ODDS PROVIDED BY CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT
Few do it better than Drew Brees. Even at 39, he is showing very minimal signs of slowing down. He finally seems to have the biggest cabinet of weapons in the last 10 years with Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, Ted Ginn Jr. and Michael Floyd. One minor hiccup though, Mark Ingram will miss the first four games due to a PED suspension. On defense, they traded up to get Marcus Davenport so he’s going to need to produce immediately to live up to the trade/selection. They added Demario Davis from the Jets to be the mouthpiece for this defensive unit. The secondary is very strong. We all know the Marshon Lattimore story, but Marcus Williams quietly had a strong rookie season as well. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he had the infamous whiff tackle on Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs in the NFC Divisional game. Duplicating last year’s 11-5 record with their schedule will be tough. They have road contests against Minnesota and Dallas as well as tough home matchups with the Rams, Eagles and Steelers. Don’t forget, they also play in arguably the toughest division too.
Even though Atlanta made the Divisional round last year, beating an upstart Rams team on the road in the Wild Card round, it still felt like a disappointing year to some. To me, I’d say they had a great follow up to their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss. The Falcons may be the beneficiary of some of the biggest breaks in the NFC South in 2018. All the firepower is back and happily under contract. They added Alabama stud Calvin Ridley to complement this attack. The defense is still very solid despite losing Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn. Their third place schedule gives them a solid chance to jump over New Orleans and Carolina and capture another NFC South crown as long as they can beat those foes straight up. We’ll find out early as they play the Panthers and Saints in weeks 2 and 3 respectively.
The Panthers look to have the pieces in place to get back to the Super Bowl. They just need a full season’s worth of consistency out of Cam Newton. Since their appearance in Super Bowl 50, Cam has battled inconsistency in his passing game. When he is on, he is one of the most dangerous QBs in football right now. The Panthers finally turned the page on Jonathan Stewart and signed a younger version of him in CJ Anderson. Look for Christian McCaffrey, and his 80 catches, to get even MORE involved this year. They added some new targets in Torrey Smith and DJ Moore to complement Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen. Their front seven is great but secondary may be an issue this season. There’s a hodgepodge of old veterans and unproven players. The NFC South is tough but it’s all up to Cam Newton.
Another year added to the decade long playoff drought. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2002, the Buccaneers have won exactly ZERO playoff games. Things won’t be any better this year as Jameis Winston starts the season suspended. Although journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick was 2-1 in Winston’s absence in 2017. The aerial weapons are there and they’ve added a homerun threat in Ronald Jones II to run the ball. On defense, the Buccaneers definitely attempted an upgrade at D-Line, adding Beau Allen and Vinny Curry from the Eagles. They also traded for Jason Pierre-Paul and drafted Vita Vea #12 overall this April. Koetter is on the hot seat and i’m not sure they’ll win enough to get him off that seat.
To me this is dealer’s choice. The top three teams are all capable of winning the division but it will definitely be tight. Best value would obviously be the Panthers. Gun to my head, I’ll take the Falcons.