Wed 05/08/2015 - 18:44 EDT

NFL Division Previews: NFC South Preview

NFL Division Previews: NFC South Preview

1.       Carolina Panthers, +200

Carolina got hot at the right time in 2014, turning what looked like a nightmare of a season into a division crown and a playoff victory. Cam Newton has been leading one of the most talent stricken offenses in the NFL over the past 4 seasons, but the team is getting younger and should be more explosive this season with second round draft pick wide receiver Devin Funchess and second year pro Kelvin Benjamin. If the offense can take a step in the right direction, the team’s defense is one the toughest in the league.

Speaking of that defense…The Panthers unit is led by All-Pro, former Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly at middle linebacker. The tackling machine has help the Panthers field one of the NFL top defenses over the past two seasons and was a pivotal part of the Panthers getting hot last season and winning the division title.  

2.       Atlanta Falcons, +200 

After failing to make the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, the Falcons axed head coach Mike Smith and hired former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Falcons have been dragged down by one of the NFL’s weakest defense over the past few seasons. Quinn's focus this off-seaon has been on improving a defense that ranked last in sacks and passing yards allowed and wasn’t much better against the run. The Falcons spent their top draft picks and made their biggest free agent signings on the defensive side of the ball. If the defense can, at least be middle-of-the-pack good, the team will likely win the division.

The strength of the Falcons is, of course, the offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan has had a successful career as Atlanta’s starter. Ryan is lucky enough to have two Pro Bowl receivers to throw to in Roddy White and Julio Jones. The offense does not have a feature back or tight end, but over the preseason the team will look to sort out that issue.

3.       New Orleans Saints, +225

For nearly a decade now the pairing of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has produced a respectable, if not formable team able to hang with the NFL elite. Over time though the team has aged and lacked consistency on the defensive side of the ball. Brees continues to perform at an elite level (and remains a top fantasy option) but the turnover on the offensive side of the ball will hinder the Saints efforts to win their first division title since 2011.

The Saints should see some improvement on the defensive side of the ball in 2015. The Saints used 6 of 9 draft picks to reload on a defense that ranked 28th in the league in 2014. The quick development of the rookies and the health of veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis and Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan are the keys for the Saints finding the balance needed for a return to the post season in 2015.   

4.       Tampa Bay Buccaneers, +650  

Have the Buccaneers finally found the saviour they need to right a franchise that has toiled in mediocrity since the team won the Super Bowl in 2002. First overall draft pick Jameis Winston has all the intangibles of a NFL All-Pro quarterback, but questions remain about his maturity and off-field behaviour. At this moment in time he is proving critics wrong and focusing on football. The Bucs offense is underrated and if Winston lives up to the hype, the Bucs could realistically win the division. Wide Receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans give Winston some big, strong targets on the outside for him to chuck the ball to. The backfield has some question marks, primarily due to injury issues and therefore cannot be trusted to lighten the load on the rookie much this season.

As Lovie Smith enters his second year as the Bucs head coach, he must begin imparting more of his defensive wizardry on a defense that was lackluster in 2014. The team lost a few star players, but their successful days were not from their tenures on Tampa. Gerald McCoy is the key defender on the team and was the Bucs only Pro Bowler in 2014. It will take an all-around effort for the team to make the playoffs, but the Bucs have the talent and coach to make it happen.     

 

 

Category : Betting Picks

Tag : 2015 nfl previews , atlanta falcons , carolina panthers , new orleans saints , nfc south , nfl odds , nfl season previews 2015 , tampa bay buccaneers

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