NFC South Odds – Expect a Brawl for it all
The Carolina Panthers may have won the NFC South in 2009 with a stellar 12-4 regular season record but they will have their work cut out for them in 2009 with the much-improved Atlanta Falcons nipping at their heels.
Oh, maybe I forgot to mention that the explosive New Orleans Saints, led by Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, are expecting to contend for the division title. Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 9-7 last season.
BetUS NFL sports betting picks enthusiasts spanning the globe, will likely see a knockdown, drag-out, fight between at least three teams and possibly all four in what figures to be an extremely competitive NFC South.
With those thoughts in mind, this look at the 2009 NFC South Odds will give pro football picks everywhere an excellent opportunity to cash in with a winning, NFL Futures wager in the BetUS Sportsbook.
With training camps getting started any day now, let me get started.
New Orleans Saints +180
While I am seriously perplexed that the New Orleans Saints (8-8 SU, 10-5-1 ATS, 10-5-1 O/U) are the odd-on-favorite to win the NFC South this season after finishing a distant second to the Carolina Panthers last season, but I do expect the Saints to make some improvements on their 8-8 record from a year ago.
New Orleans had not trouble moving the ball through the air behind Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, ranking first in scoring (28.9 ppg), first in yards per game, (410.7) and passing yard (311.1). While the Saints ranked just 28th in rushing (99.6 ypg), the club’s main focus this offseason was acquiring some help for its abysmal defensive unit, namely its lackluster secondary.
New Orleans ranked just 26th in points allowed per game (24.6), 23rd in yards per game (339.5), an identical 23rd in passing yards (221.7) and a respectable 17th in rush defense (117.9 ypg).
New Orleans added talented cornerback Malcolm Jenkins out of Ohio State with the 14th pick in the first round of the draft and followed that pick by selecting safety Chip Vaughn out of Wake Forest.
While I like the Saints to take a step forward, I don’t know if they can overcome the four-game deficit to Carolina in one swift season.
Carolina Panthers +225
The Carolina Panthers (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 8-8 O/U) recorded an excellent 12-4 record in 2008, but saw their season come to an abrupt halt in their disappointing 33-13 divisional round playoff loss to eventual NFC-champion Arizona.
While the Panthers ranked an excellent seventh in points scored per game (25.9) and ranked 10th in yards per game (349.7), Carolina achieved those lofty numbers based largely on the strength of its powerful, third-ranked rushing attack (152.3ypg) and not its lackluster passing attack under veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme as the Panthers ranked just 19th in passing, averaging just 197.4 passing yard per contest.
In addition to their rushing attack, the Panthers need to upgrade a defensive unit that ranked in the middle third in every meaningful defensive category, including points allowed (20.6 ppg, 12th), yards per game (331.2, 18th), passing yards per game (211.7, 16th) and rushing yards per game (119.9, 20th).
Carolina didn’t make any significant offseason free agent additions, relying solely on the draft to upgrade its team and to that end, the team grabbed defensive end Everette Brown out of Florida State with the No. 11 in the second round (43rd overall) before selecting safety Sherrod Martin with the 59th overall pick and defensive lineman Corey Irvin with the 93rd overall pick.
After not improving their team as much as they could have this offseason, the Panthers may be looking up at a different division winner when the regular season comes to a close.
Atlanta Falcons +230
Call me crazy, but I think the Atlanta Falcons (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS, 7-9 O/U) are just about ready to win this division following a phenomenal season under first-year head coach Mike Smith and first-year quarterback Matt Ryan, one of the best rookie signal callers I have seen in quite some time.
After finishing just one game behind the Carolina Panthers, in large part because of the team’s explosive offense, the Falcons concentrated almost exclusively on the defensive side of the football, using their first five draft picks to select defensive players in addition to acquiring veteran linebacker Mike Peterson in free agency.
Atlanta opened a lot of eyes on offense last season, starting with Ryan and gifted running back Michael Turner who flourished in his first season as a full-time starter after sitting behind LaDainian Tomlinson for four years.
Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth last season after the club went 4-12 in 2007. Turner rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns and fleet-footed wide receiver Roddy White had 88 receptions for 1,382 yards.
The Falcons ranked 10th in points per game (24.4), sixth in yards per game (361.2), 14th in passing yards per game (208.5) and second in rushing (152.7 ypg).
While Atlanta allowed just 20.3 points per game last season (11th), the team gave up 348.2 yards per game (24th), including 220.4 per game through the air (21st) and 127.9 per game on the ground (25th).
Atlanta drafted defensive tackle Jerry Peria out of Mississippi with the No. 24 overall selection in the first round before adding three defensive backs over its next four picks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +450
The Buccaneers (9-7 SU, 8-8 ATS, 8-8 O/U) recorded a solid 9-7 record in 2008 but decided to move in another direction as they fired former, Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden in favor of first-year head man, Raheem Morris, following Gruden’s seven-year stint.
Not only will the franchise have a new head coach in Morris, but the Buccaneers will also have a new offensive in Jeff Jagodzinski and a new defensive coordinator in Jim Bates.
Tampa Bay’s first order of business is rebuilding its mediocre offense which ranked 19th in points per game, (22.6), 14th in yards per game (341.0), 11th in passing, (226.2 ypg) and 15th in rushing (114.8 ypg).
The Buccaneers have big questions at quarterback where first round draft choice Josh Freeman, the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft, will compete for the starting job along with veterans, Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown.
The Buccaneers were solid on defense under Gruden in 2008, ranking 10th in points allowed (20.2 ppg), ninth in yards allowed, (306.1) and a stellar fourth in passing yards, (187.3). Tampa Bay was surprisingly soft against the run last season, allowing 118.8 rushing yards per game (19th).
All in all, I expect the Buccaneers to take a step backwards as they get used to their new regime and Morris learns the ropes of being an NFL head coach.
Projected Order of Finish: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay
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