Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ramblings and Gambling Series: Regular Season Over Under - NFC South

Next stop on the over/under tour, the NFC South! I don’t expect this division to be to contentious, as there is a clear divide between the top two teams (Saints, Falcons) and the bottom two (Panthers, Bucs). While it’s possible the Falcons, or maybe even the Panthers, could surprise us and make a run, the NFC South is the Saints’ division to lose, and in my opinion, they make for an easy over…time to break these teams down and see why.

Ramblings and Gambling:

By Erik Laurinovics, for The Football ERA

NFC South

NFC South Non-Division Opponents: NFC West (SF, STL, AZ, SEA), AFC North (BAL, CIN, CLE, PIT)

Atlanta Falcons Over/Under: 9.0
Pick: Over

This pick is close, as Atlanta has 5 difficult matchups in its last 6 games. Much of their success will depend on the ability to be healthy late in the season, as there are no cakewalks in their final weeks. While the Saints will be tough, Atlanta should at worst emerge with a record of 3-3 in the division, and has winnable games against non-division opponents (@PIT, SF, @CLE, CIN, BAL, @SEA). Matt Ryan will continue to develop, and already looked solid in his second year (prior to injury: 227.6 YPG, 15TD, 12 INT) until he got a bad case of turf toe. The acquisition of Dunta Robison is a huge improvement for the pass defense, which was one of the worst in the league last year (28th overall).
My conservative estimate for this team would be nine wins, so I’ll bet on the over. A developing offense with Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White, combined with a defense that has improved through the draft and trades should give the Falcons a good chance of beating this mark.

Carolina Panthers Over/Under: 7.5
Pick: Under

This is another difficult pick in my opinion, as Matt Moore is a relative unknown at quarterback. While he had a solid finish in 2009 (8TDs in last 4 games), he only had one game over 200 yards in that stretch. If he can give the passing offense some life, it should really open things up and allow their running game to dominate even more. Schedule-wise, Carolina gets a few easy games by virtue of having Tampa in the division and playing the NFC West, but aside from that, there aren’t any easy matchups on the schedule. With Atlanta and New Orleans in the division, it’s not unreasonable to see 3-3 as a ceiling for the Panthers in the division.
While it’s hard to pick against a team with such a strong run game, there are two issues that alarm me about this team. First, Julius Peppers went to Chicago. Carolina had the 9th ranked defensive unit last year, and that number is only going to get worse with the loss of J-Pep. Second, the offense has yet to develop any weapons in the passing game other than Steve Smith; the Panthers are still waiting on Dwayne Jarrett, and the positive buzz about rookie Brandon LaFell is beginning to die down. I foresee the Panthers evolving into a one-dimensional offense with a defense that will be much less effective. It’s a tough call, and this is another pick I would avoid, but take the under if you have to.

New Orleans Saints Over/Under: 10.5
Pick: Over

Maybe I’m missing something on this pick, but it sure seems easy. The Saints went 13-3 last year, had few significant changes this offseason, and have few challenges on the schedule. There still isn’t a defense in the NFC South that will slow them down, and they should be able to duplicate, if not improve upon, last year’s division record of 4-2.
Outside of the division, the Saints should own the NFC West and pick up 4 wins, and you figure they lose maybe 1 AFC North game, with the loss coming to CIN, BAL, or PIT. Regardless, I see at least 11 wins right there, which is a good thing, as they had a bad draw for their two “wild card” opponents, getting MIN and @DAL. The fact that the NFC North and NFC East do not have clear-cut winners headed into the 2010 season is a bonus for the Saints, as they will likely have incentive to play hard most of the season to win home-field advantage once again. Take the over.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Over/Under: 5.5
Pick: Under

Down in Tampa, the Josh Freeman experiment will continue this year, though as this is being written, it has been reported that he has fractured his pinky finger and is out until week 1, at least. This is bad news for the Bucs, as the young offense needs as much time to jell as possible. While there have been positive reports about rookies Mike Williams (WR) and Gerald McCoy (DT), this is another team in rebuilding mode, and wins will be hard to come by. Their run defense was ranked 32nd overall in 2009, and will continue to struggle. Offensively the Bucs ranked 28th in 2009, and should improve somewhat as Freeman develops.
The Bucs are easily the worst team in the NFC South, and I don’t see them getting more than a win. I couldn't tell you who they'll beat, but they have to beat someone, right? They do have some winnable non-division matchups (STL, CLE, SEA, DET), but nothing will come easy for the Bucs. Outclassed by their own division, I can’t see them picking up enough wins to make it to 6. Take the under.

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