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NFC South Odds

With Sean Payton suspended for the entire season last year, the New Orleans Saints faltered, leaving the NFC South wide open for the Atlanta Falcons to take it and run. Atlanta won the division by six games last year, and the race was never really in doubt.

This year, things could be different. While Atlanta is still the favorite, New Orleans should be back at full strength, and Carolina and Tampa Bay could both show signs of improvement as well. The Saints won the division in 2009 and 2011 and the Falcons won it in 2010 and 2012. Who will prevail this season?

Atlanta Falcons (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +130)

Coming off of a second 13-3 SU season and second NFC South title in three years, the Atlanta Falcons appear to have solved the regular season. The next step will be getting results in the playoffs.

RB Steven Jackson should add an established running game to an elite passing attack that features Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. This was already one of the league’s best offenses, and Jackson’s addition only makes it stronger. Atlanta will put up big numbers again in 2013 and steamroll most opponents; whether or not the Falcons win the division along the way will likely come down to head-to-head matchups against the Saints.

New Orleans Saints (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +150)

New Orleans actually finished last season on a decent 7-5 SU and ATS run, but the writing for the Saints’ season was already on the wall after an 0-4 SU and ATS start.

Drew Brees was sensational, and the Saints passing attack continues to torch defenses around the league. Last year, the issue was on defense, where New Orleans had one of the worst defensive performances in NFL history. A new defensive coordinator and defensive scheme can only help matters as there is nowhere to go but up for that unit. Sean Payton’s presence should get the team re-focused and back to an elite level.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +500)

Rookie RB Doug Martin was a breakout star in 2012, and his play led the Buccaneers to a 6-4 SU and 8-2 ATS start. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the league’s worst passing defense eventually caught up to the team as it finished 1-5 SU and 1-4-1 ATS down the stretch.

If healthy, CB Darrelle Revis should make a huge impact on the passing defense as one of the best shutdown corners in the game. But in order to keep up in the NFC South (or more realistically, to fight for a wild card spot), Tampa Bay will need Josh Freeman to step up.

Carolina Panthers (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +550)

It was a tale of two seasons for the Carolina Panthers last year, who went 1-6 SU and 3-4 ATS over their first seven games and 6-3 SU and ATS over their last nine. Which version of the team will we see this season?

The answer rests on the huge shoulders of QB Cam Newton. The team’s leading passer and rusher, Newton is the focal point of the offense and the pressure lies on him to produce. If he plays to his potential and grows as a leader, the sky is the limit for him and the Panthers; will this be the year?

2012 Preview

The New Orleans took quite a beating from the league over the Bounty-Gate scandal during the offseason. Will it be the end of the Saints on the field too, or will rise above it all?

The NFC South has been an tough division to call since it inception. No team has repeated as NFC South division champ ever. That isn't good news for the Saints, who won the division last season with a 13-3 mark.

That long standing trend may be one reason the Saints and Atlanta Falcons are co-favorites, both at 13/10 to win the division this season at Bovada.

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The Saints begin the new season without head coach Sean Payton, with a new defensive coordinator and a number of their 2011 defense either gone or suspended. What they do still have is Drew Brees and a very deep corps of receivers led by Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham.

With Brees at the helm the offense remains in good hands. The defense though is another story. Jonathan Vilma is out for the season, Will Smith is suspended for four games and Tracy Porter, Shaun Rogers, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Aubrayo Franklin are all gone.

That could give the defense a chance to rebuild after ranking 24th in the league last season.

The Falcons have some big playmakers of their own on offense and it could push them ahead of the Saints, if New Orleans stumbles at all this season. Matt Ryan leads an Atlanta offense that boasts one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league in veteran Roddy White and rising star Julio Jones.

Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez is back for one more season and the running game looks solid with Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. Atlanta quietly brought in corner back Asante Samuel during the offseason which should help a pass defense that ranked near the bottom the league last season.

The Carolina Panthers had a pretty good season last year despite their sub par 6-10 record. The chances of them repeating or even improving upon that record will likely depend on Cam Newton' ability to avoid a sophomore slump.

The oddsmakers are listed the Panthers as a 4/1 underdog in the NFC South at Bovada and that may be a tad generous. If Newton even takes a small step back this season the Panther could end up in the division basement.

Nothing went right for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. They suffered a total meltdown on both sides of the ball and it costs head coach Raheem Morris his job. His replacement Greg Schiano does have some new pieces to work with after the Bucs went out and grabbed Vincent Jackson, Dallas Clark and drafted running back Doug Martin.

Any chance of the Bucs improved rests mainly on quarterback Josh Freeman, who regressed badly last season. If Tampa Bay can turn it around they could be an interesting pick as a 15/1 long shot.

Odds to win NFC South FROM Bovada

New Orleans 13/10

Atlanta 13/10

Carolina 4/1

Tampa Bay 15/1

NFC South teams futures odds:

Odds to win NFC title

New Orleans 9/1

Atlanta 12/1

Carolina 18/1

Tampa Bay 15/1

Odds to win Super Bowl

New Orleans 18/1

Atlanta 25/1

Carolina 35/1

Tampa Bay 75/1

2012-13 win totals

New Orleans 10 (Over +130/Under-160)

Atlanta 9 (Over -160/Under +130)

Carolina 7.5 (Over -135/Under +105)

Tampa Bay 6 (Over -125/Under -105)