2016 NFC South Division Odds Preview: Are Panthers Locks to Win Again?
The first week of the 2016 NFL regular season is rapidly approaching, which means we’re running out of time to help our readers gauge which teams figure to be the best bets to win their respective divisions. We’re almost done, thankfully, with today bringing us to what could actually be a very competitive NFC South division.
Carolina returns to dominate again after coming up short in Super Bowl 50, but a potential Super Bowl hangover and an improving division may not make them the division title locks Vegas seems to peg them as. Jameis Winston could develop quickly, Drew Brees and the Saints are deadly at home and Dan Quinn could finally have Atlanta’s defense tough enough to make some noise.
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Let’s take a look at each team and see which NFC South odds are worth targeting ahead of the regular season:
Carolina Panthers -240
Carolina as the NFC South favorite shouldn’t shock anyone. They went 15-1 last year, got to the Super Bowl and did so without number one receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Now healthier than they were a year ago, the Panthers will shoot to claim their division title four the fourth year in a row.
The reality is, while a Super Bowl hangover is very possible, they still have a fantastic defense, good coaching, a solid running game and one of the most dynamic passers we’ve ever seen. As long as Cam Newton is the same guy, the Panthers will be as deadly as ever and should run right through the mediocre NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons +650
While that might be the case, we need to appreciate Vegas having a hard time separating this division (specifically in terms of odds). That tells us that either the Falcons, Saints and Buccaneers are all so bad that betting sites like Bovada have no idea which is best of the three, or that they’re all good enough to present a valid argument to dethrone the Panthers.
Let’s shoot for the latter.
Atlanta, at least on paper, absolutely can give the Panthers trouble in 2016. They actually handed them their lone 2015 regular season loss, while they also boast a balanced offense with Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman giving defenses two serious problems to deal with. Matt Ryan needs to be dialed in on a more consistent basis and Dan Quinn’s defense can’t come up lame yet again, but if everyone is on the same page, the Dirty Birds could truly be back this year.
New Orleans Saints +650
The Saints can be nasty on their home field, though, so if they can somehow play defense and figure out their annoying road woes, we can’t write them off just yet, either.
Some think Drew Brees is regressing and that the Saints are going down with him, but they were about as good as anyone offensively in 2015 – especially on their home turf. New Orleans merely needs to keep balancing their offense out and try to establish better control so they don’t put so much pressure on a defense that was truly woeful the past few years.
The silver lining is the Saints actually do have some interesting defensive talent, so at least on paper, there is some mild hope they can right the ship. You’ll absolutely need to believe that’s going to be the case if you buy into them as NFC North champions this year. That, or you need to think their offense is going to be so awesome, that it won’t matter what their defense does.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +650
Last, but certainly not least, we need to give the Bucs a shot. Jameis Winston shed weight and has looked completely ready to take his game (and his team) to the next level this year. If that’s the case, the rest of the NFC South should be a tad worried.
Winston was already finding his footing as a rookie last year, where he got the Bucs to six wins and had them in several of their losses. Now much more prepared and with a balanced offense around him, Winston could easily take charge in 2016 and make the Bucs a team to fear.
Winston can’t do it all on his own, of course. If the Buccaneers are going to be a legit threat to win this division, their shaky defense will need to even out and step up to the plate. Giving up the 26th most points per game like they did in 2015 simply won’t be an option.
NFC South Prediction
Vegas is throwing their hands up here and giving the proverbial shrug, as they’re heavily calling it as Panthers or bust in the NFC South. In addition, they’re basically seeing it’s absolutely the Panthers again in 2016, and if it’s not, good luck picking who it is.
Here’s the skinny: Yes, the Panthers are probably winning their division again. The other three teams still have extremely suspect defenses (Carolina doesn’t) and they also have glaring holes on offense. Carolina doesn’t have fun odds at all, however, so they’re really not worth betting on, unless you’re a Panthers fan or think they’re such a sure thing you’re betting your savings here (we don’t condone doing so).
If you need someone that isn’t the Panthers and can’t stand that all three of the other options share the same odds, we tend to favor the Saints. Sean Payton and Drew Brees are too smart and that offense is too potent at home for them to stay down forever. If they can win a few road games and that defense shows any semblance of life, they could be quite dangerous.