The jury is still out on whether the Carolina Panthers can repeat their magical run from last year, which saw them lose just two games en route to a long shot appearance in Super Bowl 50. Obviously, things won’t be easy for the Panthers who will have a target on their back right from Week 1, but with Carolina retaining most of its core and adding a couple of pieces to the team; the expectation is that the Panthers will be the class of the NFC South in this year’s NFL betting lines. Here is a look at what you can expect from Carolina and other NFC South members in the coming seasons, particularly in regards to challenging for the divisional title.
Who has the Best NFL Odds to win the NFC South?
Predicting the team’s 2016 record https://t.co/8iuinJ6tyQ
— NFL (@NFL) May 15, 2016
Carolina Panthers (-300 Odds to win NFC South)
Predicted Finish: 11-5, OVER 10.5 in Season Totals
Despite losing All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman to free agency (who will undoubtedly be tough to replace), the Panthers bring back the majority of their players from their unprecedented 15-1 campaign in 2015, led by defending MVP Cam Newton in the offense and star linebacker Luke Kuechly in the defense. That should see the Panthers remain solid for another divisional title-run in the always-mediocre NFC South division. Plus, Carolina selected two cornerbacks in the draft in round three and five, which should help in filling up the void left by Norman.
Atlanta Falcons (+650)
Predicted Finish: 7-9, UNDER 7.5 in Season Totals
As long as the lethal QB-WR combo of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones—along with the multi-talented Devonta Freeman—is still present in Atlanta, the Falcons will always be a competitive team, at least in the offensively. In the defense, the Falcons are a work in progress, but the team did show lots of improvement last season, allowing the third-fewest touchdowns in the league (19). If the team can tailor its free agents and draftees into the squad appropriately, we should see more improvements in the upcoming season. But then again, the Falcons will be playing a really gruesome schedule, as per last year’s win-loss record, and this squad has repeatedly shown the annoying tendency of slowing down their performance towards the end of the season—as evidenced by them going 3-8 in their last 11 games the past season after a strong 5-0 start. With that, tempered hopes are recommended when handicapping Atlanta’s performance ceiling for the upcoming season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+700)
Predicted Finish: 8-8, OVER 7.5 in Season Totals
Looking at the numbers posted by QB Jameis Winston in his rookie year, which included leading the Buccaneers to thrice as many wins (6) as the previous season (2), there is definitely a real chance for this Tampa Bay team to have even a better year. Like Atlanta, the Bucs have some questions to answer in the defense, but if the Winston-led offense can tap into the potential of their new head coach Dirk Koetter, who served them previously as the offensive coordinator, then the Bucs should be good for at least a .500 season, give or take one win.
New Orleans Saints (+800)
Predicted Finish: 9-7, OVER 7.0 in Season Totals
Again, it’s hard to overlook a team that has a veteran QB who threw a record seven touchdown in a game against the Giants last season. Drew Brees is as good as they come for quarterbacks and the addition of some offensive weapons in the offseason will ensure that he goes above 4,000 passing yards, as he has done so consistently over the years. Having spent the offseason beefing up their defense will also help their cause. But even if the defense won’t come around well in the new season, this is a team that finished with a 7-9 record last year despite having the worst defense in the NFL, so they probably won’t get worse than last year, I believe.