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Who Will Win the NFC South?

As OTA's and mandatory mini-camps begin to make news stories in the coming days across the NFL, there is no better time then now – especially with the NHL and NBA seasons winding down – to dive headfirst into the NFL for the upcoming season.

Futures numbers on division winners, Super Bowl winner, and season win totals have been out for some time now, and now that they've settled down before inevitably getting a spike in action come August, it's time to start digging deep into prospective outcomes that present a strong likelihood of happening as well as a bit of betting value on the line.

So today I'm starting with the NFC South odds as it's arguably the most wide open division in the entire NFC.

To Win NFC South Odds - per
New Orleans Saints (+175)
Atlanta Falcons (+200)
Carolina Panthers (+330)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+550)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+550) have the longest odds to claim the division this year and for good reason. The Bucs were the only team in the NFC South to finish with a sub .500 record a season ago (5-11 SU) and they haven't really done much to drastically improve. Another year with QB Jameis Winston at the helm in the same offense will help, but considering all three other NFC South teams finished 2017 with at least 10 wins, there is going to be too much ground for the Bucs to make up in a single year as getting their first division crown since 2007 will probably have to wait at least another year.

New Orleans (+175) comes in as the favorite - if you really want to call it that – as the defending division champs who were one fluky Hail Mary play away from the NFC Championship last year, and for my money, a Super Bowl appearance as well. The backfield duo of Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara was spectacular a year ago, but with Ingram suspended for the first month of the year I'm not so sure this is the team I really want to get behind in this division. Having that ground game as a top tier threat in the Saints attack gave the offense tremendous balance in terms of run vs pass and it was a big reason why this team got over the hump again.

More opponents are going to come into a game with New Orleans having much more respect for their ground game this year and that's not good if you're a Saints fan. I wouldn't doubt the notion that opponents came into facing the Saints last week stuck in the mindset of New Orleans being a “throw first, throw always” team that they were in year's past and got burned for it in 2017. The same won't happen again in 2018, and toss in that tough 1st place schedule for New Orleans and I believe the Saints will need to grab a NFC Wildcard spot to get another chance at playoff football this year.

Carolina (+330) lost on a tiebreaker for the NFC South crown a year ago as a division championship would have been the organization's four in the last five years. Carolina was ousted by the Saints during Wildcard weekend last year and had home field been switched there we might have seen a different result. But the Carolina team we've seen in recent years is likely the same one we will see this year as they'll find success on the backs of great defensive play and QB Cam Newton playing like a MVP again.

The Panthers did go out and draft highly touted WR D.J Moore to help give Newton more weapons through the air, but having a consistent passing attack has always held the Panthers back in critical times during the Ron Rivera era and I fail to see how this year will be any different. Don't get me wrong, the Panthers will be a solid NFL team this year and should compete for a playoff spot with another 10+ win season (or at least close to that), but two of their three division rivals can all run them out of the building with their offense (Atlanta, New Orleans), and the Panthers just aren't a team that's built to play from behind. That's probably going to hurt them more often than not as the defense can't be lights out each week, and it's why I'm passing on the Panthers here.

Which leaves the Atlanta Falcons (+200) as my pick for the 2018 NFC South division crown as they look to be the first team in the modern era to play a Super Bowl on their home field.

Atlanta's aerial attack got even more dangerous through the draft when they grabbed WR Calvin Ridley, as the weapons they've got coming into 2018 at every skill position are downright lethal. As long as everyone stays healthy for the bulk of the season, this Falcons offense could end up resembling the 2016 unit that put up 30+ points on everyone en route to a Super Bowl appearance.

But what makes me really like the Falcons in 2018 is the fact that their defense – which has shown improvement the past few years – has another year in HC Dan Quinn's system under their belt and now that it's been three full years in his system, the best results are probably on their way. Remember, Quinn was the mastermind behind those Seahawks defenses of earlier this decade that dominated football for a few years, and now that he's had ample time to draft/sign the guys that fit his mold/system, the 2018 Atlanta Falcons may actually be a defensive force as well.

Finally, the core of this Atlanta team has to feel like they've got plenty of unfinished business after blowing that massive lead in the Super Bowl two years ago and then following it up by getting overly cocky and looking past a Philadelphia Eagles team starting a backup QB in the Divisional round a year ago. Atlanta could have made another solid run at the Super Bowl last year had they not laid that egg in Philly (who they get a shot at redemption against in the first game of the 2018 campaign), and with all the weapons they've got on both sides of the ball in 2018, I would not be surprised to see the Falcons see that run all the way until the end this year.

First thing's first though and that's locking up home field advantage for at least one playoff game with a division crown. The Atlanta Falcons are going to be that team in the NFC South this year and at +200 odds, I've got no problem laying down a few units at that price.

Odds per -

Best Bet: Atlanta Falcons to Win NFC South +200

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NFL Pro Football Expert Sports Picks - Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
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Brian Bitler + 1269
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Scott Pritchard 63 %
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Paul Bovi 60 %
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Handicapper Money
Bill Marzano + 612
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