NFC South; Are the Bucs for real?

SoSWin TotalDiv OddsConf OddsSuperbowl Odds
13New Orleans Saints10.52.1713
23Tampa Bay Buccaneers9.52.638.515
1Atlanta Falcons7.5112651
6Carolina Panthers5.52681201

New Orleans Saints

Last season; 13-3, winner

It looked like missing out on the second seed in the NFC was going to hurt the Saints on their run to the NFC Championship last year, but it turns out the curse is real and they once again fell to the Vikings. Hilariously due to a PI call which the officials didn’t overturn, I for one am happy the league has decided it’s lip service has been paid and they’re not carrying on the farce this year.

Drew Brees. Has he fallen off a cliff? Sure he can pass the ball 5 yards down the field to Michael Thomas 180 times a season but I’m not entirely sure he can do a lot more. He’s been brilliant during his career, but them bringing in Taysom Hill for long passes highlighted a lot for me personally. He’s already got a deal signed with ESPN on retirement, I think this is his last year.

Michael Thomas is great, he catches everything and is the best in the league at what he does, getting open and catching the ball close to the LoS. I’m positive he could do it down the field as well but the current scheme doesn’t highlight that. He’s very good. Outside of him they were really struggling so brought in Emmanuel Sanders who would have won the Superbowl for the 49ers had Jimmy G not overthrown him when wide open, he was a big part of them making the big game and he’s a good addition here. Trequan Smith hasn’t come on as expected, Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr.. they’re names.

Jared Cook had a big season for them last year, I doubt he’ll convert such a high percentage to TDs this year, 21% TD conversion from 43 receptions is generally not repeatable, but they are a team who score points and he’s shown he’s good in the redzone. Josh Hill is also a TE.

Alvin Kamara contract issues popped up this week with the Saints bitching about him not practising and saying they’d trade him, his agent snapping back, a lot of public dancing to try and get a contract done. They seem to be offering Joe Mixon money (12m per) while he seemingly wants closer to CmCC (16m) I’m fairly sure it’ll get done. He was banged up last year so his stats don’t look great (just the 6 TDs after 13 and 18 in his first two years), but he’s shown he can be electric on the field, an epidural to get through practise isn’t exactly great though. He should bounce back if he’s healthy again, 8-10 TDs is probably reasonable. Latavius Murray took the Mark Ingram role and did it well averaging 4.4 yards per carry (the 2nd best of his career) and 5 TDs himself and had big games when Kamara was out injured.

The defense is good too, Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins, Kiki Alonso, Malcolm Jenkins… all big names back there and they’re good up front with Cameron Jordan leading the way after 15.5 sacks last year.

They were the clear best team last season, and I think they’ll win it again. They’re favourites in 15 of their 16 games this year, opening with the Bucs will be VERY interesting as a litmus test of both teams. The Saints are famously terrible opening the season winning just 1 of their last 5 week 1 games, and 2 of their last 10 week 1 and 2 games. – They have a far tougher second half of the schedule, so if you like the Bucs then back them at week 8 before they play the Saints again.

Last yr.LowestHighest
Drew Brees pass yds2979 (11)3900.54049.5
Drew Brees TDs2729.530.5
Michael Thomas rec. yds.1,7251374.51375.5
Michael Thomas TDs98.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season; 7-9, third

30 and 30 and 5,000+ yards for Jameis last year meant they didn’t even get a 0.500 record despite a massively improved defense under Bruce Arians, so they moved on and brought in some old bloke from the North East. I was all the way off the Bucs for most of the off-season, when the win total jumped from 7.5 to 9.5 I was more than happy to take the under, and I still think it will be, but I’ve got to admit they might be all right this year.

Can Tom Brady still play? Can he maximise the weapons he’s got, probably the best weapons he’s had for at least a decade… I’m not sure. I’m not sure he can throw downfield very well any more, I’m not sure he’ll adapt to this new offensive line, I’m not sure whether he can play at 42. I know it’s stupid to doubt him but this is uncharted territory for a QB, if anyone can have a good season at that age, it’s the Pharaoh.

