We thought that the Falcons were poor bets to repeat to begin with, as teams that have surprising seasons like Atlanta did last season usually regress the following year. We like the Saints to win this division now that they should have a running game, and the Buccaneers are capable of surprising at a decent price. We are picking the Falcons to fall to third this season.
New Orleans Saints (+120): Drew Brees carried this team by himself last season as the Saints got virtually nothing out of the running game. Enter first round pick Mark Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama who should be the starter right from the get-go, making life easier for Brees. On the other side of the ball, the Saints actually led the NFC in total defense last season although you wouldn’t know it the way the Seahawks shredded them in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Enter their other first round pick, defensive end Cameron Jordan. This team drafted wisely and may face the Packers in the NFC Championship game.
(Also see: Saints Super Bowl Odds – Over/Under Wins – NFC Champ Odds)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+400): The Bucs were a surprising 10-6 last year, though many people are writing that off as a fluke as they did not beat a team that finished the year over .500 until the last game of the year, and that was vs. a disinterested Saints team. That said, the Tampa Bay defense is legitimate, quarterback Josh Freeman developed nicely as the season went on and running back LeGarrette Blount is now the starter from the get-go after a great second half last season. This is a team on the rise that can make for a solid wild card push.
(Also see: TB Bucs Super Bowl Odds – Over/Under Wins – NFC Champ Odds)
Also see: Super Bowl Odds | Odds to win NFC Conference | Week 1 Lines
Atlanta Falcons (+120): The Falcons finished as the top seed in the NFC, but things will be different with targets on their backs, especially with the Saints and Buccaneers both improved. Interestingly, the last two top seeds that lost in the first round (paper tigers) failed to make the playoffs the next year. Atlanta was weak against the run allowing 4.6 yards per rush. However, instead of addressing this need, they traded a couple of draft picks in order to move up and took wide receiver Julio Jones at number six to compliment Roddy White. That did nothing to help the defense and we are not sure that a second receiver is worth losing a pick over.
(Also see: Falcons Super Bowl Odds – Over/Under Wins – NFC Champ Odds)
Carolina Panthers (+2000): The Panthers resembled a pee-wee league team for much of last season, as the offense was excruciating to watch while averaging 12.2 points and 258.4 yards per game; dead last in the NFL on both counts. Cam Newton may turn out to be a good NFL quarterback but he won’t be great, and he does not have much around him to work with. He will feel the usual rookie growing pains and struggle this season, and only a pretty good Carolina defense will allow the Panthers to improve slightly upon last year’s 2-14 fiasco.
(Also see: Panthers Super Bowl Odds – Over/Under Wins – NFC Champ Odds)
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