NFL Betting Odds: NFC South Predictions 2019

Date | AuthorDanny Vorgs

Last Updated: 2019-08-11

After having three 10-win teams in the 2017 season, last year’s version of the NFC South dropped off considerably. With the New Orleans Saints as the lone team with a winning record and representing the division in the playoffs, the South will look to bounce back from a down year. Each of these teams was previewed in detail by BTB writer Richard Lammons and can be found here.

All the NFL previews examined the current spread for the 16 upcoming games for each team this season and applied the metric of expected win percentage to each of these lines to arrive at an implied wins total. This number could then be compared to the posted win total for each team. While we certainly know that a lot can (and will) change for all of these teams between late June and say a mid-December game in Week 15, it is a useful exercise to see how each team compares to one another at this stage assuming ideal circumstances for both teams.

As many readers likely know, I maintain a model for the NFL which creates a spread and total for each game that I rely on heavily in my handicapping and writing here at BTB. Therefore, for this series of articles, we thought it would be useful to apply my model spreads to the current lines and implied win totals listed at CG Technologies. As usual, some of these numbers will be in line with Vegas expectations while others will not. For each team, we’ll try to see why we agree or isolate the possible reasons for our divergence.

 

Atlanta Falcons

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of July 8, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ Minnesota +4.5 .33 +3 .41
2 Philadelphia (Sunday Night) -1.5 .53 -1.5 .53
3 @ Indianapolis +4 .34 +4.5 .33
4 Tennessee -4 .66 -3 .59
5 @ Houston +3.5 .36 +3 .41
6 @ Arizona -3 .59 -3 .59
7 LA Rams +2 .47 pk .5
8 Seattle +1.5 .48 -4 .66
9 BYE
10 @ New Orleans +7 .25 +5.5 .31
11 @ Carolina +2 .47 +.5 .50
12 Tampa Bay -7 .75 -7.5 .78
13 New Orleans (Thursday Night) +2.5 .46 +2 .46
14 Carolina -4.5 .67 -3.5 .64
15 @San Francisco +1.5 .48 +.5 .50
16 Jacksonville -5 .68 -4.5 .67
17 @ Tampa Bay -3.5 .64 -4.5 .67

Win Total (CG Technologies): 9 (Over +105 / Under -125)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 8.14
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 8.55

2019 was an up and down year of sorts for the Atlanta Falcons but ultimately last season could be characterized as a disappointment. A series of injuries to key defensive players at the beginning of the season lead to a rocky start and despite a bit of a midseason rebound to 4-4, the Falcons reeled off 5 straight L’s to sink their postseason hopes.

There is reason for optimism for Hot ‘Lanta in 2019. The most obvious is the return of young defensive players Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, and Deion Jones. All three missed over 10 games each and were the main cause for Atlanta’s 8th most Adjusted Defensive Games lost (44.6) as well as their listing at 31st in Defensive DVOA in 2018. Starters Allen, Neal, and Jones were all graded as above average defensive players by PFF in their 2017 seasons. Additionally, Jones will be playing in the last year of his rookie deal and likely motivated for a big day come next offseason. The return of safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal will help boost a talented Atlanta secondary as they currently rank 8th overall according to the model rankings. Despite the return of LB Deion Jones and continued run-stuffing presence of DT Grady Jarrett, the Falcons defensive front still looks weak. They rank 29th in Front 7 talent for the upcoming season.

The Falcons have ranked in the top 10 in Offensive DVOA the past three seasons and their offense looks to again be the strength of this team. QB Matt Ryan continued his top-level play in 2018 as PFF graded him out as the 10th overall QB. Likewise, Football Outsiders listed him 4th in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) and QB DVOA. He will again be surrounded by ample skill position talent. RB Devonta Freeman missed most of 2018 however has been an above-average talent for the previous 4 years of his career. His pairing with 2nd-year spark plug Ito Smith will provide a solid backfield. Flanking Ryan is all-everything WR Julio Jones who for the 5th year in a row finished in the top ten in WR DYAR according to FO. WRs Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, as well as TE Austin Hooper, provide excellent secondary support as pass catchers. Collectively the skill position players rank 6th overall according to the model. The weakness of the Falcons offense in 2018 came from the offensive line. They finished as a below-average run blocking squad and a mediocre pass protecting group. The front office addressed this issue in the draft by selecting OG Chris Lindstrom and OT Kaleb McGary in the 1st round. If they quickly acclimate to the NFL, the offensive line, which currently ranks 12th according to the model, they could become a major strength a la the Colts of last season.

