Odds To Win The NFC SouthJosh Bailey
Can Falcons Fulfill Status As Division Favorites in 2017?
Despite ending up on the wrong end of a now, historic Super Bowl collapse, Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons will enter the 2017 season as the prohibitive odds-on-favorite to win consecutive NFC South titles.
However, with the Carolina Panthers looking to rebound from their injury-filled 2016 season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making a big move last season toward being a playoff participant themselves, the face for first place in the NFC South looks like a thriller just waiting to happen – and oh, I haven’t even gotten to that future Hall of Fame quarterback playing in New Orleans.
If you’re looking to find out which Super Bowl hopeful is offering the best value as far as winning the NFC South in 2017, let’s get started.
What Are The 2017 Odds To Win The NFC South?
Atlanta Falcons +165
The Falcons (11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS) snapped the Carolina Panthers’ three-year run as NFC South champions last season before going on to beat Seattle in the divisional round and Green Bay in the NFC Championship. Unfortunately, the Falcons couldn’t finish off what appeared to be a sure-fire victory as they collapsed against the Patriots in their 34-28 Super Bowl 51 loss after taking a 21-3 lead into the half and a 28-9 lead into the final quarter.
Still, the Falcons are favored to repeat as division champs, based mostly on the strength of their powerful offense which led the league in scoring last season (33.8 ppg). However, the Falcons will enter the 2017 season without offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan after he left to take the head coaching job in San Francisco.
The good news is that the Falcons have their entire group of offensive stars back this coming season and that means they should be able to put a bunch of points on the board. Atlanta signed veteran nose tackle Dontari Poe in free agency and traded up to nab UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley in the first round. If the Falcons can improve a defense that finished 27th in points allowed (25.4 ppg), I see no reason they won’t challenge for the division title at the very least in 2017.
Carolina Panthers +250
Carolina (6-10 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) took a huge step backward just one year after reaching Super Bowl 50 as 2015 league MVP Cam Newton battled injuries all season and the Panthers defense fell apart. The Panthers ranked a modest 15th in scoring (23.1 ppg), but I love the way they addressed their needs by drafting multi-faceted Stanford running back Christian McCaffery and speedy Ohio State wide receiver Curtis Samuel.
Carolina has been perennially powerful on defense, but that wasn’t the case at all last season as they fell to a dismal 26th in points allowed (25.1 ppg). The Panthers added veteran defensive end Julius Peppers and traded up in the third round for Texas A&M’s defensive lineman Daeshon Hall and they should be much better in the secondary with their quartet of young defensive backs all being a year older and wiser. If Cam Newton can stay healthy all season, the Panthers could get their division title back in the blink of an eye.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +335
Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS) made a nice leap forward last season by winning nine games to finish second to Atlanta in 2016 and they look like they’re primed to take another step forward in 2017 after making a series of smart offseason decisions.
The Bucs added speedy veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson and gifted rookie tight end O.J. Howard to join Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans in what should now be one of the best passing attacks in the league this coming season. Despite their impressive success last season, the Bucs actually gave up more points per game (23.1 ppg) than they averaged (22.1 ppg) and I don’t think they necessarily addressed their needs on the defensive side of the ball as well as they should have. Still, by giving their franchise signal-caller more weapons in Jackson, Howard and another pair of rookies in Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin and Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols, Tampa Bay’s improved offense could have them challenging for the division title in 2017.
New Orleans Saints +440
The Saints went (7-9 SU, 11-5 ATS) went 7-9 for the third straight season in 2016 and fourth time in the last five seasons overall. The problem for New Orleans a year ago is the same one that has plagued the team for the last several years – little to no defense. Despite having a future Hall of fame quarterback in Drew Brees and an offense that ranked a stellar second in scoring (29.3 ppg), the Saints rarely stopped their opponents from scoring last season in giving up 28.4 points per game to rank 31st in points allowed.
The good news is that New Orleans did a decent job of addressing their biggest needs on the defensive side of the ball by drafting cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 11th pick in the draft while adding gifted safety Marcus Williams in the second round and linebacker Alex Anzalone in the third round. The Saints also signed former Carolina Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein in free agency and oft-injured former Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o.
On the other side of the ball, New Orleans signed veteran wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. running back Adrian Peterson and guard Larry Warford in free agency while using the final pick in the first round to nab Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, although it cost them No.1 wide receiver Brandin Cooks who they traded to New England for the pick. Overall, New Orleans did a really good job of addressing their needs on both sides of the ball and I expect they’ll be a lot better defensively, though how much remains to be seen.
NFC South Winner Pick
Since 2008, every team in the NFC South except Tampa Bay has won at least two division titles with Carolina getting four, New Orleans two and the Falcons, three. Having said that, predicting the 2017 division winner is a tough call, seeing as how no one knows how Atlanta will respond to their Super Bowl collapse and all three of their division rivals made some nice offseason additions.
In the end though, I’m going to urge you to back the Carolina Panthers to get their division title back for one reason – they’ll likely have the best defense in the NFC South in 2017. I’m also expecting the Panthers to be as good as they ever have been on offense after adding Christian McCaffrey to go along with their pair of outstanding big wide receivers in Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess.
Pick: Carolina Panthers