With the skillset of his signal-caller it looks likely that Chris Godwin will lead the WRs in receiving yards this year, he plays a lot more in the slot so should get more of the ball and fantasy players definitely expect that to be the case, he truly broke out last season with 1,333 yards, 3rd in the league and 9 TDs all from just 14 games. He’s opposite Mike Evans who’s topped 1,000 yards every year he’s been in the league continuing that trend with 1,157 from 13 games, he’s always been a little hit and miss for me personally, some huge games followed by zeroes and he’s more of a downfield threat where I’m just not sure Brady can service him properly. They might be the best top two in the league, they also might not even be the best top two in the division… what I do know is there’s not much behind them. Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson? All speedy guys, and Brady will at least add accuracy for them.

They’ve got a trinity of talented tight ends with OJ Howard, Cameron Brate and the returning Rob Gronkowski after his year off. The thing is, tight ends don’t do much in Arians systems so we’ve got to rely on them changing a lot to accommodate Brady, which they will. I think he’ll be mainly a pass blocker and red zone threat, but who knows. OJ Howard was hugely hyped last year but flattered to decieve just 34 receptions and 1 TD. Cameron Brate was always a favourite of Jamies, but didn’t do much either.

Running back looked like it was fairly sorted with Ronald Jones the main man, Lesean McCoy behind him for third downs. Then they went and brought in Leonard Fournette after his release from Jacksonville. I think it’s probably still RoJo’s position to lose, but it sure does muddy the water a bit. It seems any hope of Keshawn Vaughn doing anything this year is dead.

They had the best run defense in the league last year according to DVOA, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea are giants up front, Devin White, JPP and Lavonte David are a great LB group, and even their secondary was pretty good too despite constantly being put in bad positions by ints thrown by their QB. Oh, and of course, Shaq Barrett lead the league in sacks last year and got franchised tagged for his work.

They’re gonna be good. They’ve got a lot of prime-time games so will have to deal with that, there’s a ton of pressure on them, can they handle it? They’re only dogs in 3 games, both against the Saints and somehow in Chicago (it won’t be that cold in October) – They don’t have any 3 games in a row that i’d say were all losses, and Falcons 2 of the last 3 games could be very important in the division.

Last yr.LowestHighest
Tom Brady pass yds.4,0574,224.54,300.5
Tom Brady TDs2429.5
Chris Godwin rec. yds.1,3331,099
Chris Godwin TDs97.5
Mike Evans rec. yds.1,1571,049.51,150.5
Mike Evans TDs87.5
Rob Gronkowski rec. yds.599.5600.5
Gronk TDs55.5
atlallday.com

Atlanta Falcons

Last season; 7-9, second

Weird year for the dirty birds. 1-6 going into their bye and looking like Dan Quinn would lose his job, he clearly thought that too so gave up defensive playcalling to a team of two who did different downs and it made a difference on the field as they won 6 of their last 9 games and earned Quinn another season at head coach.

I like Matt Ryan, I don’t really get the criticism on him to be honest, he’s a very good QB. He finished last year with 4,466 yards, 26 TDs from 15 games last season, not the most effective in that area in fairness but he’s consistent and that’s mostly what you’re after from the position.

Julio Jones…is the BEST RECEIVER IN THE LEAGUE. A physical freak, can make any catch anywhere on the field and take them to the house, he finished the season with 99 receptions, 1,394 yards (good for 2nd in the league) although just 6 TDs for the season. Amazingly for a man of his skill they still don’t seem to be able to find him in the endzone having only hit double digits in 9 seasons so far, he’s also damn good at tackling too. It definitely benefits Calvin Ridley having that man opposite him and he’s grown year on year in the league with 17 TDs in 30 career game for the Falcons so far, and he would have hit 1,000 yards had he played the full 16 last season. I’m expecting big things from him this year. Amazingly Russell Gage was the most targeted WR in the red zone last year. I have no idea why. Olamide Zaccheus scored the longest TD of the year late last year. Cool name. They also signed Laquon Treadwell giving them 11 first round picks able to start on offense.

They let Austin Hooper go after scoring 6 TDs for them last year and replaced him with Hayden Hurst from the Ravens. I don’t think it’s much of a downgrade to be honest, Hurst was a first round pick and is a good all round TE with wonderful hair.

