Sean Payton and the Saints should have an easy ride in the NFC South.
Forget the Super Bowl. The New Orleans Saints have another daunting task this season.
The Saints are looking to become the first repeat winner in the NFC South Division. There has never been a back-to-back division champion during the eight-year history of the NFC South.
The NFC South has been the most wide open division in football. Tampa Bay won it three years ago. Carolina captured the division two years ago. In fact, the last place team has gone all the way to first during six of the past seven years.
Guaranteed Picks! If you don't win, you don't pay!
Don’t look for the Buccaneers to make the huge leap this year. Tampa Bay is 25/1 to win the division, according to current NFL foobtall odds at Bookmaker.com. The Saints are the heavy favorites at minus 250 followed by Atlanta at plus 165. Carolina is 12/1.
The Buccaneers need second-year quarterback Josh Freeman to continue to make huge strides if they are going to better their 3-13 mark of a year ago. Oddsmakers at Bookmaker.com have set Tampa Bay’s ‘over/under’ regular-season win total at 5 ½ with the ‘over’ at minus 135.
Even the Buccaneers concede they are in major rebuilding mode with improvements needed in both the offensive and defensive lines. It’s no surprise the Buccaneers are 80/1 to win the NFC.
The Falcons are legitimate threats to finish ahead of New Orleans, although they’ve lost to the Saints in seven of their last eight meetings.
There’s a lot of vibe about Matt Ryan becoming an elite quarterback in this his third season. He has weapons, including Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons shored up their 28th-ranked pass defense by signing Dunta Robinson.
Atlanta is coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in its history. The Falcons are plus 750 to capture the NFC. Their ‘over/under’ win total is 9 ½ with the ‘under’ at minus 135.
The defending champion Saints are plus 425 to win the NFC again, the lowest odds of any NFC club. The Saints not only will be bucking NFC South Division history, but also recent Super Bowl history as only one team during the past 11 years has repeated as Super Bowl champions, the 2004 New England Patriots. None of the other 10 defending champions even reached the title game.
Drew Brees does have all his top-notch skill position players back that helped him set an NFL football season completion record last year. The Saints defense turned the corner last year, particularly their secondary.
The Saints came up with 39 takeaways, ranking third in the league in turnover differential. The big question is can New Orleans’ defense continue to force so many turnovers?
Get A Free 4-Day Trial on the Most Powerfull Handicapping Tool - Real Time Odds
New Orleans’ ‘over/under’ win total is at 10 ½ with the ‘under’ at minus 130.
Carolina is probably closer to Tampa Bay than New Orleans and Atlanta in this division. The Panthers are 30/1 to win the NFC and their ‘over/under’ win total is 7 with the ‘under’ at minus 125.
John Fox is in the final year of his contract as Panthers coach. Unfortunately for Fox, he has a very young team in what looks to be a rebuilding year.
The Panthers are beginning new with their defensive line. They lost Julius Peppers in free agency and released their starting tackles, Damione Lewis and Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Management’s strategy is to use this uncap year to dump bad contracts.
Carolina does have a strong offensive line and a pair of excellent running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. However, the passing game is highly suspect.
Matt Moore is the incumbent quarterback, but the Panthers have such little faith in him they drafted Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Carolina’s best wideout, Steve Smith, broke his arm in June and may not be ready to begin the season.