The New Orleans Saints came within a Hail Mary pass of beating the Minnesota Vikings and moving on to the NFC Championship round. They return the team core, which is why many tab them as a dark-horse Super Bowl contender.
The Atlanta Falcons had an up-and-down season that saw them sneak into the playoffs and reach the divisional round. They should compete for a postseason berth again.
Carolina once again finds themselves trying to integrate new offensive pieces. A strong defense will at least keep them in the hunt during this process.
Tampa Bay is the division’s only team that doesn’t have a chance to win. Their lone hope is that QB Jameis Winston gets over his maturity issues and lives up to his talent.
2018 Team Odds on Winning NFC South
Here are the GTBets odds for each team winning the NFC South. Note that our odds will be available off and on until the 2018 NFL regular season begins:
- Atlanta +195
- Carolina +270
- New Orleans +150
- Tampa Bay +950
2018 NFC South Team Previews
New Orleans Saints (+150)
At 39 years old, Drew Brees has lost a little of his arm strength. But the Saints quarterback still has the field vision and experience to lead this offense. It also helps that he has targets like Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, and Ben Watson.
Running back Alvin Kamara averaged an incredible 9.0 yards per touch in his rookie campaign. This was 1.9 yards more than any other back with at least 100 carries.
New Orleans made a huge improvement on defense, where they went from a bottom-five unit to one of the league’s best. Cameron Jordan was a big part of this as he racked up 13.0 sacks, despite being double and triple teamed many times. Marshon Lattimore has already developed into a shutdown corner, while safety Marcus Williams also makes this secondary elite.
The Saints should be just as good if not better as last season, when they were a missed tackle from beating Minnesota and moving on to play Philadelphia in the NFC title game.
They shouldn’t have any trouble making the postseason. The only question, though, is whether they’re worth +150 odds when considering the strength of the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons (+195)
Atlanta failed to live up to the expectations set forth by their outstanding 2016 offense. QB Matt Ryan sunk back down to his career averages after being the league MVP two years ago. However, Ryan has a chance to return to his 2016 form when considering the weapons around him.
WR Julio Jones can be unstoppable and dominate games at times. Running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman arguably form the league’s best backfield duo.
Defense could be the real strength for this team, especially when considering that they held their two 2017 playoff opponents to a combined 28 points (14.0 PPG).
This unit is led by the secondary, which includes elite corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, along with safety Keanu Neal.
Defensive ends Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley do a solid job of controlling the edge. However, the defense took hits after losing Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn through free agency.
Overall, we don’t see Atlanta’s offense reclaiming its form from two years ago. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian hasn’t been able to adequately replace Kyle Shanahan.
The defense could be strong, but not great enough to guarantee a division title. Therefore, I’m leery about betting the Falcons at +195.
Carolina Panthers (+270)
The Panthers strategically had Cam Newton run less during the early portion of the season, so that he was healthy towards the end. It’ll be interesting to see if Carolina does the same thing in 2018, considering that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner publicly stated that their offenses is best with Newton running more.
The running game features both Christian McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson. McCaffrey proved to be a good dual-threat back in his first season, while Anderson will be the team’s power runner. Tight end Greg Olsen had an injury riddled 2017 and will try to regain his form again.
Carolina has a new defensive coordinator in Eric Washington, who’s been an assistant with the team since 2011. Considering Washington’s familiarity with the team and their success in a 4-3 scheme, don’t expect much to change in terms of game planning.
Linebackers Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, and Shaq Thompson give the Panthers the league’s deepest linebacking corp. The only problem is that Davis will miss the first four games this season due to a suspension.
The secondary hasn’t been a strength of this team, especially considering the zone scheme they use. But the talented front seven should help the secondary survive.
Carolina’s betting odds sit at +270 right now. This seems to be a decent bet when considering that the Panthers have a shot to win the South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+950)
Starting QB Jameis Winston has one more chance to prove that he can be Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback. He’ll miss the first three games of the season due to a suspension. But he’ll have an opportunity to thrive under coach Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing scheme.
Winston will get plenty of help from top receiver Mike Evans, who can still be a threat even when double covered. Tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are two other solid receiving options. Rookie Ronald Jones II was drafted in hopes of shoring up the running game. Peyton Barber will once again see carries in a likely committee.
Defense was the biggest issue with last year’s team. They gave up an NFL-high 378 yards per game and tallied a league-low 22 sacks.
Tampa Bay picked up Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry in the offseason to help the pass rush. They also return solid defenders in Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, and Lavonte David.
The Buccaneers don’t have much chance early on, because they face New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh with Winston suspended. They then go on the road to Atlanta and Chicago when he returns.
An 0-5 start isn’t out of the question. Tampa Bay will need a miracle to be competitive in the NFC South.