2018 NFC South Divisional Futures Predictions
The NFC South is one of the NFL’s most talented and most competitive divisions. They’re responsible for three playoff teams in the 2017 season out of the NFC. It is easily the deepest division in the conference regarding talent, and it will be hotly contested again in 2018.
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Betting Odds to Win the National Football Conference
- New Orleans Saints +140
- Atlanta Falcons +175
- Carolina Panthers +300
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1200
New Orleans Saints +140
The Saints won this division last season by tiebreaker with the Panthers and them both finishing 11-5. The coaching staff remains the same, with the head coach, Sean Payton, and the ageless, Drew Brees. Brees has an excellent late-career shot at another Super Bowl with this group. Brees has not lost a step at age 39 and is one of the best passers in the league. He now has a strong running game to fall back on, with the emergence of Alvin Kamara. Mark Ingram is the 1B option at running back, but he will be out for the first four games with a PED suspension.
The offense hasn’t changed much, with the top weapon, Michael Thomas, and speedster, Ted Ginn. The offensive line is not elite but flys under the radar as an upper tier unit. The biggest key for New Orleans’ turnaround will be their defense, which was crucial to their winning 2017. They have an excellent pass rush and run defense led by Cameron Jordan and plenty of young, potentially emerging talent. Cornerback, Marcus Lattimore, started 13 games as a rookie, made a Pro Bowl and is already among the elite at cornerback.
Atlanta Falcons +175
Two years removed from a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, the Falcons finished the season at 10-6 but snuck into the playoff picture as a second Wild Card. Their Super Bowl dreams ended after a loss to the Eagles, but they still have an excellent core that will allow them to compete going forward. The offense didn’t reach the 2016 levels in 2017, but that was mostly due to their red zone conversation rate. Wide receiver Julio Jones is happy now with a new contract, at least for this season.
Jones has nothing to prove but may have a chip on his shoulder after scoring just three touchdowns last season. They drafted Calvin Ridley to help in the passing game with Mohamed Sanu. The offensive line in Atlanta remains one of the league’s best units. Defensively, the Falcons need a bit of work. Their defensive line hasn’t been able to create pressure, but they do have an elite linebacker and Deion Jones. The secondary was the worst unit, however. Beyond Desmond Trufant, this team does not have a lot going for it.
Carolina Panthers +300
The Panthers finished 11-5 last season but are at noticeably longer odds than the Falcons and Saints to win the South. There were no significant changes in the offseason for the Panthers, which drafted a wide receiver, D.J. Moore with their top pick. Carolina’s offense isn’t below average, but it’s not up to par with the Saints and Falcons, which certainly matters since they’re playing them twice a year. Cam Newton is an incredible athlete but continues to struggle with accuracy.
Funchess now slots in as the primary wideout in Carolina, but much of the passing game may go through running back, Christian McCaffrey. He’s poised for a significant workload this season given his preseason usage. The Panthers’ front seven is elite, led by a linebacker, Luke Kuechly, who is the best cover linebacker in the game. There are no issues there. However, in the secondary, questions remain. Other than Mike Adams at safety, they’ve had plenty of inconsistent play that they have tried to address in the draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1400
The Buccaneers were a sleeper for a lot of people last season to come out of the NFC South, but they fell far from those expectations. They finished 5-11 on the year and find themselves outclassed by the rest of the division in almost every regard. They will also be without starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, for the first three games after he violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Winston’s health was an issue, along with his accuracy. The Bucs brought back Mike Evans and have an impressive group of pass catchers, with the emerging, Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson.
Also, talented tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. The offensive line will look different after some offseason signings, but it is by no means an above-average unit. Tampa Bay finished last in total defense and absolutely bled yards through the air. Gerald McCoy leads an intense pass rush that will be improved after adding Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, and tackle, Beau Allen. Tampa has tried to address their defensive backfield in the draft, but it’s going to take a lot to turn around perhaps the worst secondary in the NFL.
2018 NFC South Divisional Pick – New Orleans Saints +140
I think the Saints are easily the best team in this division and they’re a steal at +140. Not even having to lay any negative vigorish is quite a deal. Every other team in this division has their problems, aside from New Orleans. Also, with how young the unit is, as a whole – I am loving their upside. The Buccaneers are far from a level of competing at all. The Panthers have an inaccurate quarterback and an offensive line that has plenty of injuries and one that lacks continuity, in general.
The Falcons defense isn’t any good, and Matt Ryan is overrated. Sean Payton and Drew Brees are the class of this division from a coaching and quarterback front, as well. The Saints are +1600 to win the Super Bowl, and that is another bet I like in addition to the +140 to win the NFC South.
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