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NFC South Overview and Predictions

1: Carolina Panthers 

The NFC South is now (top to bottom) the strongest division in the NFL. Three teams are more than capable of winning and on any given week, the Saints can be a handful. Expect a major rebound from the Carolina this year. The Panthers never quite rebounded from their Super Bowl hangover and remember that is is a team one year removed from 15 wins and over 500 points scored on offense. The defense is old but savvy and if it can remain healthy this year (having Luke Keuchly on the field is a must), will have Carolina in the hunt for the playoffs. The team got Cam Newton some help in free agency and in the draft by picking up left tackle Matt Kalil and then taking all-everything RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel with their top two picks in the draft. A renewed sense of purpose and newfound urgency has Carolina back in the mix of the NFC elite.

Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 11/5
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 9, O -125, U +115

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2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay took a major step forward last year in posting its first winning record in five years and just missing the playoffs on the basis of a third-level tie-breaker. Jameis Winston enters his third season and should be at a point where he his overall play is smarter and the turnovers that plagued him in his first two years should be in the rear view mirror. The enigmatic Deshaun Jackson has been brought in to bookend the extremely talented Mike Evans and Winston will be working for the first time with a pass catching TE in O.J. Howard who was taken first in the Buc draft. The defense is athletic and DC Mike Smith will look to get after the passer more this year with multiple looks up front and blitz schemes. Roberto Aguayo will have a better year as the PK than he had last year in his shaky rookie season. Nick Folk (27-31 FGs LY for the Jets) has been brought in as competition. If ‘Famous” Jameis can take his play to the next level, Tampa Bay might do more than just knock on the door.

Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 3/1
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 8, O -125, U +105

3: Atlanta Falcons 

If there was ever a team that was “ripe” for a Super Bowl hangover, it’s the Atlanta Falcons. The off-season was tumultuous at best for the Dirty Birds who will have Steve Sarkisian running the offense instead of the departed Kyle Shanahan. The offense is loaded to be sure but it remains to be seen if the Ryan-Devonta Freeman-Julio Jones trifecta can duplicate the monster numbers they produced last year. HC Pat Quinn was the DC at Seattle before taking over in Atlanta and he was more hands on with the stop unit last year than he was in his first year.  Atlanta’s defense is young and talented but still just top half in the league and it’s monumental collapse in the Super Bowl cost last year’s DC Richard Smith his job. The Falcons schedule is unforgiving (5th toughest SOS), especially on the road. The Falcons were out of the playoff mix last year before catching fire in their final five games. Atlanta will be hard pressed to duplicate last year’s 11 regular season wins.

Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 8/5
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 9.5, O -125, U +105

4: New Orleans Saints

New Orleans is off B2B2B 7-9 years and it looks like the Whodats can expect something similar in 2017. You really want to root for Drew Brees but much like Kobe Bryant, his oppressive contract demands have strangled the Saints from a cap standpoint and it has been difficult for the Saints to have the wriggle room needed to bring in the people that could get them over the hump. The Saints major acquisition of the off-season was the addition of Adrian Peterson who will be half of a formidable 1-2 punch with Mark Ingram. New Orleans felt good enough about its young wide outs to deal Brandin Cooks to New England. The question every year in Crescent City is the defense and Sean Payton did is best to address that in the draft by making secondary players two of their top three picks. The Saints have not gone backward by any means and if anything has improved but with the league’s toughest schedule and the rest of the division also bettering itself, .500 could be a reach.

Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 9/2
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 8, O +105, U -125

 

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