The run game depends on Todd Gurley’s knee essentially after they got him on a good home-team deal following his release from the Rams. I do wonder how bad that knee is as the Rams basically paid to get rid of him and they’ll know better than anyone how healthy he is but it’s a worthwhile risk at the price. Behind him you’re hoping Brian Hill or Ito Smith can step in when needed, or Qadree Ollison who vultured a TD or 4 last year.

Can their defense carry on the end of season form? It might do, no doubt one of them will suffer a terrible injury in week one as seems to happen, they brought in Dante Fowler up front to go alongside Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley, I can tell you Dennard is a great slot corner so they’ve improved there as well.

Ugh, they’ve got the toughest schedule in the league. That’s the one thing putting me off thinking they’ll do well this year. They’ll be able to put up points (5th in total yardage last year) but will they keep enough out? I just don’t know. Favourites in 6 games, dogs in 10. If things go right they could win this division still.

Last yr.LowestHighest
Matt Ryan pass yds.4,466 (15)4,499.54,500.5
Matt Ryan TDs2626.527.5
Julio Jones rec. yds. 1,3941,300.51349.5
Julio Jones TDs66.57
Calvin Ridley rec. yds.8661025.5
Calvin Ridley TDs76.5

Carolina Panthers

Last season; 5-11, fourth

The Panthers are in rebuild mode, they gave new coach Matt ‘Ja’ Rhule a massive long-term contract, they moved on from Cam Newton at QB, they lost the best LB in the league with Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke Keuchly retiring and drafted exclusively on defense in this years draft. Rhule has made his teams great wherever he’s been in college but it tends to take a year or two, and they’ve brought in Joe Brady who coached the greatest college season in history last year as the OC at LSU.

They brought in Teddy Bridgewater who is much maligned for his 6.2 air yards per attempt last season, but that was part of the design in New Orleans, look at Drew Brees’ stats, they’re very similar. I still believe Teddy is able to air it out and I think he will in this offense.

He’s got the weapons there after bringing in Robby Anderson to join Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore. A lot of people think DJ Moore is going to explode this year in the slot with the QB he’s now got. He was really good last year wit 1,175 yards with really shit QB play, so I get the hype to an extent, I’m just not sure he’ll be targeted as much as most seem to think. Curtis Samuel seems very up and down but I think he should do pretty well this season, he can create something from nothing with his YAC ability as can Moore. The deep threat looks like it will be Robby Anderson who played under Rhule at Baylor so probably knows the system to some extent, he was decent enough at the Jets with a lot of splash plays from far out.

Ian Thomas looks like he’ll be in at TE with Greg Olsen leaving. That’s about all I can say about him. Played a few games last year, scored once. That is all.

Christian McCaffrey ain’t bad. 1,000 and 1,000 for him last season made him the first person since Marshall Faulk to achieve that feat (Roger Craig the only other player ever) and earned him a fresh new $16m per year contract. If you’re two players in one then you get that kind of money. He’s so much fun to watch, stronger than you’d expect, as athletic as anyone and he seems to really enjoy being out there. He was essentially their offense last year finishing with over a third of their total yards and exactly half of their total TDs last year. He’s awesome. If he goes down they won’t win any more games. Reggie Bonnafon? Mike Davis? Quite.

The defense isn’t good. They became the first team to ever draft exclusively on the defensive side of the ball this year. In a fractured off-season that’s not going to be good for them. It should give the Brit Efe Obada a decent amount of game-time though which is good for us.

I can’t see anything other than a 4th place finish for the Panthers, and honestly that’s probably what they’re hoping for with a higher pick next year. They’ve got a good young core on offense and obviously quite a young defense now too, so give them the year to settle in and see how it goes towards the future.

Last yr.LowestHighest
Teddy Bridgewater pass yds.3,500.5
Teddy B TDs18.5
Christian McCaffrey rush+rec2,3921,899.51,900.5
CMcC rush yds.1,387
CMcC Total TDs1913.5
CMcC rush TDs159.5
DJ Moore rec. yds.1,1751050.5

Summary

I’d say it’s 40% 35% 23% 2% in terms of winning the division this year in the order I’ve got them above. The Saints are the favourites as they should be and getting them at plus money is probably a sensible pick. The Bucs should be good, but I’m worried about the amount of changes, the Falcons have the talent and continuity but a terrible schedule, and the Panthers will finish last.

Best bet (s)

Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 TDs – 1.91 (888)

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