NFC South NFL 2018 Season Predictions And Betting Picks
For those NFL fans who love to gamble, its been a terrific year.
Thats because on May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on gambling known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
Now instead of having to go to Las Vegas to bet on professional and college football games, gamblers will be able to go to their local betting parlors and casinos in whichever state they live to place whatever NFL bets they like.
Unfortunately, though, thats going to take a little more time to get set up.
So until all those new American parlors and casinos are put in place (and they will be!), online betting will continue to rule.
However and wherever you choose to place your bets, the 2018 NFL season will provide fans with plenty of opportunities to gamble, so we thought wed offer a little help in that department.
This article series lists the current odds posted at four of the top online NFL betting sites:
- BETOnline (BO)
- Intertops (IT)
- SPORTSBetting (SB)
- GT Bets (GT)
Weve included the betting odds for every team in each NFL division, their chances of winning their division, their conference and the Super Bowl. But remember, odds can change, so be sure to check whats actually listed online before placing any bets.
Only gamble what you can afford to lose but study the odds to keep your losing to a minimum and shop around for the best odds to keep your winning to a maximum.
This is the NFC South
Three-out-of-four NFC South teams made the playoffs last season.
The 11-5 New Orleans Saints won this historically tough division after a slow 0-2 start by going on an eight game winning streak. The Saints clinched the top spot in their division and went on to beat the Carolina Panthers in the Wildcard game, 31-26. But Case Keenums Vikings beat them in the fourth quarter of their matchup, 29-24. The question for 2018 did the Saints improve their pass defense and find Brees a few more effective pass catchers?
The 2017 Carolina Panthers improved on their 6-10 2016 record by going 11-5 and taking second place in the AFC South. That qualified them for one of the NFC Wildcard spots in the playoffs, which they lost to the Saints 31-26. Their main offseason goals: 1) improve their 19th ranked offense, and 2) find quarterback Cam Newton some new targets.
The third-place 10-6 Atlanta Falcons also scored a Wildcard spot in the playoffs and almost went to the Super Bowl (again). The Falcons beat the LA Rams 26-13 but lost to the eventual Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles 15-10. For the Falcons to do even better in 2018, their three best players have to re-discover their excellence.
For the seventh time in nine seasons the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished last in the NFC South with a record of 5-11. Thats mostly thanks to a poor defense and an early kicking situation. Heads will fly and jobs will be lost if the Bucs offseason moves dont turn things around.
The New Orleans Saints (+2200 to win SB LIII)
The 11-5 New Orleans Saints barely won the NFC South with the NFLs 2nd best offense last season, so general manager Mickey Loomis has tried to address the Saints biggest concern this offseason: their defense.
The Saints defense was 17th in the league overall, which is actually a marked improvement over the two years prior when they were ranked 32nd and 31st.
Loomis spent the offseason making defensive improvements.
New and improved Saints defense
The good news: coordinator Dennis Allens defense was third in the league in interceptions (20), ranked tenth in opponent points per game (20.4) and tied for seventh in total sacks (42).
To improve those numbers, Loomis moved up in the draft and grabbed an edge rusher in the first round, UT San Antonios Marcus Davenport, who made 8.5 sacks in 2017 earning him Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.
Another big move was signing free agent corner Patrick Robinson (PHI) who just won a Super Bowl ring. Hell join the secondarys two All Rookies, cornerback Marshon Lattimore (5 picks last season) and free safety Marcus Williams (4 picks) and safety Vonn Bell (4.5 sacks).
Still counting on old man Brees
Its difficult to tell that quarterback Drew Brees is 39-years-old in 2018, especially when you look at his 2017 numbers:
- 4,334 passing yards (4th in the league);
- 72.0 completion percentage (career-high)
- 8 interceptions (last year he had 15)
The one area he slipped a bit was in total touchdowns (23), which was low for him, since the prior two seasons he put up 37 and 32 TDs. So Loomis went out and got Brees some players who could catch the ball.
New (and returning) targets for Brees
Loomis signed free agent wide receiver Cameron Meredith (CHI), re-signed undrafted free agent Brandon Coleman and drafted TreQuan Smith (Central Florida) in the third round. He also added free agent receivers Michael Floyd (MIN) and Brandon Tate (BUF) to the mix and its completely upped the competition at training camp.
Veteran tight end Benjamin Watson (BAL) was signed for his hands, having caught 61 balls in 2017 for 522 yards and 4 TDs.
