NFC South - What You Need To Know
New Orleans Saints
-Record Last Year 13-3; Lost in NFC Title game to Rams
-Season Win Total 10.5 +115, -140
-Odds to win NFC South -165
-Odds to win NFC +450
-Odds to win Super Bowl 9-1
-Odds to make Playoffs -300
-The top factor for the Saints headed into the season is how are they going to respond to the way the NFC Title game played out. You could argue they had a similar heartbreaking defeat the year before in Minnesota in the playoffs, and then last year came out and went 13-3, but two years in a row--I just wonder how much of the hangover effect is going to be there for this team.
-The 2nd thing to look for is the health of Drew Brees. His numbers were way down in the 2nd half of last year. All indications are that he hurt his shoulder somewhere around Week 12, and he just wasn't the same player. He is approaching that point where we've seen QBs not named Tom Brady, just fall off a cliff and FAST. Could that happen to Brees this year? Potentially. Or maybe it already has...
-They face the 22nd ranked Strength of Schedule, and the 27th overall schedule in terms of the pass defenses they face, so a huge plus there for this team.
-Starting Center Max Unger did retire, and the Center is often the most overlooked position-- it's the spot that handles the OLine calls, so just something to keep in mind there as well. They did have a +8 turnover differential last year, so I do expect some regression there however.
-Record Last Year 7-9; Missed Playoffs
-Season Win Total 8.5 -130, +100
-Odds to win NFC South +320
-Odds to win NFC 14-1
-Odds to win Super Bowl 30-1
-Odds to make Playoffs +125
-I think this is a make or break year for Head Coach Dan Quinn. This is a Coach who was supposedly a "defensive guy" that they brought in from Seattle, and in his 5 years there so far his defenses have been well below average; 25th in ppg allowed last year, 27th in passing yards per game allowed and 31st in overall defensive efficiency.
-Atlanta had massive cluster injuries last year, especially on the OLine, they bring in 3 new guys, which should help Matt Ryan, especially compared to last year, and they drafted OLinemen in the draft as well. Just a massive overhaul for Atlanta up front.
-One interesting addition is Dirk Koetter, who got fired by the Bucs this offseason. He was formerly with Atlanta prior to that, so there's some familiarity there with this offseason-not like Matt Ryan is starting from scratch. I think that speaks to Dan Quinn's awareness that this team needs to win NOW to save his job.
-The schedule isn't great for Atlanta, they have the #7 hardest Strength of Schedule headed into the season, however they also get a game at the Colts, which will likely now have them as the favorite as opposed to a substantial Underdog which would have been the case prior to Andrew Luck's retirement.
-Overall this offense should be improved based on the OLine additions, and defensively it's hard to be much worse based simply on the cluster injuries they had in the secondary, so Atlanta is a team I'm bullish on headed into the season.
-Record Last Year 7-9; Missed Playoffs
-Season Win Total 7.5 -160, +130
-Odds to win NFC South +550
-Odds to win NFC 20-1
-Odds to win Super Bowl 50-1
-Odds to make Playoffs +215
-Any future plays on the Panthers begin and end with Cam Newton's health. Last year this team got off to a 6-2 start and had many people calling for a repeat of the 2015 Super Bowl Run...then Cam got hurt. They then lost 7 games in a row before ending the season 7-9 and missing the playoffs yet again.
-Cam had off-season shoulder surgery, and all indications are he's better and able to throw the long-ball, something he wasn't able to do last year. They even brought the backup QB in to throw the hailmary during one game.
-That said, he then left preseason Week 1 in a walking boot after spraining his ankle, so all the red flags began to pop up again. They're saying he's going to be fine for the Week 1 game vs the Rams. That spread has stayed at +3 flat for Carolina, so Cam will almost certainly play there.
-IF he can stay healthy, this is a dangerous team. DJ Moore I think is setup for a breakout season. Defensively against the run this is a Top 10 unit from a year ago. They should be improved up front as well, bringing in All-Pro Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin. So IF, Cam can stay healthy, a lot to like here out of Carolina.
Tampa Bay Bucs
-Record Last Year 5-11; Missed Playoffs
-Season Win Total 6.5 -110, -110
-Odds to win NFC South 11-1
-Odds to win NFC 33-1
-Odds to win Super Bowl 75-1
-Odds to make Playoffs 5-1
-They finally got rid of Dirk Koetter, a few years too late, but better late than never. He's one of those guys who is a solid Coordinator, but that doesn't translate over to the Head Coaching ranks. They bring in Bruce Arians, fresh off a "retirement" and time in the booth, and I think it's a pretty good hire for them, and it has a lot of people very bullish on their offense this year with Jameis, Mike Evans, OJ Howard, and Chris Godwin all potentially setup for huge seasons.
-One area of concern is the schedule. They go without a home game from September 23rd to November 10th. They have a London game and a Bye sprinkled in there, so no favors given to them from the schedule makers.
-They were -18 in turnover differential last year, which mathematically is almost certainly to improve, especially with a new offense in place under Arians and Byron Leftwich.
-Defensively, they were absolutely atrocious, 2nd to last giving up 29ppg. Of course they lose Gerald McCoy, but do bring in Suh, but the one thing here is who they brought in to lead this group--fired Jets Coach Todd Bowles, who by all accounts wasn't much as a Head Coach, but has been a fantastic Coordinator throughout his career. He was formerly with Arians when they were both in Arizona and had massive success, so I see a vast improvement on both sides of the ball for this Bucs team.