. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are still there with the stable of running backs, but it won’t be the same without Shanahan. Steve Sarkisian will take his place and his experieNCe at this level is little. The Falcons should still be good, but Ryan and company likely won’t be putting up historically good numbers again. Yet, with another season under Dan Quinn, the Falcons could have a legit defense after closing last season in great form without top corner Desmond Trufant. Guys like Deion Jones and Vic Beasley will have another year of experieNCe and Dontari Poe was added to bulk up the run defense. If Keanu Neal can also take another step at safety, the Falcons could be just as good due to having a more balanced squad.
However, it’ll be far from easy to repeat because the NFC South has three others teams with legitimate shots to win the division. With Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers (over/under 9) are always in the conversation, no matter how last season went. Christian McCaffrey adds another element to the offense and the receivers have another year together at full health. The biggest thing may be for the offensive line to step it up a notch and the addition of Matt Kalil isn’t exactly an answer to that. Defensively, the Panthers should rebound with LUke Kuechly and Kawann Short still around up front to go with Shaq Thompson in his third season. The secondary was a mess last year, but James Bradberry is a year older and veteran Mike Adams comes in at safety.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (over/under 8.5) will be everyone’s sleeper yet again with Jameis Winston entering his third season under center. The Bucs added some weapons in the receiving Game to help Mike Evans with speedster DeSean Jackson and rookie O.J. Howard at tight end. The running Game will still be a committee, but the speed of Jackson adds another element to the offense and could open up holes in the ground Game. Of course, that’s if the offensive line can show some continuity. The defense had good moments last year and has one of the better combos in Gerald McCoy and LAvonte David to work with. The secondary was the main issue last season and should be again unless there’s major improvement or J.J. Wilcox turns into a good safety.
The New Orleans Saints (over/under 7.5) have the worst odds because of a defense that continues to be one of the worst in the league. They GAve up 469 points last year, but by all means should be better than that in 2017. Sheldon Rankins is healthy while Marshon LAttimore could start the opener at cornerback. Either way, this team will still be run by Drew Brees and the offense. Adrian Peterson was added, but his effectiveness is questionable. Finding a replacement for Brandin Cooks will be important, as Ted Ginn was the only real addition to the passing Game.
The Falcons could be a popular team to bet against because Shanahan is gone. But if that defense takes another step, Atlanta could be headed for another division title. If not, the Panthers and Bucs will be in waiting with the Saints able to upset anyone in the league on a good day.