NFC South Preview

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Atlanta – Falcons ... will face zero opponents in 2019 with a bye next, a Thursday game next, a Monday game next, and an opponent coming off a Monday night game this season ... +1 net turnover in 2018 regular season.

Carolina – Panthers will face 4 opponents in 2nd+ away games, and zero opponents coming off a bye this season ... +1 net turnover in 2018 regular season.

New Orleans – Saints had 8 double-digit regular-season wins last year ... will face 4 opponents in 2nd+ away games this season ... +8 net turnovers in 2018 regular season.

Tampa Bay – Buccaneers had only 1 double-digit win last year ... have played ’over’ regular-season win total in 1 of last 6 years ... -18 net turnovers in 2018 regular season.

Atlanta Falcons


Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8.5
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 134.5

Looking back, when Atlanta inked QB Matt Ryan to a league-record $150 million contract extension in the offseason last year, it mirrored the path Detroit followed the previous season when it signed QB Matthew Stafford to a $135 deal. Both teams missed the playoffs, with the Falcons snapping a two-year playoff skein (which reminds us to keep a pulse on Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks this season.) It’s no excuses this year for Atlanta this year, though, as Ryan finds himself surrounded by a strike-force that could well be the league’s most dynamic trio in wide receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Calvin Ridley, not to mention TE Austin Hooper, a Pro Bowler last season. Suddenly, protecting Ryan became priority-one for the Falcons when they proceeded to snap up two offensive linemen in the first round of this year’s draft.

The schedule is a bit of a paradox as Atlanta takes on 8 foes in its first nine games that were either winning teams or in the playoffs last season. With it, 6 of its last seven games to conclude the season will come against opponents that owned losing records in 2018. As a result, should they fly right throughout the first half of the campaign behind former OC Dirk Koetter, the Dirty Birds could be back in postseason play.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: QB Matt Ryan is 10-1 SUATS in home openers with the Falcons.

PLAY ON: at New Orleans (11/10)

INSIDE THE STATS: The Falcons are 12-22 SU and 10-24 ATS the L5Y in games where they were outgained.

Carolina Panthers


Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8 (under -120)
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 132.5

Suddenly, Superman’s cape is wearing thin. Cam Newton insists recovery from off-season shoulder surgery has been “unbelievable.” He says that he has regained full strength in his arm. Newton’s statement came after months of speculation that his shoulder just wasn’t right, and many observers questioned whether his throwing shoulder, for which he had undergone surgery in 2017, would ever be the same. At the start of the 2018 season, Newton claimed he felt better than he had in years. He quickly guided his team to a 6-2 record. But the former Heisman Trophy winner and league MVP struggled in the second half of the season, often relying on backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to throw Hail Mary passes, and critics once again asked if his shoulder was healthy. Newton later admitted he often struggled to throw the ball 30 yards down the field and the Panthers shut down their franchise quarterback for the last two games of the season. It’s what happens when you suddenly turn old.

Following a 7-9 campaign last year, Carolina looked to get younger this offseason. For openers, they turned to the AAF and signed six players. On the other side of the ball, first-year DC Eric Washington struggled as the defense declined 30 YPG. First-round pick Brian Burns is a stud and should help fill the gap at either DE or LB. And the addition of DT Gerald McCoy should help a deep and athletic defensive line. Finally, adding West Virginia QB Will Grier should provide adequate insurance should Newton wear down again at season’s end.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Carolina is 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS as a dog against foes coming off a SU underdog win under head coach Ron Rivera.

PLAY ON: vs. Atlanta (11/17) - *KEY

INSIDE THE STATS: The Panthers are 24-10 ITS in their last 34 games outside the NFC South division.

New Orleans Saints


Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 10.5
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 130

The Saints made major strides in adding weapons for Drew Brees in what could be the final push to get him back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 10 years when they added TE Jared Cook. With WR Ted Ginn Jr. in a contract year, they will combine with WR Michael Thomas to provide an aerial assault as good as any in the league. Taylor comes off his finest season as a pro in 2018 with 125 catches for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns.

In addition, star RB Alvin Kamara welcomes Latavius Murray in the backfield. With Pro Bowl C Max Unger now retired, the Saints selected Erik McCoy with their first pick in the draft. McCoy allowed just one sack in 39 starts at Texas A&M. The elephant in the room is how much longer the 40-year old Brees can continue to perform at his Hall of Fame level. The fact that he had a 74.4 completion percentage last season, breaking his own record, puts those thoughts immediately to rest. No one in the history of the NFL has come close to being that accurate. After being one play away from the Super Bowl each of the past two seasons, and playing with a chip on their shoulder that would rival Mount Kilimanjaro, the Saints appear ready to go mountain climbing in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Saints are 33-13-1 ATS in games following consecutive SUATS wins under Sean Payton, including 23-4-1 ATS against winning foes.

PLAY ON: at LA Rams (9/15) - *KEY

INSIDE THE STATS: QB Drew Brees has thrown for 4,000 or more yards in each of the last 13 seasons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 6.5 (under -120)
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 132.5

After the Bucs outyarded 10 of their 16 opponents last year – yet somehow finished with a 5-11 record – new head coach Bruce Arians brings a 49-30-1 SU all-time mark as an NFL head coach to Tampa Bay. Arians’ forte is developing quarterbacks, working his magic with Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer. He was brought aboard with the hopes of resurrecting Jameis Winston’s career. The former Heisman Trophy winner is in the final year of his contract and needs to show vast improvement to maintain his starting status in this league.

Meanwhile, the Bucs concentrated on repairing a leaking defense that had taken a step backward each of the last three seasons when six of their eight draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball. New DC Todd Bowles comes over from the New York Jets where his body of work featured one of the best run defenses in the NFL, holding teams to just 4.0 yards per carry, the sixth-lowest figure in the NFL during that span. Bowles’ Jets defense also allowed opposing offenses to convert only 36.0 percent of third downs, the fourth-lowest mark in the league. Opposing passers also completed just 60.6 percent of their throws against the Jets under Bowles, the third-lowest mark in the NFL. If any team in this division should stumble, look for the ‘A’ train to put Winston and the defense back on the right track.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: NFL away teams in the first Thursday night game of the season (the Bucs this year) are 1-15 SU and 2-10-4 ATS.

PLAY ON: vs. NY Giants (9/22)

INSIDE THE STATS: The Bucs have gone 6-18 ITS at home in division games the last 8 years.

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