Is this a Super Bowl season for the Saints?
The last two seasons have seen really rough finishes for the New Orleans Saints as NFC South champs lose on the Minneapolis Miracle and then a missed call by the officials in the conference championship game against the Rams. The gang is pretty much back in 2019 and should win the division once again. The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers can make things interesting if their veteran quarterbacks put up good numbers. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pretty much just there and can play spoiler for someone else. Let's take a look at the Westgate's win totals for this division.
Over 8.5 wins -120...Under 8.5 wins EVEN
Offense: The Falcons have kept the core pretty much intact on offense with really the biggest change coming on the offensive line where James Carpenter and potentially two rookies will take over. Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary were drafted to try and fix the mediocre offensive line. Matt Ryan is back and so is Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley at wide receiver. There's a small change in the backfield with Tevin Coleman departing and Kenjon Barner replacing him as well as rookie Qadree Ollison. Atlanta needs to develop more of a run game to take some pressure off of Ryan.
Defense: This side of the ball saw a ton of turnover with Adrian Clayborn, Ra'Shede Hageman and J.J. Wilcox coming in and Robert Alford, Bruce Irvin, Brian Poole and Brooks Reed all departing. The departure of Alford means that the cornerback position opposite Desmond Trufant will be manned by a less talented player. Deion Jones has to stay healthy after missing part of last year due to a foot injury. Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett and Takkarist McKinley represent the best part of this team's pass rush. Things could be better here though.
Verdict: Atlanta comes out of its Week 9 bye with two straight division road games followed by three straight NFC South home games. The Falcons actually play New Orleans twice over a month span. If Atlanta's fighting for a playoff spot, it'll be nice to close out with San Francisco, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, teams that figure to be out of the postseason race by then. The over is probably the right side here if the team stays healthy.
Over 7.5 wins -155...Under 7.5 wins +135
Offense: By all accounts, Cam Newton looks fine and seems very healthy at the start of training camp, which is something we couldn't say in the past. Last year Newton had 24 touchdown passes to just 13 interceptions. The offense ran through Christian McCaffrey, who had more than 1,000 rushing yards and 100-plus receptions. The talk is that McCaffrey's touches will be a little more economical, but how can the Panthers do that when the weapons around him aren't very good? The WR corps is led by DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. I don't see why you can't get creative with McCaffrey and Greg Olsen as the biggest threats.
Defense: It's going to be weird not to see Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis out there for Carolina. Davis headed west to join the Chargers. This is one of my favorite linebacking groups with Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, and first-round pick Brian Burns potentially lining up there. I think the front seven is going to be the strength and will have to be because I'm just not the biggest fan of their cornerbacks. Donte Jackson and James Bradberry are really young and still have some growing to do. Eric Reid and Tre Boston are a pretty solid safety duo so maybe they can erase some mistakes.
Verdict: The Panthers begin the year with two straight at home including a Thursday night tilt with Tampa Bay. They have a four-city stretch after that game with two on the road (at Arizona, at Houston) and another in London (also against the Buccaneers). After the Week 7 bye, the team alternates road and home games the rest of the season. Could a resurrected Newton lead this team to double-digit wins? I think 10 wins are possible if things break right.
Over 10.5 wins +130...Under 10.5 wins -150
Offense: This is probably the best offense in football and things are made tougher when you have to contend with the loud dome and those crazy fans. Drew Brees doesn't have a ton of time left in the league, but he really hasn't lost a step. He had 32 touchdowns to just five interceptions in 2018. A lot of the weapons are back outside of Mark Ingram. Alvin Kamara accounted for more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and is only getting better. Latavius Murray is a solid option as someone who can spell the shifty running back. Michael Thomas got paid so that's huge for the WR group. The depth behind him isn't great unless one of the younger guys emerge. I do like Jared Cook in this offense along with Josh Hill and Dan Arnold at tight end.
Defense: Marshon Lattimore is rapidly moving up the charts in the cornerback rankings. If Eli Apple can reach his potential, then these two will be one of the best duos in football. Cameron Jordan is a beast and Marcus Davenport showed flashes last year. Sheldon Rankins could help as well, but he's coming off a torn Achilles and is on the PUP list. The linebackers could be better as a group though and there's not a ton of depth. Injuries to this position would hurt this side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has done very good things on this side of the ball considering where they were a few years ago.
Verdict: New Orleans has three stretches of back-to-back road games including December contests in Tennessee and Carolina. The Saints also have two sets of back-to-back home contests. They play the Rams and Bears on the road, but they get the Cowboys and Colts at home. Double-digit wins look to be a safe bet here. Hell at this price, the over is definitely worth a look. Just have to watch out for a hangover after last year's finish.
Over 6.5 wins EVEN...Under 6.5 wins -120
Offense: There's no safety valve of Ryan Fitzpatrick this year for Tampa. If Jameis Winston fails, Blaine Gabbert takes over and he might be one of the few quarterbacks worse then the former FSU signal-caller. Winston threw 14 interceptions last year and just didn't seem comfortable. The Bucs run game should be handed over to Ronald Jones, but Peyton Barber and Andre Ellington are the veterans there. O.J. Howard could go crazy in this offense and Cameron Brate is not a bad No. 2 tight end. DeSean Jackson is gone so it's Chris Godwin tag-teaming with Mike Evans out wide with Breshad Perriman getting another chance.
Defense: Ndamukong Suh was signed after the team cut ties with Gerald McCoy. This defensive line could struggle at times to get pressure on the quarterback, especially with Vita Vea dealing with a knee injury suffered in the first preseason game that could keep him out up to two months. It's a shame that this group is so poor because first-round pick Devin White, veteran Lavonte David and the rest of the linebackers aren't a terrible group. I have some questions about the secondary with cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis at the top of the depth chart alongside Mike Edwards and Jordan Whitehead at safety. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has some work to do on this side of the ball.
Verdict: Three of Tampa's first five games are on the road, but there are some early opportunities for wins with the Giants and 49ers at home. Coming out of the Week 7 bye, the Bucs play four of their next six on the road with trips to Seattle and Jacksonville on the docket. Tampa will struggle to get to .500 and should probably be penciled in for last place in this division.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.