NFC South - NFL Betting Preview
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NFC South - NFL Betting Preview


Atlanta made the playoffs for the second successive season, New Orleans suffered a heart-breaking last-second loss just as they thought they had reached the NFC Championship game, Carolina rebounded from an ugly 2016 to go 11-5 and make the post-season, while Tampa Bay is motivated to make up from a 5-11 season. We preview arguably the strongest division in the NFL.


Following three straight 7-9 seasons and an 0-2 start last season, many were certain that the lustre had gone from the Saints, and that star quarterback Drew Brees (pictured above) was on the wane.

After all, he was 38 and his contract was up. The window had closed, or so many thought.

Yet the Saints went 11-3 the rest of the way, won their first NFC South title in six years and had it not been for an awful missed tackle by rookie safety Marcus Williams, which took out a teammate and allowed Minnesota Vikings’ receiver Stefon Diggs to score a 61-yard game-winning touchdown, the Saints would have been in the NFC Championship game. That loss will smart for a while.

However, Brees has signed a new two-year deal and head coach Sean Payton’s NFC-best offense returns largely intact, returning receiver Michael Thomas (104 catches, 1,245 yards), and the backfield duo of Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara, who combined for 1,852 yards and 20 touchdowns.

What was surprising was that a young defense looked better as the season went on. It allowed the 10th fewest points and got 13 sacks from Cameron Jordan. It appears to have been strengthened by the addition of safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebacker Demario Davis and the drafting of top pick, defensive end Marcus Davenport.

Brees, who set the record for completion percentage (72), passed for the fourth-most yards in an NFL season (4,334) last term. Keeping him healthy is crucial to the Saints’ hopes of reaching a second Super Bowl nine years after their first - the Genting Casino odds for the Saints to win the Super Bowl are 12/1 - as Tom Savage, who has started nine games in three seasons with the Texans, is merely serviceable as a back-up.

The Saints let restricted free agent receiver Willie Snead IV go to Baltimore, but signed tight end Benjamin Watson and receiver Cameron Meredith, as well as drafting receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the third round. It is fair to wonder if they have enough depth at the receiver position, however.

Despite a slew of injuries, the Saints had one of the most productive offensive lines in the NFL last season and the starting unit returns intact, although depth may be an issue if the injury bug bites again.

The linebacker spot has seen plenty of turnover in the last couple of seasons and the young group still has question marks, although positional coach Mike Nolan continues to do a tremendous job and one wonders if he should not be given a further opportunity to be a head coach.

The late-season schedule will be testing. After welcoming Philadelphia and Atlanta in Weeks 11 and 12, they endure three successive road trips at Dallas, Tampa and Carolina, before facing Pittsburgh and Carolina (again) to close out the regular season. If they make the post-season, they will have earned it.

This is a brutal division and the Saints are the Genting Casino 7/5 favourites to win it. Those odds may start looking a little skinny unless they make a solid start this time round.


The Falcons’ 10-6 season last year was a drop-off from the previous campaign when they led in the Super Bowl for all but the final 57 seconds of regulation.

Head coach Dan Quinn fixed the defense that had been among the league’s worst in 2016, but the offensive output slipped, as top receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman both suffered significant injuries.

Quarterback Matt Ryan sank from an NFL-best passer-rating of 117.1 to 91.4 last season, yet the Falcons still led eventual champion Philadelphia in the third quarter of the divisional round of the playoffs.

There have been a couple of key losses since last season, with sack leader and defensive end Adrain Clayborn, who had 9.5 sacks (six of them in one game against Dallas), and defensive tackle Dontari Poe both going in free agency. Poe’s loss may be felt more than Clayborn’s, since he was a significant weapon in stopping the run.

There is a lot to like about the Falcons, though. They added the top receiver in the draft when nabbing Calvin Ridley to replace Taylor Gabriel’s playmaking ability. Ridley is a crafty route-runner with speed, and will become one of Ryan’s favourite targets.

TE Austin Hooper is turning into a good offensive weapon and he should see more targets in the red zone this season. Others who are set to shine include pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley, who had six sacks in his rookie season despite seeing limited playing time, and rookie DT Deadrin Senat, who holds the point of attack well. If lanky rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver comes along fast, it will enable Robert Alford to finally move back inside, so Oliver’s progression will be worth watching as the season progresses.

If the defense holds firm – and there is no reason to think it won’t be a better unit with MLB Deion Jones now entrenched as one of the best defenders in the NFL – the Falcons could make the post-season again, and their Genting Casino odds of 17/10 to win the NFC South will look tasty to many.

Of course, a return to the Super Bowl is possible, too, since there are just four starters over the age of 29 and this is a team that is collectively not far from its peak.

The Genting Casino odds for the Falcons to win the Super Bowl are 18/1 and if they were in the AFC rather than the more competitive NFC, those odds would probably be half what they are.


The Panthers rebounded from an ugly 2016 to go 11-5 last season, yet there have been some seismic changes in Charlotte since. GM Dave Gettleman was fired and replaced by his predecessor Marty Hurney, and a workplace misconduct report and ensuing NFL investigation into Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson prompted him to announce the sale of the team.

Days after securing a new deal, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera fired offensive coordinator Mike Shula and hired veteran coach Norv Turner. He also promoted defensive line coach Eric Washington to the defensive coordinator’s position after Steve Wilks took the head coaching role in Arizona.

The eventful offseason continued with four starters – franchise career rushing leader Jonathan Stewart, guard Andrew Norwell, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and safety Kurt Coleman – all departing. They have been replaced by Dontari Poe, cornerback Ross Cockerell, safety Da’Norris Searcy and guard Jeremiah Sirles.

There is hope that star tight end Greg Olsen is finally over his right foot injury that has hampered him all too often and that Christian McCaffrey, who was sensational in his rookie season, can effectively carry the load left by Stewart. If so, the Panthers can maintain their upward trend.

Quarterback Cam Newton could have a good season if they fix the hole on the offensive line vacated by Norwell’s departure. That is a huge question mark heading into the new season. Norwell is one of the elite players at the left-guard spot.

Newton has plenty of new weapons, with WR Torrey Smith signed as a free agent and first-round rookie receiver DJ Moore possessing tremendous after-the-catch ability. Yet a lot of the offensive output will flow through McCaffrey, who led the team in receptions last season and he could top over 1,800 all-purpose yards comfortably this time.

Coaching changes can often mean uncertainty, but plenty of pieces are in place for the Panthers to make a run at the NFC South division, for which their Genting Casino odds are 3/1.


Quarterback Jameis Winston was in middle school the last time the Buccaneers made the playoffs. That was in 2007. Ten years later, they finished last in the division for the sixth time in seven years and ranked last on defense, with the passing game the only decent aspect.

So this 5-11 team needed a major overhaul. Drafting rookie tackle Vita Vea in the first round and attracting Eagles end Vinny Curry looked sensible moves. They also drafted two cornerbacks in the second round and added centre Ryan Jensen to the offense.

Tampa Bay got better in the running game by selecting Ronald Jones II in the second round, but their pass blocking needs to improve if the Southern California product is to show his immense ability.

It may not be enough for the Bucs to return to prominence, but these arrivals will help.

The schedule is tough on the back-end with their last five games coming against Carolina, New Orleans, Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta. They also start at New Orleans before welcoming Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. A bumpy take-off and landing is expected for the team whose Genting Casino odds are 12/1 to win the NFC South.

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V: 1.26.2 All rights reserved. August 2021