The NFC South was a bit of a runaway train in 2018 with the New Orleans Saints being the lone team in the division to finish the season with a winning record and a positive point differential en route to their second straight title. Oddsmakers have pegged the Saints to carry that success through 2019 as they are the second-biggest division favorite at -190, second only to AFC East favorite New England (-550).
Online sportsbook Bovada has the Saints as the favorites at -190 followed by the Atlanta Falcons at +350, the Carolina Panthers at +550 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at +1200 to round out the NFC South.
Read more on the betting odds to win the NFC North and NFC East.
New Orleans Saints (-190)
New Orleans was a dominant squad in 2018 and, were it not for a controversial non-call in the playoffs, could have made a Super Bowl appearance. The Saints had the best road record in the NFL at 7-1 and the top point differential at +151. Overall, New Orleans finished with a 13-3 record, its best season since posting the same mark in 2011.
The Saints overcame an early-season suspension to running back Mark Ingram with the breakout play of sophomore Alvin Kamara, who amassed 1,592 all-purpose yards and notched 18 touchdowns on the year. Meanwhile, veteran quarterback Drew Brees had the highest completion percentage of his 13-year career at 74.4, with 3,992 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Two notable additions New Orleans secured through free agency were tight end Jared Cook and running back Latavius Murray. The Saints found a lot of success by using tight end Jimmy Graham several seasons back but have struggled to lock down a big man since and they are hoping Cook is that guy.
Murray will be second to Kamara and can provide a different change of pace, typically running between the tackles. There weren’t many deductions from the 2018 Saints team and I think there would have to be big improvements from the other squads to surpass them.
Atlanta Falcons (+350)
Following back-to-back playoff appearances, the Atlanta Falcons took a step backward at 7-9, posting their worst record since 2014. Atlanta wasn’t far off at the midway point of the season, sitting at 4-4 after eight games, but a five-game losing skid snuffed any chance at returning to the postseason.
The offense wasn’t much of an issue for the squad as they ranked 10th in points per game and averaged the fourth-most passing yards per game. Quarterback Matt Ryan put up similar numbers to his MVP season in 2016, with just 20 fewer passing yards and three fewer touchdowns. The Falcons defense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain, though, surrendering the seventh-most points per game, and had to deal with injuries to safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones.
Through free agency, Atlanta boosted its offensive line by signing guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Those signings will offer some protection up the middle, ideally providing Ryan more time in the pocket as well as clearing some space for running back Devonta Freeman. The team also drafted guard Chris Lindstrom out of Boston College with their first-round pick. I think the Falcons are a good team but lack depth, so injuries will always play a big factor.
Carolina Panthers (+550)
The Carolina Panthers had a Jekyll and Hyde season in 2018, posting a record of 6-2 through the first half of the season only to go on a seven-game slide to begin the second half en route to a disappointing 7-9 campaign.
The biggest reason for the Panthers’ free fall was the injury to quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder. The former MVP had difficulty throwing the ball and he rushed for fewer than 30 yards in four of his final six games. A bright spot for the Panthers was the emergence of sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 1,098 yards with seven touchdowns, while also pulling in 107 catches for 867 yards and an additional six TDs.
As could probably be expected considering the beating that Newton took last year, suffering 17 sacks over the final six games, the Panthers spent money on their offensive line in the offseason. The team also recorded the sixth-fewest sacks in the NFL last season and used its first-round pick to select edge rusher Brian Burns out of Florida State. If Cam is healthy and can remain so, Carolina at +550 is providing real value.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1200)
For the second straight year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with a 5-11 record and pushed their streak to 11 consecutive years that they have missed the playoffs. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick provided some magic through the first three games of the season, throwing for a combined 1,230 yards and 11 touchdowns while starting quarterback Jameis Winston was serving a suspension.
Top to bottom, there wasn’t much to write home about for the Bucs. Only once did they have a running back rush for over 100 yards – Peyton Barber had 106 in Week 11 – and Winston had just 19 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in the 11 games he played. Defensively, Tampa Bay ranked second only to the Oakland Raiders for most points allowed per game at 29.
Through free agency the Bucs re-signed offensive tackle Donovan Smith, hoping that he continues to improve heading into his fifth season. Additionally, they brought in a pair of linebackers in Shaquil Barrett and Deone Bucannon, as well as speedy wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who has been plagued by injuries through his career.
With the fifth pick overall, Tampa Bay selected LSU linebacker Devin White, who won the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in the country. I don’t expect much of a step forward for the Bucs so even at +1200 the value simply isn’t there.
|New Orleans Saints||-190|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+1200|
Odds as of July 12 at Bovada