2019 NFC South Expert Predictions and Betting Odds
This week we have been taking a division-by-division look at the NFL, looking at the highlights and low points for each team as we move from the action of the offseason towards the start of the preseason - very slowly. The last stop on the trip is the NFC South, a division that really doesn't feel very competitive. New Orleans dominated last year, and things didn't change enough in the division for us to really doubt that some version of the same thing will happen again. (odds are from BetOnline)
Biggest lock: Bucs "under" 6.5 on the season win total. This team won just five games last year, and it was no fluke. They have a quarterback they don't trust. They are in cap hell. Free agency was underwhelming. The draft was a mess beyond the first round, and Devin White in fifth overall doesn't offer the same near-certainty for value of some of the guys picked around him. Hiring Bruce Arians as head coach is the only move they did that is universally positive, but he has a ton of work to do. This under sure feels comfortable from where I sit.
Most likely to disappoint: Atlanta. The Falcons, as I say so often that my fingers almost get sore from typing it, are an incredibly mentally-soft team. When things get tough, the team does not rise to the occasion. There are several things I blame for that, but Matt Ryan gets most of the blame. They are as good as any team out there at disappointing when it matters. The season win total sits at nine. It seems very achievable for them to disappoint and fall under that. Again.
Best betting value: New Orleans Saints over 10.5 on the season win total at +110. The Saints didn't do a ton to improve dramatically, but they didn't really have to. They are so well coached, well led, and consistently well prepared. They may take a small step back from their 13 wins last year, but they aren't going to collapse - unless something happens to Brees, as we will address soon. The over at this price is very solid.
Biggest mystery: Drew Brees. He and Tom Brady are redefining what we can expect from old guys under center these days. They have each found a fountain of youth. But it can't last forever - even if Brees is making it easy to feel like it can. Brees could be as effective as he has been for a few more years. Or he could fall off the same cliff that Peyton Manning did as soon as this year. We can never see it coming, because we have rarely seen what these two are managing to do now. But because of how important Brees is, the status of his health and effectiveness is so important - and so hard to truly gauge.
Most improved: Carolina. None of the teams had a massive draft for one reason or another. Carolina got some value taking Brian Burns at 16th, though, and has some major upside in the second round if Greg Little can quit being so lazy and start to play near his ridiculous potential. Will Grier is a low cost, solid backup for Cam Newton, too. And they quietly had a very solid go of free agency, re-signing Eric Reid, stealing Matt Paradis from Denver to play center, and getting Bruce Irvin and Daryl WIlliams on surprisingly fair deals. The team certainly got better.
Underrated new player: Matt Paradis, center, Carolina. The Panthers suffered a blow when their long-time center retired. The Panthers were the only team he had known since being drafted in 2007. They were able to get a solid replacement in Paradis, though, and they got him for a relative bargain because he is coming back from a broken leg suffered halfway through last year. He should be ready for the regular season, and his impact - though it will never show up on a stat sheet or a highlight reel - will be tough to overstate if all goes right.
Overrated new player: Breshad Perriman, WR, Tampa Bay. There was an odd storyline this offseason surrounding this player. When the Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr, Perriman spun it that he was upset that the team had made the move, and he immediately made the decision to leave. It was one of those cases, though, where a guy quits so he doesn't get fired. Perriman has just 916 total yards in 37 career games. He's no OBJ. The Bucs would try to tell you that they pulled off a serious coup by stealing Perriman. It's tough to steal something no one else wants. I don't think too many people overrate Perriman, but both he and his new team seem to.
Key coach storyline: Dan Quinn has gotten his team to the Super Bowl, so he has some rope. But the Falcons looked listless and confused last year - the second year in a row they had taken a step backwards after the Super Bowl run. If he were to underwhelm again this year, then the pressure would be on him in a big way. You can't rest on your laurels for long in this league.
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