The Atlanta Falcons may have been on the wrong end of a now, historic Super Bowl collapse when we last saw them, but the high-scoring 2016 NFC champions are favored to repeat as champs in the NFC South and contend for conference supremacy once again in 2017. However, let’s find out right now if the current betting odds to win the NFC south division gives us a glimpse of which team has the best chances against the Falcons. The big question now heading into the upcoming campaign is whether or not the Falcons can rebound to soar from their Super Bowl heartbreak or whether one of their conference rivals can unseat them in what looks like a tight division race just waiting to happen in 2017. Oh, and just so you know, every team in the division except Tampa Bay has won at least two division titles since 2008, with Carolina getting four, New Orleans bagging a pair and the Falcons winning three.
In Depth Analysis on the NFL Winning Picks to Win the NFC South
The Favorite: Atlanta Falcons +130The Falcons went 11-5 SU and 10-6 ATS in 2016 to bring the Carolina Panthers’ three-year run as NFC South champions to an abrupt halt in 2016 before going on to beat Seattle in the divisional round and Green Bay in the conference title tilt. However, the Falcons saw offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan bolt to take the head coaching job in San Francisco and that may or may not have an effect on an offense that ranked first in scoring (33.8 ppg) last season. The good news is that Atlanta has their entire core group of offensive stars back from last season’s team including Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman and made a nice hire by naming former USC and Washington head coach as their new offensive coordinator. The Falcons need to really upgrade a defense that finished 25th overall, 28th against the pass and 27th in points allowed (25.4 ppg) and to that end, Atlanta brought in veteran nose tackle Dontari Poe and traded up to snag UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley in the first round and linebacker Duke Riley in the third round. If the Falcons can come close to the offensive production they produced last season while improving their defense just a bit, they could both, win the NFC South while challenging to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Atlanta Falcons Team Statistics
Offensive total yards: 416.42
Average Score For: 34.11 Offensive rush yards: 117.47
Defensive total yards: 376.84 Offensive passing yards: 298.95
Defensive rush yards: 104.11
Average Score Against: 25.32 Defensive passing yards: 272.74
The Smart Pick: Carolina Panthers +180Carolina fell to 6-10 SU and 6-9-1 ATS in 2016 just one year after reaching Super Bowl 50. The Panthers and Cam Newton struggled in ranking 21st in passing last season and a modest 15th in scoring (23..1 ppg),but they added a pair of electrifying rookies in versatile Stanford running back Christian McCaffery and speedy Ohio State wide receiver Curtis Samuel that should help pay dividends right away. The bigger problem for the Panthers last season was a defense that fell off in a big way in finishing 21st overall, a pitiful 29th against the pass and 26th in points allowed (25.1 ppg). To help address their defensive woes, the Panthers added veteran defensive end Julius Peppers and traded up in the third round for Texas A&M’s defensive lineman Daeshon Hall. After being banged up nearly all of last season, a healthy Cam Newton and some improved defensive play and I believe it’s quite possible the Panthers could contend in a big way.
Carolina Panthers Team Statistics
Offensive total yards: 343.69
Average Score For: 23.06 Offensive rush yards: 113.38
Defensive total yards: 359.69 Offensive passing yards: 230.31
Defensive rush yards: 91.50
Average Score Against: 25.12 Defensive passing yards: 268.19
The Longshot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +300The Bucs aren’t getting a whole lot of love from oddsmakers apparently, even though they beat Carolina for second place in the NFC South last season and recorded a winning recording by going 9-7. Now, as they get set for the upcoming 2017 season, I think it’s quite possible that Jameis Winston and company could take another step forward after nearly reaching the playoffs a year ago. Tampa Bay recorded a winning record in 2016, but they didn’t exactly shine on either side of the ball while allowing more points per game (23.1 ppg) than they scored (22.1 ppg). The good news is that the Buccaneers addressed their roster needs to near perfection by giving Watson more genuine playmakers than he’s ever had. The Bucs added fleet-footed veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard to pair with Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans and they also added two more players that will contribute right away in Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin and former Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols. Tampa Bay didn’t address it needs on defense as much as I would have preferred, but they certainly gave Winston the weapons to make the Bucs one of the most potent offenses in the league and I believe they could exceed expectations in 2017 to challenge for the division title as a +300 longshot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Statistics
Offensive total yards: 346.38
Average Score For: 22.12 Offensive rush yards: 101.19
Defensive total yards: 367.94 Offensive passing yards: 245.19
Defensive rush yards: 116.94
Average Score Against: 23.06 Defensive passing yards: 251.00