2018 NFC South Outright Odds, Preview and Prediction
NFC South Preview and Predictions
With three teams with Super Bowl or busts mentality, the NFC South is the best Division in football this season. Last year, the Division sent three teams to the playoffs. While the rest of the NFC is looking better in 2018, it is either possible the two Wild Card teams come out of the NFC South again in 2018. Of course, we are not here to talk about the Wild Card teams, we are here to talk about who is the best bet to win the NFC South.
NFC South Outright Winner Odds
Excluding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints, Panthers and Falcons all have reasonable odds to win the NFC South in 2018. The Saints won last year, but have some stiff competition to repeat from Carolina and Atlanta, who are just a tick behind the Saints in outright odds to win.
*Odds as of July 25, 2018, from Sports Interaction
The only franchise in the NFC South ever to repeat as Division champions is the Carolina Panthers (2013 to 2015). Every other year, the Division saw a different Division winner than the year before. The competitive nature of the Division continues in 2018, as oddsmakers give three teams in the Division good close odds to grab the top spot in the NFC South.
NFC South Team Previews
Despite Tampa Bay’s recent futility, the NFC South is the only Division since realignment in 2002 to have every team reach a Super Bowl. And, even if Tampa Bay is again pretty bad, the rest of the Division is coming off a playoff appearance. While sending three teams to the postseason for a second straight season is exceedingly rare, whichever team wins the Division is good enough to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints surprised some last season when they won the NFC South for the first time since 2011. While the Saints have always had one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since Drew Brees joined the team in 2005, their dangerous backfield duo and defence were the main reasons they took home the NFC South crown in 2017.
Although running back Mark Ingram will miss the first four games of the NFL season, the Saints still have the best running back combo in the NFL. Ingram and Alvin Kamara became the first pair of running backs in NFL history to each finish the season with over 1500 yards from scrimmage. Their high level of productivity took much of the pressure off Drew Brees and opened up the Saints offensive playbook. Once Mark Ingram is back from his suspension, look for the Saints to have one of the most dangerous offences in the National Football League.
The Saints’ defence should again play well in 2018. Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore was a revelation for the Saints last season, revitalizing their secondary and helping the rest of the defence play at a higher level. Lattimore was joined in the Pro Bowl by Saints’ defensive lineman Cameron Jordan. Jordan set a career with 13.0, while also helping the Saints limit rushing touchdowns. Overall, if those two play at a Pro Bowl level again in 2018, the Saints have the most balanced roster in the NFC South.
For the Panthers to win the Division, they need Cam Newton to take a positive step in efficient under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. While Newton has always been a big prominent play specialist with the ability to run through defences, he has never been an overly efficient quarterback. Turner hopes to make Newton more comfortable throwing in the pocket.
The problem for the Panthers is their lack of talent at wide receiver. Newton’s best pass catchers are tight end Greg Olsen and running back Christian McCaffrey. While those two may combine for 150 receptions, who knows what to expect from Carolina’s receivers. If Devin Funchess is the best wide receiver in 2018, it is tough to see Newton reaching Turner’s expectations in 2018.
Defensively, the Panthers are one more Luke Keuchley concussion away from falling apart. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but the unit is not as good as it was when the Panthers went 15-1 in 2015 and much of that has to do with the health of Luke Keuchly. Keuchly is one of the most versatile linebackers in the NFL, doing his share on the field to alleviate the pressure on the rest of the defence. Of course, his history of concussions is a major concern. One more concussion could end his career and the Panthers chances at the NFC South title.
Many expected the Atlanta Falcons to crumble in 2017, after their devastating loss in Super Bowl LI. While the Falcons were not as good as they were in 2016, the Falcons did make the postseason last season and won their Wild Card round game against the Los Angeles Rams.
For the Falcons to win the Division and make another Super Bowl run, they need Matt Ryan to have another MVP level season, which does not seem likely looking at his career. Including his MVP season, Ryan has only surpassed 30 passing touchdowns twice in his ten-year career. Even with one of the best wide receivers (Julio Jones), Ryan and Falcons offensive ceiling is around an 11-5 team.
If they could count on their defence more, the Falcons would not be a bad pick to win the NFC South. However, the Falcons defence does not do anything better than the Panthers or Saints. Sure, they have arguably the best pass-rusher in the Division with Vic Beasley, but outside of him, they are marginally better than average. Overall, Atlanta needs to overachieve to win the Division in 2018.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the NFC South in 2018, it will go down as one of the biggest surprises in NFL history. Ok, maybe that is a bit extreme, but the Buccaneers have no business winning the NFC South in 2018. First off, their starting quarterback (Jameis Winston) is suspended for the first three games of the NFL season.
Even after he comes back, the Buccaneers are not a very good team. They do not have much offensive talent outside of wide receiver Mike Evans, and even Evans struggles to catch the ball from Winston. Their defence is not nearly good enough to pick up the slack when Winston is suspended or struggling. Outside of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, health and consistency are too much of a concern for the Buccaneers. If you cannot tell from the tone, do not bet the Buccaneers to win the NFC South in 2018.
NFC South Outright Winner Prediction
If either Matt Ryan or Cam Newton were more consistent throughout their NFL careers, it would make either team a good bet to win the Division. However, as neither quarterback is as successful as Drew Brees or surrounded by as complete a roster, the New Orleans Saints are the best pick to outright win the NFC South in 2018.
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