NFL: NFC South Preview, Predictions and Betting Picks

Matt RyanThe NFC South is the division of quarterbacks. Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston all should be above-average QBs in 2017 who will lead their squads well. In fact, the division should be a very tough one in general.

Every team in the NFC South has significant strengths that make it a legitimate threat to contend for the division title. However, some of the squads are still better than others. Let’s dive into brief profiles of each team and then predict which squad has the best chance at getting you a good return on your investment with the American sports betting websites.

Atlanta Falcons (2016 record: 11-5, No. 1 in NFC South, Lost in Super Bowl)

Can the Falcons rebound from one of the most devastating championship game losses in sports history in Super Bowl 51? The squad’s offense had been tearing all of its opponents apart throughout the final weeks of the regular season and early in the playoffs, but it stalled in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. The defense choked, too, and we know what happened next.

Fortunately for Atlanta, it brings back a largely similar group that should be hungry for revenge. The Falcons will be without offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but they did make some key defensive line additions to help patch up a leaky run defense.

Another question for the Falcons relates to their health luck. The offensive line had the same starters for all 16 regular season games in 2016, which is a rare occurrence that undoubtedly helped with chemistry on the field. It’s unlikely that happens again.

  • Record Prediction: 10-6
  • Best Odds: +175 at Intertops.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2016 record: 9-7, No. 2 in NFC South)

Meet the Buccaneers, a young team that could potentially take this division by storm as soon as this year.

The team’s hallmark will be a lethal deep passing game led by quarterback Jameis Winston, receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and rookie first-round tight end O.J. Howard. With the exception of Jackson, all these players are young and still improving.

The running game is a bit of a question mark, with Doug Martin serving a three-game suspension to start the year. If no one steps up as a competent No. 1 in his absence and/or he plays poorly like he did in 2016, the offense can’t be elite. A below-average offensive line won’t help that cause.

Tampa’s defense is young and getting better. A poor safety unit is a glaring weakness that could hinder the defense from becoming one of the 10 or 15 best in the NFL.

  • Record Prediction: 9-7
  • Best Odds: +350 at Bovada.

Carolina Panthers (2016 record: 6-10, No. 4 in NFC South)

The Panthers’ records in the past five seasons are as follows: 7-9, 12-4, 7-8-1, 15-1 and 6-10. So it’s pretty apparent that Carolina is one of the more difficult teams to peg this season.

The health of quarterback Cam Newton is one big variable for me. He scrambled and passed his way to an MVP in 2015, then was a below-average starting quarterback last season due to a concussion, a shoulder injury and some very poor showings by his supporting cast.

I expect somewhat of a bounce-back year for Cam, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be as dynamic a runner as he was in his MVP season due to his injuries. In the final seven games of the 2016 season, he averaged just 4.7 carries and 14 rushing yards per contest, compared to 8.3 carries and 39.8 rushing yards per game in 2015. If he does try to be that runner again, the risk of injury is high.

Carolina’s defense will be way better than it was in 2016, when it finished 26th in points allowed. The defensive line is much stronger, the linebackers are still stellar and the two starting cornerbacks who were rookies last year now have a year of experience under their belts.

  • Record Prediction: 9-7
  • Best Odds: +235 at 5Dimes.

New Orleans Saints (2016 record: 7-9, No. 3 in NFC South)

It’s going to be the same old story with the Saints in 2017. Quarterback Drew Brees will put up monster numbers in the passing game and have a decent running game supporting him, but New Orleans’ defense will not be good enough to help this team get over the hump

Yes, I’m aware that the Saints’ defense has been awesome in the preseason. But when the defense has ranked in the bottom five of points allowed in four of the last five seasons, it’s pretty easy to be cynical here.

One wild card here is Adrian Peterson. If the former superstar running back returns to form, he and Mark Ingram could be an unstoppable duo in the backfield. That would give New Orleans an offense that not even its pathetic defense could ruin.

  • Record Prediction: 7-9
  • Best Odds: +490 at 5Dimes.

Our Preview’s NFC South Picks & Betting Predictions

Tampa Bay is the rising power in this division, and I think the squad has a great chance at winning it ahead of schedule in 2017 on the strength of a beastly passing game and a respectable defense. The other three squads all seem pretty even in terms of how the strength of their squads matches up.

  • Looking at the sportsbooks’ odds and seeking out the value, the Buccaneers is where I would put my money to win this NFC South division @ best odds of +350 with Bovada.
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