Because of the abundance of talent on the offense, the model has generally viewed the Atlanta Falcons as better than the Vegas’s spreads would suggest for the past few seasons. I currently have them listed 9th overall, which seems a tad high, however, there is certainly a lot of potential here for a bounce-back season. The issues along both lines are a concern here. Starting 2 rookie offensive lineman, regardless of draft position, could be problematic early especially as they face the solid D-lines of Minnesota, Philly, and Houston within the first 5 games. Additionally, the lack of secondary rushers to support Jarrett will likely continue to make it difficult for a team that totaled just 37 sacks in 2018 to expect more this year. Overall, however, I lean slightly to the over 9 this season. This would have been a solid over for me at the earlier number of 8.5 but I would still consider banking on the Falcons bouncing back this season and making a run for the NFC South crown.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of July 8, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 San Francisco -1 .51 pk .50
2 @ Carolina (Thursday Night) +6 .29 +6 .29
3 NY Giants -3 .59 -1 .51
4 @ LA Rams +11 .13 +9 .19
5 @ New Orleans +10.5 .14 +11 .13
6 Carolina

(London)

+2.5 .46 +4 .34
7 BYE
8 @ Tennessee +5.5 .31 +6.5 .28
9 @ Seattle +7.5 .22 +7.5 .22
10 Arizona -4.5 .67 -3.5 .64
11 New Orleans +4 .34 +8.5 .20
12 @ Atlanta +7 .25 +7.5 .22
13 @ Jacksonville +4.5 .33 +6 .29
14 Indianapolis +3 .41 +6 .29
15 @ Detroit +2.5 .46 +6 .29
16 Houston +2 .47 +3 .41
17 Atlanta +3.5 .36 +4.5 .33

Win Total (CG Technologies): 6.5 (Over -110 / Under -110)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 5.93
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 5.13

The Tampa Bay Bucs were the surprise story of the NFL after the 1st two weeks of the season. Lead by the infamous “Fitz-magic”, the Bucs knocked off both the Saints and Eagles in-rout to a respectable 3-3 record entering Week 7. From that point though, the wheels fell off and they won just 2 more games the rest of the way. This led to the firing of HC Dirk Koetter and the return of Bruce Arians after a year away from coaching.

The simplest explanation for Tampa’s demise last year would be its league-leading Adjusted Games Lost according to FO. All told the Bus lost 128 player games due to injury, however, 92 (!!!) of those games were on the defensive side of the ball. This certainly would explain their 32nd ranking in Defensive DVOA and would also coincide with their decline after a fair start to the season as injuries piled up. The only issue here is who they lost. The loss of 2017 Pro Bowl LB Kwon Alexander did occur in Week 6 and certainly losing a player of his talent will have a negative effect on the defense however the rest of their losses were…meh. After subtracting out Alexander’s 10 games, 46.4 of the remaining 82 occurred in the secondary. This is undoubtedly a disadvantage however no one was going to confuse CB Vernon Hargreaves, S Chris Conte, and S Justin Evans as the “Legion of Boom South”. None of these players, nor injured CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, and Brent Grimes ever graded out above a 70 according to PFF and in fact, PFF labeled Tampa’s secondary as 31st in the league entering 2018 anyhow. So when a terrible secondary experiences an unusually high number of injuries can it be fingered as the cause of a poor showing by the defense last season?

If their 2019 draft is any indication, Tampa Bay seems to believe that a lack of talent, not defensive injuries were the main concern on that side of the ball last year. The Bucs used their first 5 draft picks on defensive players including the #5 overall selection on LB Devin White to replace the now-departed Kwon Alexander as well as the next 3 picks on the secondary. Of those selections, it appears as of now that only White will be a Week 1 starter as he will pair with the talented LB Lavonte David. The secondary remains weak however as they rank 32nd according to the model. The LBs White and Davis will help form the second level of a decent Front 7. Ranked 15th according to the model this group added DE Shaq Barrett and swapped out DT Gerald McCoy for former Lion and Ram Ndamukong Suh. Another foolish accident by Jason Pierre-Paul will cause him to miss a good part of the season however his addition to this group which also includes 2nd-year player and former 1st rounder Vita Vea, should make it formidable.

Outside of trading speedy WR DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia and signing WR Breshad Perriman, the offensive personnel returns generally intact in 2019. The main change this year will be more philosophical as new HC Bruce Arians brings a more open, “risk-on” approach to the passing game than his predecessor Dirk Koetter. This could improve upon an already solid offense which ranked 12th in Offensive DVOA and 9th in Passing DVOA last year. Despite the loss of Jackson and absent of a flashy name at the RB position, the model still sees the Bucs skill position talent as a respectable 14th overall. The issue here is whether QB Jameis Winston can finally put it all together and have a breakout campaign worth of his #1 overall draft selection in 2015. Both PFF and Football Outsiders agree that he has been around average to slightly above for most of his first four years however big leap forward, spurred on by a new offensive-minded coach could potentially make this offensive group dynamic.

