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June 25, 2018 Staff Writer

NFL News

2018 NFL Betting Futures: Saints, Falcons Almost Even on NFC South Odds

The New Orleans Saints ended a two-year streak of the NFC South winner advancing to the Super Bowl last January when they fell to the Minnesota Vikings 29-24 on a miracle play in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Regardless, the Saints are +180 favorites (bet $100 to win $180) to repeat as division winners this season over the 2016 NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons (+185) at the sportsbooks.

If Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs does not score on the final play, maybe New Orleans would have beaten the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game and New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Fans and bettors alike will never know, but the Saints are not worrying about that right now. Instead, they are trying to figure out how they can make one more deep postseason run with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, who needs just 1,496 passing yards to break Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 71,940. Brees should top 72,000 halfway through the season.

New Orleans will give second-year running back Alvin Kamara an expanded role with Mark Ingram on the shelf for the first four games due to a suspension for violating the league’s banned substance policy. Kamara was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season and should thrive in Ingram’s absence to help Brees balance the offense while the defense is expected to improve as well, making the Saints the team to beat.

However, the Falcons are just one year removed from nearly upsetting the Patriots in Super Bowl LI and should be finally over their hangover from choking up a record 25-point lead in that game. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan will have a new weapon in his arsenal with the addition of rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who went to the same college as Julio Jones. The two former members of the Alabama Crimson Tide might just form the best receiving corps in the division if they can both stay healthy. Ridley was a first-round selection of the Falcons in the 2018 NFL Draft, picked 26th overall.

Atlanta finished one game behind New Orleans and the Carolina Panthers in third place last season at 10-6, with the Saints winning a tie-breaker for the division title after going 11-5. Carolina lost both regular-season meetings with New Orleans and should be primed for another successful campaign with quarterback Cam Newton under center. The Panthers are listed at +290 to win the NFC South, something they did three straight years between 2013 and 2015, culminating in a 15-1 season and Super Bowl appearance. After losing to Manning in his final year with the Denver Broncos in the big game, Carolina slipped to 6-10 in 2016 before bouncing back in 2017.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have posted losing records in six of the past seven seasons, and they will be without quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games because he violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The Buccaneers are +900 to win the division for the first time since 2007, with 35-year-old veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick becoming a key figure in place of Winston. Fitzpatrick will attempt to navigate through a tough early slate, starting with a visit to the Saints before hosting the defending Super bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.