Rivals Share The Glory
Amazingly, each of the four teams in the National Football Conference’s South Division has won this title at least three times since league realignment in 2002.
The New Orleans Saints, at +600 or 6-1 odds, won the division last season for the first time in six years. They are strong favorites to repeat again this year (+130) even though they had the same record as the Carolina Panthers and only one more win than the Atlanta Falcons (odds provided by TopBet). No other division in the NFL had three double-digit winners.
The Saints had the best record of their division rivals at home (7-1), but the Falcons had the top result against conference foes (9-3).
Betting Numbers For The NFC South
- Atlanta (+200)
The Falcons, who were 10-6 last season, finished third in the division. They won the title in 2016 before collapsing in the Super Bowl. They are +200 (or 2-1 odds) to win the division this year. That means a winning $100 money line wager on the Falcons will return a $200 profit plus the $100 bet for a total return of $300.
- Carolina (+275)
The Panthers, who were 11-5 last season, finished second with the same record as the division champs. They are +275 (2.75-1) to win the division this year. That means a winning $100 wager on the Panthers will return a $275 profit plus the $100 bet for a total return of $375.
At 2.75-1, that means a $20 bet will return 20 x 2.75 = $55 profit, plus the $20 bet for a total return of $75.
- New Orleans (+130)
The Saints, who were 11-5 last season, won the division for the first time in six years. They are +130 (1.3-1) to repeat as division champs this year. That means a winning $100 wager on the Saints will return a $130 profit plus the $100 bet for a total return of $230.
- Tampa Bay (+1000)
The Buccaneers, who were 5-11 last season, finished fourth and last for the seventh time in nine seasons. They are +1000 (10-1) to win the division this year. That means a winning $100 wager on the Bucs will return a $1,000 profit plus the $100 bet for a total return of $1,100.
It’s Time To Pick A Divisional Winner
Atlanta (Last title: 2016)
The Falcons play three games in prime time, including the first game of the season on Sept. 6 in Philadelphia against the Super Bowl champions.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense ranked 15th in scoring after a 10-6 record and a berth in the playoffs as a wild-card team. They should improve on production and scoring with the addition of first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley. The Alabama standout will be a great compliment to one of the best receivers in the game in Julio Jones.
The Falcons have posted double-digit wins for two consecutive seasons. They can add to that this year if their franchise quarterback remains healthy.
Carolina (Last title: 2015)
The Panthers have followed every losing season in the last six years with a double-digit win season the following year. Losing season in 2012, 12-4 in 2013. Losing season in 2014, 15-1 in 2015. Losing season in 2016, 11-5 in 2017.
If the pattern continues, Carolina would have another losing season in 2018. If that were to happen, it would likely be because of the inconsistent play of Cam Newton. The former MVP no longer ranks with the top passers in the league.
The Panthers need to get off to a quick start, especially with five of their first eight games at home. They play twice in prime time this season.
New Orleans (Last title: 2017)
After three consecutive 7-9 seasons, the Saints finally broke through in 2017. They won the South and were one blown play away from the NFC title game.
New Orlean’s offense ranked fourth overall, but it was the defense which showed the biggest improvement. Teams seemed to score at will against the Saints in 2015 and 2016. Last season, their defense finished 10th in the league.
Four of their first five games are against teams with a losing record from last season. Another year of solid defense combined with the spectacular play of Drew Brees and his dazzling offense should help the Saints enjoy a second straight division title and playoff run.
Tampa Bay (Last title: 2007)
The Buccaneers have struggled for some time. This team has had one season with a winning record in the last seven. They haven’t played in a playoff game since 2007.
Will things change this season? Not with the league’s three-game suspension of Jameis Winston. Since selecting their quarterback first overall in 2015, the Bucs have gone 20-28.
The Bucs face an uphill climb in arguably the toughest division in the NFL. They rank in the bottom half in the league on both sides of the ball and play five of their first eight games on the road. Their first three games are against New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — a likely 0-3 start to the season.
VGB’s pick — New Orleans (+130). The Saints have the best quarterback in the division and one of the best in the game. They have to be considered Super Bowl contenders.