The 2019 Bucs project as a team with solid offensive potential but with moderate defensive upside for the time being. They should be entertaining to watch and will likely be an over team with regard to totals this year but ultimately this is not fantasy football and I don’t see their current construction leading to many wins. While the Bucs may be a fun watch, I am hesitant to believe Winston will blossom into an elite QB in his 5th season nor do I see the schedule providing any additional help. With the worst home-field advantage in the NFL, I agree with the model and see Tampa as a solid under for the upcoming season.

 

Carolina Panthers

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of July 8, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 LA Rams +3 .41 -.5 .50
2 Tampa Bay (Thursday Night) -6 .71 -6 .71
3 @ Arizona -3 .59 -1.5 .53
4 @ Houston +4.5 .33 +4.5 .33
5 Jacksonville -3.5 .64 -5 .68
6 Tampa Bay (London) -2.5 .55 -4 .66
7 BYE
8 @ San Francisco +2.5 .46 +1 .49
9 Tennessee -3 .59 -3.5 .64
10 @ Green Bay +5.5 .31 +6.5 .28
11 Atlanta -2 .54 -.5 .50
12 @ New Orleans +9 .19 +7 .25
13 Washington -5 .68 -7.5 .78
14 @ Atlanta +4.5 .33 +3.5 .36
15 Seattle -1.5 .53 -4.5 .67
16 @ Indianapolis +6 .29 +6.5 .28
17 New Orleans +5.5 .31 +3.5 .36

Win Total (CG Technologies): 7.5 (Over -115 / Under -105)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 7.45
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 8.02

Since their Super Bowl appearance, the Carolina Panthers have been an up and down bunch. After 2015’s 15 win season they dropped to 6 wins in 2016, rebounded to 11 wins and a playoff berth the following year, only to fall back to a 7-9 record in 2018. Must of last season’s decline likely can be attributed to QB Cam Newton. Newton led Carolina to a 6-2 start however shoulder injury reports began to pop up going into Week 8 and worsened as the season progressed. After Newton’s 0TD, 1INT, 131 yards passing and 4 sack performance against division rival New Orleans led to their 6th straight loss, he was shut down for the season. Newton had offseason shoulder surgery to repair the damage and is expected to be available to begin the season, however, this is his second shoulder surgery in as many years and this is certainly a concern for a QB now in his thirties.

Despite being injured for about half the year, Newton and the Carolina offense were improved in 2018. Veteran coach Norv Turner most likely deserves the credit for this improvement as Newton surprisingly had his best statistical season since the Super Bowl run of 2015. Newton’s PFF grade improved a few points from the previous years while his completion percentage, QBR, and TD% all increased to three-year highs. Assuming Cam is fully healthy in 2019, it’s likely safe to believe he will continue to perform at an elevated level this season. This bears well for the Panther offense as the skill position talent surrounding Newton is solid (17th overall) and 2nd-year players RB Christian McCaffery and WR Curtis Samuel both improved their PFF score from last season. WR DJ Moore was a force in his rookie year and veteran TE Greg Olson still provides steady play despite his age. Protecting Newton will be a revamped offensive line that ranked 11th overall according to Football Outsiders in Adjusted Line Yards and 10th in Pass Protection. Pro Football Focus projects this line as the 10th overall entering the season while my model has them 11th.

Last season was a down year defensively for the Panthers. They dropped from 7th in Defensive DVOA in 2017 down to 22nd last year. Like Tampa Bay, Carolina’s secondary was ravaged by injuries in 2018 as they surpassed the Bucs Adjusted Games Lost in their defensive backfield to set the mark for the most AGL (47.3) Football Outsiders has ever recorded for a secondary. Also, like the Bucs however, the Panthers did not necessarily lose any elite level, secondary players. The returning group is still lacking standout talent and was ignored altogether in the draft. The Panther secondary ranks just above the Bucs at 31st according to the model.

In contrast, despite the loss of future Hall of Fame DE Julius Peppers and Carolina mainstay Thomas Davis, the Carolina Front 7 ranks highly (#3) according to the model. The unit added DE/OLB Brian Burns with their 1st pick in the draft and also signed former Buc DT Gerald McCoy. They will pair with elite LB Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short to form a formidable defensive front. If they can place pressure on the quarterback and stop the run as they should with this talent, the issues with the secondary may be reduced.

With a relatively soft schedule (23rd ranked opponent efficiency), a talented and young group of skill-position talent and a rock-solid Front 7, I believe the Panthers are due for a bounce-back performance in 2019. In what may be a make or break year for both Newton and long-time HC Ron Rivera the Panthers should be in the mix for a playoff spot in 2019. Look to the over 7.5 wins for Carolina.

