If there is one division in the NFL that any of the four teams competing could win, it would be the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers became the first team to win consecutive division titles (2013, 2014) last season but did so with a less than impressive 7-8-1 record. The Panthers could pull off a three-peat this year but it won't be easy with high powered offenses in New Orleans and Atlanta that will be looking to regain dominance in the conference. That being said, the Atlanta Falcons are favored at +200 in 2015 NFC South odds to win with division predictions listing the Carolina Panthers at +210, the New Orleans Saints at +225 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at +550.
The Atlanta Falcons looked to be a team bound for the Super Bowl in 2012 leading the 49ers (17-0) in the NFC Championship game but failed to put any points on the board in the second half letting San Francisco steal a 28-24 victory. Since then, it seems the Falcons have yet to recover. Could the 2015 season finally get the dirty birds dancing again? Bookmakers certainly think so and with an offense featuring QB Matt Ryan and WR's Julio Jones and Roddy White; anything is possible. That is of course, if they all can stay healthy. RB Devonta Freeman will be counted on to create the balance needed so that Ryan won't need to force risky passes having thrown 14-INT's last year. The defense will most likely be the Achilles heel for Atlanta who finished 27th in scoring and 21st in rushing last season.
The Carolina Panthers had been one of the early favorites in 2015 NFC South odds and predictions to win the division but that was before losing WR Kelvin Benjamin for the season after tearing his ACL during the preseason. QB Cam Newton will now need to rely heavily on WR's Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess and TE Greg Olsen to pick up the slack. Easier said than done. RB Jonathan Stewart will receive a majority of the rushing attempts but don't be surprised to see rookie Cameron Artis-Payne (Auburn) making his presence known. On the defensive side of the ball, LB's Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis anchor a squad that has been a top ten defense for the past three years. If the defense can make it four in a row, the Panthers could easily win the division depending on how the offense copes with the loss of Benjamin.
The New Orleans Saints made perhaps one of the biggest off-season trades by sending TE Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks to upgrade the offensive line by acquiring Max Unger. Also gone is WR Kenny Stills who took his talent to Miami but any team that has QB Drew Brees behind center will find away to put points on the board. Brees finished last season throwing 4,952-yards for 33-touchdowns and at the age of 36, still shows no signs of slowing down. Look for WR Brandin Cooks to receive a majority of the looks down the sideline while TE Josh Hill will be counted on to replace the production of Graham in 3rd down situations. RB Mark Ingram will receive a majority of the rushing plays once again but will have a formidable duo in C.J. Spiller and Khirly Robinson as backups. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will need to tighten up the secondary if the Saints are to have any chance of winning the division in 2015 NFC South odds since finishing last season 31st in total defense.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took QB Jameis Winston (Florida State) as the #1 overall pick in the draft to help anchor an offense that finished last year with a dreadful 75.2% production rating. Head coach Lovie Smith also proceeded to use 12 of his 13 draft picks on offensive players to help right the ship so to speak. Winston will have a towering pair of WR's at his disposable with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson but whether or not the offensive line can protect the former FSU star long enough to find them remains to be seen. RB Doug Martin will look to better last season's mark of 494-yards for 2-touchdowns if he can stay healthy. The defense will have the foundation of DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David while the secondary is littered with former Smith players from Chicago. If the defense can gel under the Tampa 2 scheme and Winston matures quickly, there is no reason that the Buccaneers couldn't be playing for the division title.