Worst to first has been the motto of the NFC South since its reception in 2002. Here are the worst to first finishes:
- Carolina finished last in 2002 (7-9) and first in 2003 (11-5)
- Atlanta finished last in 2003 (5-11) and first in 2004 (11-5)
- Tampa Bay finished last in 2004 (5-11) and first in 2005 (11-5)
- New Orleans finished last in 2005 (3-13) and first in 2006 (10-6)
- Tampa Bay finished last in 2006 (4-12) and first in 2007 (9-7)
- New Orleans finished last in 2008 (8-8) and finished first in 2009 (13-3)
On top of that, the Falcons finished last in 2007 and second in 2008, making the playoffs with a wild-card berth. Also, no team has made the playoffs in back-to-back season since the division was created.
So I will just keep this one short and tell you to pick the Bucs to win the division and the Saints not to make the playoffs. I will be back with my preview on the NFC West soon.
Here are the odds to win the 2010 NFC South:
All Odds Taken From Bodog and Bookmaker, be sure to shop around for the best price.
New Orleans Saints (-160)
Despite the worst to first pattern, the Saints are the obvious pick to win the division. They kept the Super Bowl winning team together and added some depth in the offseason. They signed Alex Brown to address their need at defensive end.
They have one of the best passing attacks in the league and they have explosive running backs. New Orleans is set to repeat its division title in the NFC South. But history tells us differently. The worst to first pattern, plus the problem of the Super Bowl hangover could be interesting story lines here.
Logically, the Saints should end up on top. They were the best team last season, and they have improved. They are solid on defense and they are great on offense. The only hiccup I could see here is Sean Payton’s alleged involvement in the Vicodin theft from the team’s drug locker.
The competition in the NFC North has improved, but the Saints should be able to repeat their success in the division. I don’t see them going to the Super Bowl again, but they definitely have a great chance of winning the division.
Atlanta Falcons (+200)
The Falcons should be able to improve on their 2009 record. A couple of key injuries hurt them last season, and they added some talent to their team. The status of promising DT Peria Jerry is unclear after his ACL tear last year. It seems possible that he won’t be ready to go considering the Falcons drafted another tackle with their second pick.
They made a key acquisition in linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. However, Atlanta is still missing a great pass rusher. They hope that John Abraham can bounce back from a disappointing performance in 2009. They couldn’t get any pressure on the opposing quarterback last season, and that’s what they need if they want to beat Drew Brees and the Saints.
The team will get Harry Douglas back on offense, and the third year player could make an impact at wide receiver. He is also a strong return man, and should give the team a boost. Granted, he missed the 2009 season with an ACL tear, and it remains to be seen if he can return to his 2008 form.
The Falcons addressed a big need at cornerback. They let Chris Houston go and signed Dunta Robinson. They added Dominique Franks in the draft for depth. The Falcons will give the Saints a good fight for the division, but the defending champions should come out on top again.
Carolina Panthers (+500)
Football fans will have to get used to this new look of the Panthers. Jake Delhomme is gone after seven seasons with the team. The quarterback had a horrible season in 2009, after giving the ball up six times in the Panthers’ 2008 divisional round loss to the Cardinals.
Two-time Pro Bowl receiver Muhsin Muhammad retired and the Panthers are lacking a No. 2 option behind Steve Smith. And talking about Smith. The star-receiver broke his arm playing flag football and will miss the team’s training camp.
While he will most likely be back in time for the start of the season, he won’t be able to get into a rhythm with new starter Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen.
Moore has waited for three years for his opportunity and got significant playing time last season. He won four of the five games he started and threw for 1,053 yards. He finished with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Clausen is a highly touted prospect and might be able to make an immediate impact, and the Panthers have a real franchise quarterback for the first time in years. It remains to be seen if they use Clausen right away or give him time to develop.
The Panthers could surprise, but I don’t think they’re good enough to challenge the Saints.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2000)
The only way the Bucs win the division is if the worst to first pattern strikes again – for some inexplicable reason. They are building for the future and made a great pick with Gerald McCoy. They added Brian Price, another tackle, at 35.
The Buccaneers got wide receiver Mike Williams at 101. He has a lot of upside, but questionable character, which is probably not the right direction to go in your rebuilding process.
Quarterback Josh Freeman showed some promise in his rookie season, but isn’t ready to lead the team to a division title. He racked up 1,855 passing yards and ten touchdown passes in ten games, but had some bad outings too.
He threw five picks in a 16-6 loss to the Panthers and ended up with 18 interceptions for the season. He will improve in his second season in the league, but he isn’t good enough yet to get the team to the division title or the playoffs.