Wide receivers Michael Thomas (104 catches for 1,245 yards and 5 TDs) and Ted Ginn Jr. (53 receptions for 787 yards and 4 TDs) return to the Saints 5th ranked passing offense.
With a better defense and a few more touchdown targets for Brees, its a good bet that the Saints will come out on top of the NFC South again in 2018 and take another decent run at the Super Bowl.
Odds that the New Orleans Saints will win:
The NFC South: BO: +150, IT: +180, SB: +150, GT: +160
The NFC Championship: BO: +1000, IT: +1000, SB: +1000, GT: +1100
The Super Bowl: BO: +1600, IT: +1600, SB: +1600, GT: +2200
The Carolina Panthers (+3500 to win SB LIII)
The Carolina Panthers were an impressive 11-5 last season, though in the tough NFC South that was only good enough to score them a Wildcard playoff spot. The Panthers played the Saints but couldnt score anything but field goals until the fourth quarter and got beaten 31-26.
Head coach Ron Rivera expects bigger and better numbers from quarterback Cam Newton and interim general manager Marty Hurney used this offseason to find Newton some new receivers.
Cams excellent but has to be better
In 2017, Newton threw for 3,302 yards (ranked 18th) but with only a 59.1 completion rate. He posted 22 TDs but had 16 interceptions and 9 fumbles, only one of which was lost. The Panthers were 4th in the NFL in total rushing yards (2,102), and a third of that was the result of Newton, who ran 139 times for 754 yards and 6 TDs.
Newton will be working on improving those numbers with a new offensive coordinator this season. The Panthers replaced Mike Shula with veteran coach Norv Turner, whos served as coordinator for six teams and been a head coach for three other teams.
Deep-threats have been added
Newton needed more deep-threat targets to throw to so Hurneys front office traded the Eagles for wide receiver Torrey Smith who made 36 catches for 430 yards and 2 TDs for the Super Bowl winners.
Hurney also drafted D.J. Moore in the first round. Moore was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2017, catching 80 balls for 1,033 yards and 8 TDs, a Maryland University record. Experts compare him to Panthers legend Steve Smith, including Smith himself.
Panther defense improved and under new leadership
Former line coach Eric Washington is now the defensive coordinator in charge of a run-defense thats ranked in the top six in the league in four of the last six seasons. Panthers drafted three linebackers in the later rounds Marquis Haynes (Mississippi), Jermaine Carter (Maryland) and Andre Smith (NC).
Carolina has finished top ten in total sacks for five of the last six seasons. In 2017, they ranked third with 50 total sacks, almost half of which came from defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mario Addison, who grabbed 11 sacks apiece.
The Panthers also beefed up their 18th ranked pass defense:
- signed free safety DaNorris Searcy (TEN);
- signed cornerback Ross Cockrell (NYG);
- drafted 2 cornerbacks in the 3rd round
- LSUs Donte Jackson and
- Tennessees Rashaan Gaulden.
Gamblers be aware: veteran weak side linebacker Thomas Davis will miss the first four games for violating the leagues PED policy.
Its a good bet the Panthers will compete in 2018, but the odds of them winning a Super Bowl look fairly steep (though somewhat tempting).
Odds that the Carolina Panthers will win:
The NFC South: BO: +275, IT: +260, SB: +275, GT: +255
The NFC Championship: BO: +1600, IT: +1400, SB: +1600, GT: +1800
The Super Bowl: BO: +3300, IT: +2500, SB: +3300, GT: +3500
The Atlanta Falcons (+2400 to win SB LIII)
After the Atlanta Falcons beat the LA Rams 26-13 in the Wildcard game last season, they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles 15-10.
The main problem: the Falcons 8th ranked offense only scored one touchdown.
To his credit, general manager Thomas Dimitroff didnt use the offseason to overhaul the Falcons completely. He did, however, use the draft to improve a few things.
Wider receiver room now deeper
The Falcons took Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the first round of the draft. The speedy wide receiver who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the combine had 63 catches for 967 yards and 5 touchdowns at college last season.
Hell join All Pro Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy and a passing offense that gained 249.4 yards per game, 8th best in the league.
Atlantas defense benefits from the draft
Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuels 12th ranked passing defense was improved by drafting cornerback Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) in the second round. Olivers speed (ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.5 seconds) and size (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) will allow him to compete with Robert Alford as an outside corner opposite Desmond Trufant.
