2014 Odds to Win NFC South with Picks and NFL Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 7/16/2014
The smell of football is in the air as all 32 NFL teams are set to open training camp over the next week or so to start preparations for the 2014 regular season. Over the past few weeks I have been taking a closer look at BetOnline's NFL futures odds to win each of the eight divisions. This time around I will dig deeper into the betting odds to win the NFC South to come up with my picks and predictions for one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints Odds to Win the NFC South +120
The last time the Saints won a division title was in 2011 with a record of 13-3. Before that it was in 2009 in a run that ended with a victory over Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV, so anything is possible this year for a team that usually finds itself in the mix come playoff time. Head coach Sean Payton knows how to get his team ready, and with Drew Brees at quarterback you know this team is going to win its fair share of games.
Another plus heading into the season is All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham's contract dispute has been resolved with a long-term deal. The Saints also came to terms with free agent wide receivers Robert Meachem and Joe Morgan to maintain some of the depth in its receiving corps, but they added a major weapon to the arsenal with the selection of wide receiver Brandin Cooks with the 20th overall pick in this year's draft. New Orleans finished the 2013 season ranked second in the NFL in passing with an average of 307.4 yards a game.
Carolina Panthers Odds to Win the NFC South +275
The good news for Carolina is that it's coming off a breakthrough season where it won the NFC South with a record of 12-4. The bad news is that since the NFL reconfigured its divisions in 2002, no team in this division has ever repeated as champions. To break this string, the Panthers will once again have to rely heavily on a defense that was ranked second in the league in both yards and points allowed. Their secondary took a hit in free agency, but they added safety Thomas DeCoud and cornerback Antoine Cason to help plug some holes.
The biggest loss this offseason was wide receiver Steve Smith, who was given his outright release, but Carolina hopes to fill that void with first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin. Fourth-year quarterback Cam Newton returned to form last season after a stellar rookie campaign, but the Panthers are going to have to get more production out of a passing game that was ranked 29th in the NFL in yards per game.
Atlanta Falcons Odds to Win the NFC South +300
The first-to-worst plunge of a perennial playoff contender was the big news in Atlanta last season after the Falcons went from winning 13 games and a division title in 2012 to a woeful 4-12 mark last year. This team was decimated with injuries, and Mat Ryan turned in one of his worst performances since becoming Atlanta's starting quarterback in 2008. This was head coach Mike Smith's first losing season since taking over the reins six years ago following the Falcons' four-win season in 2007.
Smith started the rebuilding process from the ground up with the addition of offensive guard Gabe Carimi through free agency and offensive tackle Jake Matthews with the sixth overall pick in the draft. He also added some bulk on the defensive line by selecting tackle Ra'Shede Hageman in the second round. The Falcons actually used seven of their nine draft picks on the defensive side of the ball after this unit finished the 2013 season ranked 28th in the NFL in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds to Win the NFC South +650
The Buccaneers have become notorious for false starts over the past 10 years going back to 2005 when they won 11 games only to fall to 4-12 in 2006. Their last winning season was in 2010 with 10 victories, but the following year they once again posted a 4-12 mark. Enough was enough after winning just four games in 2013, so Tampa Bay has turned to former Chicago head coach Lovie Smith to try and bring some much-needed consistency to this franchise.
He made an early splash by adding defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive back Alterraun in free agency to bolster a unit that was ranked 21 stin the league in points allowed. However, the biggest offseason addition was wide receiver Mike Evans with the seventh overall pick in the draft. It has yet to be determined who will be throwing him the ball with second-year quarterback Mike Glennon competing with 12-year vet Josh McCown for the starting job.
NFC South Prediction
Carolina should be able to compete for a playoff spot this season by going "over" its projected win total of 8.5 games, and Atlanta is going to win more than four games this time around, but it is New Orleans' turn to take the top spot in the NFC South carousal with the division title. The Saints projected win total in 2014 has been set at 9.5 wins , with the moneyline heavily favoring the "over" at -195. I am not sure I would risk a bet on that given that 9-7 could still win this division, but I will go with +120 odds on New Orleans to win the NFC South.
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