Tom Brady joins Drew Brees and Matt Ryan in a loaded division in the NFC. Tampa Bay and New Orleans are going to be really tight at the top, with Atlanta potentially edging its way into the hunt as well. The key will be if any of these teams lose to Matt Rhule's Carolina Panthers, who have some talent but will be a distant fourth. The other thing that will make this race interesting is that these teams get the AFC West in crossover play, which I think is one of the best divisions in the other conference. Let's take a look at the win totals and see where the value lies.
(Numbers courtesy of the Westgate Superbook)
Over 7.5 EVEN... Under 7.5 -120
Offense: It'll be really interesting to see how Todd Gurley looks in this offense. We know what he's capable of, but will he be healthy enough to do so? There's not much behind him in the backfield, which makes him even more important. The other big addition is tight end Hayden Hurst, who I think will have a big season as Austin Hooper's replacement. Other than those two, it's the same usual suspects, with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley out wide and Matt Ryan under center. We'll see if there's any improvement in the offensive line.
Defense: The biggest changes here come up front, with Dante Fowler Jr. signing in free agency. He'll be a big help to Grady Jarrett, who is the returning sack leader after Vic Beasley Jr. left for Tennessee. Health is going to be so important, especially since Keanu Neal is returning from an Achilles injury. Ricardo Allen has really played well at free safety too. The Falcons drafted A.J. Terrell in the first round to replace former starting cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Scheduling Note: The Falcons host the Raiders on Nov. 29 in between their two matchups against the Saints. They also play at Kansas City on Dec. 27 in between two games against the Buccaneers.
Prediction: Slight lean to the over at this price, although closing with the Saints, Chargers, Bucs, and Chiefs is ridiculous.
Over 5.5 -130... Under 5.5 +110
Offense: Changes abound in Carolina with Matt Rhule as head coach. It all starts under center where Teddy Bridgewater tries to succeed Cam Newton at quarterback. Bridgewater has Joe Brady as his offensive coordinator, and he did big things with Joe Burrow at LSU. They're also familiar from their 2019 season together with the Saints. Christian McCaffrey has a new contract and is probably the best running back in football. Out wide, free-agent addition Robby Anderson joins DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. Ian Thomas finally takes over for Greg Olsen at tight end.
Defense: The team spent every single draft pick on the defensive side of the ball, and Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jeremy Chinn are expected to make impacts. This is a pretty talented group of linebackers led by Shaq Thompson and free-agent acquisition Tahir Whitehead. The secondary could be a massive weakness because outside of Donte Jackson and Tre Boston, there are a lot of uncertainties. The loss of James Bradberry and Eric Reid will sting.
Scheduling Note: Although they are favored just once in the preseason lines released by Vegas, there are five other contests in which the Panthers are underdogs by a point or less.
Prediction: At +110, I'll take a chance with the under because there are a lot of moving pieces and they could get off to a slow start.
Over 10.5 EVEN... Under 10.5 -120
Offense: There should be no excuses from this side of the ball with the amount of talent that Drew Brees has around him. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray are a potent duo at running back; Kamara, especially, can beat you in so many ways. Michael Thomas finally has a reliable No. 2 in Emmanuel Sanders, a cagey veteran who just knows how to get open. Oh, yeah, and if Brees does get hurt then New Orleans can turn to Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill to keep things going. You know Sean Payton has all sorts of formations and plays set up for Hill.
Defense: Getting Malcolm Jenkins back is going to shore up the safety position. Jenkins has not missed a play in a while, and while he's not what he used to be, he's still a solid veteran. Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins are a solid cornerback duo with some depth behind them. Cameron Jordan is coming off 15.5 sacks last year and Marcus Davenport chipped in with six. If there is a weakness, it could be at linebacker with Kiko Alonso and Alex Anzalone both coming off of injuries.
Scheduling Note: There are two potential flat spots on the schedule. The first one comes on Nov. 22 at home against the Falcons in a contest that comes after marquee matchups against the Buccaneers and 49ers. Also, Dec. 13 in Philadelphia is the third road game in a row and comes prior to home date with defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.
Prediction: I think this is an 11-win team, so give me the over.
Over 9.5 -120... Under 9.5 EVEN
Offense: Not much happened here besides the massive additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Brady is an upgrade over Jameis Winston, whose turnovers frequently killed Tampa. Brady has the most potent weapons he's ever had at his disposal, led by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin out wide. Besides Gronk, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate also contribute at tight end. This is why I think Gronk's going to get a ton of touchdowns but not a ton of yards. We'll see how the backfield shakes out with LeSean McCoy now joining Ronald Jones II and rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
Defense: It's status quo for the most part on defense. Veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh are back with Vita Vea and William Gholston up front. The linebacker group of Devin White, Lavonte David, and Shaq Barrett has a ton of talent. The questions come in the very young secondary, which is led by Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Schedule Note: Five of the team's first eight games are on the road. The Buccaneers also get the Falcons twice in the last three weeks.
Prediction: Slight lean to the over, although this defense is going to be tested often.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo by Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers, courtesy of buccaneers.com)