 

New Orleans Saints

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of July 8, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 Houston (Monday Night) -7 .75 -7 .75
2 @ LA Rams +3 .41 -.5 .50
3 @ Seattle pk .5 -2 .54
4 Dallas -7 .75 -7.5 .78
5 Tampa Bay -10.5 .86 -11 .87
6 @ Jacksonville -4 .66 -3.5 .64
7 @ Chicago +1 .49 -2.5 .55
8 Arizona -14.5 .95 -13.5 .90
9 BYE
10 Atlanta -7 .75 -5.5 .69
11 @ Tampa Bay -4 .66 -8.5 .80
12 Carolina -9 .81 -7 .75
13 @ Atlanta -2.5 .55 -2 .54
14 San Francisco -8.5 .80 -10 .84
15 Indianapolis -5 .68 -4 .66
16 @ Tennessee -3 .59 -3 .59
17 @ Carolina -5.5 .69 -3.5 .64

Win Total (CG Technologies): 10.5 (Over +110 / Under -130)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 10.89
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 11.04

After two straight seasons which ended in brutal playoff loses (The Minnesota Miracle and The No-Call Game), the Saints again are teeming with talent and amongst the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. Yet their arch as a franchise has taken on a Sisyphus-like path; exerting great effort to hoist the rock ever so close to the summit only to have it roll back down and have to begin again. New Orleans did shrug off the Minnesota disaster and advanced even further last season, can they do it again? Or does Brees’s age and the collective mental fatigue associated with the losses simply become too much to mentally bear for the Saints in 2019?

On paper, the Saints have the most complete team in this division. They are the #1 overall team according to the model, have a Super Bowl-winning coach, and a future Hall of Fame QB. Some would argue that Brees began to decline in the 2nd half of last season which would come as no surprise as the man is entering his 19th NFL season. Yet, as NFL analyst Warren Sharp points out, much of that decline in deep passes and passer rater came after a big hit he received in Atlanta on Thanksgiving night. Regardless, Brees still earned the highest PFF grade of his career last season and ranked 2nd in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, DVOA, and QBR behind only MVP winner Patrick Mahomes. Based on those stats I don’t see Brees falling off the cliff in 2019 and expect continued excellent play.

The talent surrounding Brees isn’t lacking either. In RB Alvin Kamara and WR Micheal Thomas, the Saints may have the best RB/WR combo in the league. Both players were top 5 at their positions according to both PFF and FO. At a cost of less than $3 million combined they provide an incalculable ROI from a draft perspective and salary cap flexibility as the Saints have the 28th and 29th cap hit on the RB and WR positions respectively. With excellent tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, the only potential issue that could torpedo the Saints offense this season is the interior offensive line. Guards Andrus Peat and Larry Warford both had the lowest graded seasons of their careers in 2018 according to PFF while starting center Nick Easton was injured all of last year and has yet to prove he is anything better than a replacement-level talent. Overall, the model ranks the New Orleans offense as the number 1 unit however, the offensive line remains the weak point as it comes in at 10th.

The Saints defense complements the offense well as it ranks 5th overall. The strength of the unit is the Front 7 which comes in at the 8th spot and is led by elite DE Cameron Jordan. The rest of the line is filled out by former 1st round pick DE Marcus Davenport as well as solid DTs Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata. Together they were excellent at stuffing the run (3rd in Rush Defense DVOA) and pressuring the QB as they tied for 5th in sacks with 49. The potential issue here is the depth on the line, especially at the DE position where the backups totaled just 625 snaps last year. The secondary has some talented pieces as well in CB Marshon Lattimore and S Vonn Bell. Both are ascending, young players which form the core of this unit. Slot corner Patrick Robinson returns from a knee injury which cost him nearly all of 2018. He had been a journeyman type player throughout his career however in his last full season with the Eagles, he graded out as an elite level player according to PFF. Overall this a good secondary group, ranking 13th in the model yet, the pass defense of New Orleans was a weak spot as it landed 22nd overall in Pass Defense DVOA according to FO.

The Saints rightfully have the 2nd highest posted Regular Season Wins Total currently listed (behind the Patriots at 11). Their talent says they are deserving of this lofty number however they play in a much tougher division then the Pats and therefore have a more difficult schedule. While my model is slightly more bullish on them then the implied market number, it is not entirely improbable that the Saints could get off to a slow start and enter the bye week with 4 or 5 wins with 4 games remaining against tough division rivals Atlanta and Carolina in the back half. Given the set up of schedule, which includes 3 back-to-back roadies, I’m going to lean under here. Yet, fear not Saints fans as I could certainly see a scenario where New Orleans underperforms somewhat during the regular season only make the playoffs with say 10 wins and then finally, finally erasing those postseason nightmares by pushing that rock to the summit in Drew Brees’s swan song.

(Editor’s note: As the division previews get posted throughout the week, we’ll link to them at the bottom of the page. Read Danny’s thoughts on the AFC EAST, AFC NORTH, AFC SOUTH, AFC WEST, NFC EASTNFC NORTH, and NFC WEST by clicking the appropriate link.)

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