Panthers and Falcons stalking Saints
The New Orleans Saints were a refereeing error away from going to the Super Bowl last year and return in 2019 expecting to go close again. The Saints are the 8/13 favourites with Betfred to win the NFC South but could a healthy Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons give them a run a for their money?
New Orleans have won the division the last two years and their 13-3 record last season was streaks ahead of the chasing pack in an unusually uncompetitive year for the NFC South.
Quarter-back Drew Brees is back at the age of 40 looking to add to his sole Super Bowl winners’ ring and his hopes are boosted by arguably the best running-back/wide receiver combo in the NFL in Alvin Kamara (14/1 – Most rushing touchdowns) and Michael Thomas (16/1 – Most receiving touchdowns).
The addition of passing-catching tight-end Jared Cook adds to Brees’ arsenal on offense, while they return the majority of pieces on defences which did so well last year, particularly against the run.
The Saints are a team whose Super Bowl window is still firmly open and they are 9/1 with Betfred to be lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy in Miami in February. However, their first job is to win the division and that might not be as straightforward as last year.
The Atlanta Falcons were decimated by injuries to key players on both sides of the ball in 2018 as they went 7-9.
The likes of Devonta Freeman, Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones all went on IR last year but are back and should boost the hopes of the Falcons, who are 7/2 to win the NFC South.
Just like the Saints, they have an elite quarter-back in Matt Ryan and an outstanding receiver in Julio Jones so should be closer to the Saints this year.
The Carolina Panthers (9/2 – NFC South Outright) endured a similar campaign to Atlanta as a shoulder injury to quarter-back Cam Newton derailed their campaign.
Ron Rivera’s men were 6-2 before Newton started struggling but eventually posted a 7-9 season. Newton underwent surgery in the off-season and will be 100 per cent ready to go come Sunday when they take on the LA Rams (Panthers 6/5, Rams 20/29 – Money line).
Running-back Christian McCaffery returns off the back of a breakthrough season, while they have improved the defence with the additions of Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin.
While Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans all get set to battle itm out for first, the Tampba Bay Buccaneers find themselves on the outside looking in.
Bruce Arians has come out of retirement to take charge in Florida but will need more than one off-season to improve the 12/1 outsiders for the division.
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Read our expert AFC South preview here
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