Odds to Win
After three teams in the NFC South finished with at least 10 wins last year, the fight for the division is a toss up going into 2018. The Saints were the biggest underdogs last season, but are now the favorite with the Falcons and Panthers close behind.
Odds to win NFC South
courtesy of 5dimes (mid August)
New Orleans Saints +170
Atlanta Falcons +190
Carolina Panthers +270
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1175
The New Orleans Saints (over/under 9.5) were one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 season due to a defense that jumped from 31st to 8th in terms of Football OUtsiders’ DVOA. If they can remain in the upper echelon, they’ll oNCe again be one of the best teams in the league helped by a well-rounded offense. Drew Brees didn’t have great numbers last year, but that wasn’t needed as Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were huge out of the backfield. There’s little reason to suggest the offense will regress with every main piece still around. The receiving corps could improve, as well, with Cameron Meredith and Ben Watson there to help out Michael Thomas. It’s the same case on the defensive side with every relevant piece returning to go with first-round draft pick Marcus Davenport.
But while the Saints may not regress, they aren’t far ahead of anyone else in the division. The Atlanta Falcons (over/under 8.5) have a smaller over/under, yet it’s still the same team that won 10 Games last year. Rookie Calvin Ridley joins the receiving squad of Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, while nothing changes in the backfield between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. It’s also expected the second year for offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will go better. If that’s the case, the Falcons may be favored to win the division. Defensively, the Falcons like creating pressure, but they’ve been in the bottom half of the league in terms of efficieNCy the last few years. They added a couple cornerbacks, but will be counting on young guys improving more than anything, namely Vic Beasley and Keanu Neal.
The Carolina Panthers (over/under 8.5) aren’t far behind after finishing with a surprising 11 wins last year. Cam Newton is still there to run the show, although it’ll be under new coordinator Norv Turner. There are questions revolving around that aspect, but the offense has arguably better talent than last year with rookie D.J. Moore expected to make an impact in the receiving Game with Devin FuNChess, Greg Olsen and newcomer Torrey Smith. Christian McCaffrey will likely have a bigger role out of the backfield, while C.J. Anderson takes over for Jonathan Stewart. Keeping the defense a top-10 group will be vital for the team’s success and they added a few guys in the secondary along with Dontari Poe on the line to help Kawann Short. Everything still runs through linebacker LUke Kuechly, but the options around him are stout.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (over/under 6) were one of the most-hyped teams going into last year and that resulted in a 5-11 record. With Jameis Winston suspended the first three Games, there isn’t much expected from them in 2018 and Dirk Koetter is a favorite to be fired. Most of the same names return on offense around Winston with rookie running back Ronald Jones the only real addition. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are top receivers and Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard are good tight ends, but without consistent QB play that doesn’t matter. It also didn’t help that the Bucs were one of the worst in the league defensively last year. They added a buNCh of help on the line, but there’s a long way to go for this group to be simply average.
The battle at the top of the division could last all season. The Saints are the favorite, but it’ll be hard to repeat their defensive performance. The Falcons are a logical place to go if the offense can come near its 2016 levels. And per usual, the Panthers are floating around underrated with Cam Newton at the helm.