2016 NFC South Expert Pick

2016 NFC South Expert Pick

Written by on July 27, 2016

The NFC South was really a matter of a contender and three pretenders last year, as the Carolina Panthers steamrolled through the rest of the division to win the crown, losing only one divisional matchup at Atlanta. Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta all are working through major issues — the Buccaneers are still growing with Jameis Winston, the Saints are figuring out how to deal with the decline of Drew Brees, and the Falcons are trying to incorporate a new defense. Let’s take a look at how we think things will shake out in the NFL lines in that division this year.

Let’s Take a Look at the 2016 NFC South Expert Pick

Favorites to Win

Six teams have now gone 15-1 in the NFL regular season after the Panthers joined that exclusive club — and they went 11-5 against the spread as well. However, four of those six teams (including Carolina) have failed to win the Super Bowl, as they fell 24-10 to the Denver Broncos. Josh Norman, their All-Pro cornerback, left the team via free agency. Even so, linebacker Luke Kuechly and quarterback Cam Newton return to the fold, and the hunger that they feel after making it so close to a title and then falling short should motivate them to march through another successful season.

Smart Pick to Win

Yes, the Atlanta Falcons finished 8-8 last year, but you might not remember that the Falcons joined the Panthers in going 5-0 to start the season. That finish included a 6-10 performance against the spread, and a third consecutive season without a postseason appearance. However, the Falcons were also the only team to beat the Panthers last year. What does this mean? The Falcons need to stay out of the infirmary, as injuries took a huge toll, and Devonta Freeman needs to establish himself as a tailback in Atlanta, so that the passing game doesn’t have to carry the offense all by itself. Unfortunately, no team has a tougher record this coming season than Atlanta.

Long Shot to Win

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 6-10 last year to finish dead last in the NFC South. However, they ranked #5 in total offense last year as Jameis Winston showed that the learning curve would not be as steep for him entering the NFL as a rookie quarterback. Their defense was also fairly solid, coming in #11 in the league. Dirk Koetter enters his second season as the head coach in Tampa Bay with a lot of optimism. If Winston can keep on growing, and the defense can take the next step to an elite unit, this could be a fearsome team. My Free Pick: Carolina Panthers I’m curious to see where the changes in Atlanta take them, and there is a chance that getting so close to the title will actually turn into a bit of a hangover in Carolina, as it did last season for Seattle. Even so, the Panthers are still head and shoulders above the rest of this division.