The prohibitive favorite is once again the odds on the choice to win the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints have won this division in each of the last 3 seasons and at they have the shortest odds entering the 2020 campaign (-125).
Can New Orleans Four-Peat?
- Division Odds: -125
The defending champs of the South did not make too many changes to their roster in this offseason but they did make a couple of moves at needed positions without losing anything at all.
The biggest addition was that of Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver. Sanders while being a threat in his own right will require attention from the defense and that is just what Michael Thomas needs. Thomas is arguably one of the best receivers in the league if not the best, being one of the most sure-handed receivers for sure. He can change the game at any given time with his route running and speed. He should benefit greatly from the added defensive attention to a quick slot receiver such as Sanders– a slot receiver with experience and breakaway speed, something that the Saints have not had opposite Thomas.
Can Tampa Bay Put it All Together Quickly?
- Division Odds: +150
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have completely revamped their roster in this offseason as one of the most active teams in the free agency market. The biggest acquisition, of course, is of the GOAT…Tom Brady.
Talk about an upgrade. Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions as the Bucs starter last season, so they went out and got the greatest QB of all time. Wow!! That has to have Buccaneers fans looking at the glass as half full this season…and of course Brady brought down his good friend, Rob Gronkowski, to try to bring home another Super Bowl ring.
They also had a very good draft taking players that should contribute right away on both sides of the ball. And most recently adding disgruntled FA RB Leonard Fournette from the Jaguars and backup QB Josh Rosen from the Dolphins. But is this going to be as successful as everyone thinks?
Sure, Brady has more weapons on one roster than he saw collectively in New England over the past 20 years. And yes, the Buccaneers defense was 6th in DVOA in 2019 but it just seems too easy to crown them due to all of these changes.
I’m pretty sure that Bill Belichick never uttered the words “No Risk It, No Biscuit” to Brady and I’m not sure that this type of offense is going to be Brady’s offense of choice. Quarterbacks get hit at higher rates in Bruce Arians’ offenses and we all know that Brady doesn’t like getting hit. I’m sure some compromises will have to be made if Brady has hopes of raising the Lombardi Trophy once again.
With the greatest QB of all time, unarguably the best receiving tandem in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, three of the better tight ends in the league, and this offensive game plan of chucking it all over the yard, fan or not, at least it will be fun to watch.
Trust the ReTooled Falcons?
- Division Odds: +800
The Atlanta Falcons have made minimal changes to pretty good offense in 2019 and the moves they did make seem like pretty lateral moves to me.
Atlanta lost a pass rusher, a tight end, and a running back and they picked up each of those positions; there weren’t a lot of upgrades or downgrades on any one of the tradeoffs. Devonta Freeman never really panned out as they had hoped, so they went out and got Todd Gurley. Who knows what Gurley still has in the tank? There are many reports out there either defending Gurley, saying that he was going to get 20 carries per game, or stating that he is not any healthier than he was at season’s end last year.
Vic Beasley is gone, another player who just couldn’t stay on the field enough to grow into his potential as the Falcons had hoped. Atlanta replaced him with Dante Fowler from the Rams and it’s easy to see why. Fowler was a hidden gem on a defense that was flush with talent from the D Line back to the secondary. He has more upside at this point that Beasley and could end up being a prominent part of the Falcons defense moving forward.
The other trade-off was at tight end where they lost Austin Hooper and picked up Hayden Hurst. Hurst could be a bit of an upgrade as the feature TE in this offense as he was buried in a three-way battle at that spot in Baltimore.
The Falcons need to see a vast improvement on the defensive side of the ball. They did improve off a 30th ranked defense in 2018 to be a middle of the pack defense in 2019 but if they don’t continue to improve HC Dan Quinn could be looking for a new job by midseason. Owner Arthur Blank has already gone on record stating that Quinn needs to make the playoffs now, so he’s out the door if the Falcons continue to backslide this season.
Outlook for the Panthers?
- Division Odds: +2200
No team in the entire league has made a bigger overhaul this offseason that the Carolina Panthers. They made wholesale changes starting with leadership, as coach Matt Rhule is making the jump from Baylor where he had a high-flying offense. Joining Ruhle is OC Joe Brady from an even higher-flying offense: the most recent national champion LSU Tigers.
Teddy Bridgewater was picked up to be the starting QB in place of Cam Newton and LB Luke Kuechly retired from the NFL. Run CMC, Christian McCaffrey is one of the few constants to remain in Carolina this year. And because of all of the change, the Panthers are listed at (+2200) at Draftkings to win this division and rightfully so.
With the Saints and all of the additions to the Buccaneers, it would seem to be an insurmountable accomplishment for the Panthers to take the division, but I do think that they can make some noise in the NFC South this year and definitely in the near future. Bridgewater will be crucial to the Panthers’ success, but he has done nothing but win thus far in his career when he’s healthy. If he can stay upright it should bode well for this offense this year. The offense is unlikely to be the problem for the Carolina Panthers in 2020.
The defense has been decimated and HC Matt Rhule, an offensive mind, knew that entering the draft this year. Rhule had 7 draft picks and they were all on the defensive side of the ball. Derek Brown out of Auburn was the 7th overall pick and should be a force out of the gate. He is respected by many to be the most pro-ready player in the entire rookie class of 2020. But he is going to need a lot of help behind him.
The loss of Luke Kuechly, due to retirement, could be the most devastating blow to this defense. He’s been the man to call signals and lead the team in tackles for as long as he has been in the league. Word out of camp thus far is that Matt Rhule has changed the culture in Carolina. He has the team playing together at an up-tempo pace and it looks like change is in the air. I just don’t know if they have enough talent to compete for the division title in 2020.
*Odds via DraftKings