2020 NFC South Preview – Prediction and Best Bet
29 August 2020
Thanks for stopping back for the sixth division in our eight part series. We are covering every division to get you primed for the NFL season. We will provide some insight on each team in the division, what to expect in 2020 and ultimately the pick to win each division and whether or not that team is worth a wager.
The previous five divisions reviews
We are working our way from east to west by division, and the next one up is the NFC South. This is a division that is projected as a two horse race, and rightfully so. I do have a preference of the two in this division. Let’s get to why.
The current odds for NFC South are as follows
🏈New Orleans Saints -130 🏈
🏈 Tampa Bay Buccaneers +150 🏈
🏈 Atlanta Falcons +800 🏈
🏈 Carolina Panthers +2200 🏈
New Orleans Saints -130
The Saints are rightfully the favorites to win this division, and I believe the odds are tighter than they need to be. They are arguably the best offense in a division loaded with high end offensive output, but that is not where they differentiate themselves.
The difference for the Saints is on the defensive side of the ball. They do not have an elite unit in comparison to the rest of the league, but compared to the rest of the division, this is easily the cream of the crop. Simply hovering around the top one third of the league in scoring defense, yardage allowed and takeaways differentiated the Saints from the remainder of the division last season. No other team in the division sniffed that outcome in two of the categories, let alone three, and we should expect a repeat of that this season.
We mentioned the elite offense and that is highly unlikely to change. Quarterback Drew Brees appears to be making his last run in partnership with head coach Sean Payton, and certainly does not lack for weaponry. Also returning are stars Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara who will be complemented by Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, Latavius Murray and swiss army knife Taysom Hill. Once Brees moves on, it is likely the offense gets an overhaul with Taysom Hill running an offense more similar to the one run by Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, but for this year it will be Brees and what we are familiar with. In the event Brees were to miss time, Jameis Winston has been brought in to be the direct backup to Brees, which means the offense wouldn’t need an overhaul mid season and there would be more ease of transition.
The Saints are easily the best bet for the division, and at a favorable price. They remain the best coached team in the division and have balance no other team in the division can rival.
Betting Play: New Orleans Saints -130
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +150
If there were to be a team to unseat the Saints, the Buccaneers would be the best bet. Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich once again oversee this team, with a big addition under center. Of course Tom Brady moved on from New England down to Tampa Bay, and will be the trigger man for a high end group of pass catchers, headlined by Chris Godwin. Mike Evans is more name hype than ability but he remains a net positive on the field, and a strong trio of tight ends including Rob Gronkowski are also available. This offense will have no problems at all in 2020, but the overall success of the season will be determined by the defense.
The defense as a whole is a tough one to project for 2020. In 2019, they were fourth worst in the league in scoring defense, but the accompanying stats paint a bit of a different picture. They were middle of the pack in yardage allowed but were much better in yards per play allowed, slotting eight in the league. A big reason for this is the amount of turnovers given away by the offense, which should be corrected with Brady at the helm this season. If it turns out that the defense can bring balance to this team, they could compete with the Saints in the wins and losses columns, but that is something of a big if. When considering the minimal difference in betting price with the Saints, there is no value in a wager on the Bucs.
Atlanta Falcons +800
This organization had a chance to move forward this offseason and part ways with head coach Dan Quinn, but they dropped the ball. The result will be more of the same mediocrity and a season that will be lost as they are jammed in neutral. It can’t be understated how much a coaching change could have helped this franchise, and it will be viewed as a mistake in six months time.
Matt Ryan remains a high end quarterback and Julio Jones remains an elite receiver. Hayden Hurst and Calvin Ridley will also be notable in the passing game. The team also made a mostly lateral move, replacing Devonta Freeman with Todd Gurley in the backfield. The offense will once again be good, but likely unbalanced once again. I don’t see the running game being able to keep up with the passing game, and that has been a plague of this offense for some time. The passing game is high end, but the overall result will be mediocrity, especially when considering the defense.
The defense, which hovered under or around the bottom third of the league in scoring defense, yardage allowed and yards per play, will be very similar in 2020. They simply won’t have the balance the Saints have and are likely well behind the Bucs as well. A coaching change could have helped change the fortunes, but that would have been no certainty. In any event, this is a team that will be stuck in the middle of the standings in 2020.
Carolina Panthers +2200
The Panthers have a new coaching staff headed by Matt Rhule, and he should bring excitement to the offense. That statement is saying something significant, considering the pieces the Panthers have in place at the skill positions. Christian McCaffrey remains, easily, the league’s best running back and his presence alone keeps the offense effective enough. Now consider that emerging star receiver DJ Moore is primed to make a true ascension and is now complemented by Robby Anderson, in addition to Curtis Samuel. The overall effectiveness of the offense will likely fall on the triggerman, now journeyman Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater revived his career in relief of Drew Brees for the Saints last year after a knee injury threatened his career while in Minnesota. He has parlayed that relief stint into a starting gig for the Panthers under a coaching staff that should bring an exciting offense, and will be given every chance to shine. The offense will be exciting this year, and will be given lots of chances, as the defense is pretty awful.
This was the second worst scoring defense last season, and will not be much improved this season, if at all. This unit will lead to shoot outs, and the offense will be effective enough to make the games competitive and fun, but it is a long shot that the Panthers can make the win and loss columns on the positive end.
The Saints are a superb value at just -130 and are absolutely the team to target when making wagers on the NFC South.
Betting Play: New Orleans Saints -130