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe left for the Carolina Panthers, so the Falcons drafted Deadrin Senat (South Florida) in the third round to fill the hole. They also drafted linebacker Foye Oluokun (Yale) to join Deion Jones and his crew. Jones ranked 4th in the league for tackles last season with 138 while also managing to snag 3 interceptions.
Ryan, Freeman and Jones must play like its 2016
For the Falcons to return to Super Bowl glory, second year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian needs even more production from his three star players.
Quarterback Matt Ryans 2017 stats are quality 342 passes for 4,095 yards (6th in the league) and 20 TDs with 12 picks for a passer rating of 91.4. But his 2016 Super Bowl season numbers were even better: 373 passes for 4,944 yards and 38 TDs with only 7 interceptions for a passer rating of 117.1.
Running back Devonta Freeman ran for 865 yards and 7 TDs and only caught 36 passes for 317 yards and 1 TD in 2017, but during the 2016 Super Bowl season he ran for 1,079 yards and 11 TDs and caught 54 passes for 462 yards and 2 TDs.
Last season, All Pro receiver Julio Jones caught 88 balls for 1,444 yards (2nd in the league) for 3 TDs, but his postseason play paled in comparison to 2016. In both seasons playoffs, Jones caught almost the same number of balls (18 and 19) but for 139 less yards and 2 less TDs in 2017.
The gamble this season is whether these three Falcons superstars are still capable of Super Bowl season stats because if they are, its a good bet theyll make another championship run.
Odds that the Atlanta Falcons will win:
The NFC South: BO: +175, IT: +180, SB: +175, GT: +200
The NFC Championship: BO: +1000, IT: +1000, SB: +1000, GT: +1200
The Super Bowl: BO: +1600, IT: +1800, SB: +1600, GT: +2400
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+8000 to win SB LIII)
2017 was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10th consecutive season without a playoff appearance. The Bucs only went 5-11 and ended up (once again) at last place in the NFC South.
Tampas defensive and kicking needs were addressed this offseason by general manager Jason Licht.
Bucs D problems addressed
Coordinator Mike Smiths defense was ranked worst in the NFL last season. They were weak against both the pass and run, so Licht used free agency and the draft to try to fix the problems.
He traded the New York Giants for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and signed free agents Vinny Curry (PHI) and Mitch Unrein (CHI). Licht also got two new tackles first round draft pick Vita Vea (Washington) and free agent Beau Allen (PHI).
Licht also drafted two cornerbacks, M.J. Stewart (North Carolina), Carlton Davis (Auburn) and a safety, Jordan Whitehead (Pitt). Theyll work to improve a Bucs secondary that allowed an NFL worst 260.6 yards per game and snagged only 13 interceptions last season.
In only 13 games, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 3,504 yards and 19 touchdowns, putting him 13th best among NFL quarterbacks. Winston missed three games with a shoulder injury but that didnt keep Licht from picking up his fifth-year option.
Winston is healthy now but will miss the first three games this season due to a suspension based on off-the-field behavior. As a result, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has been getting most of the first team snaps at training camp.
but Vea might not be
First-round pick defensive tackle Vita Vea was reportedly carted off the field during training camp after suffering what appeared to be a left leg injury. Hes impressed head coach Dirk Koetter with his ability to displace guards with one arm.
The full extent of the injury or whether Vea will miss any playing time isnt known yet.
The Buccaneers have changed running backs
Tampa Bays offense was ranked 9th overall, but their rushing yards per game (90.6) was ranked 27th. In their first roster move since the start of training camp, Tampa has signed running back Dare Ogunbowale and waived Dalton Crossan with an injury designation.
Ogunbowale, who spent time on the Bucs practice squad last season, will compete with returning backs Peyton Barber (108 carries for 423 yards and 3 TDs with 16 receptions and 2 fumbles last season), Jacquizz Rodgers (244 yards and one TD and nine receptions) and 2nd round draft pick Ronald Jones, a quick running back from USC.
Now that Winston is back, the defense is stronger and newly signed place-kicker Chandler Catanzaro is impressing at training camp, the Buccaneers are a safe bet to be better, but in the tough NFC South, better might not be good enough.
Odds that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win:
The NFC South: BO: +1200, IT: +700, SB: +1200, GT: +900
The NFC Championship: BO: +3300, IT: +3300, SB: +3300, GT: +4000
The Super Bowl: BO: +6600, IT: +6600, SB: +6600, GT: +8000