01 September 2007

NFL previews: NFC South

I've been doing these in random order and didn't realise I had left both of the South divisions till the end. Both have popular picks for their respective conferences' Super Bowl representatives. But enough about the Texans, let's start with the NFC.

Atlanta Falcons

Total wins: OFF
Off? Seriously? Why? What recent event could have created so much uncertainty about the teams immediate future and its prospects for the coming season? In the absence of any forthcoming explanation, let's try to break down the schedule anyway. Keep in mind, this was a team that was already picked by some to finish in last place before camp opened. Is there such thing as "even laster"?

I'm giving them one division win, either TB or Car. Picking NO to sweep them, by the way, is the easiest pick of the year. NO will win easily at home, and Atl has no significant home-field advantage here: NO is already a dome team, and in recent years half of Atl's season ticket holders don't even show up when Vick's hurt. I'll say one from the NFCW, probably @AZ, maybe an upset somewhere. I guess one from the AFCS as well, anybody but Ind. That leaves @MN and NYG. What the hell, I'll give 'em one, don't know which, don't care. That's a 4–12 team right there. Too bad there's no line.

Division champ: 8–1
And yet for some reason they're still listing odds for this one. Not that it's gonna happen.

SB champ: 100–1
How do they have the same odds as TN and Buf? I'd pick either of them over this team. Not that I'd pick either of them.

Week one: +3 @MN
If either team is going to pull off one of those surprising seasons that prove all the so-called experts wrong, and they're both strong candidates, it starts here. I have no idea who's gonna win this. Sorry, P—.

Full disclosure: Remember when they made their Super Bowl run in ’98 with Dan Reeves and Jamal Anderson and Chris something-or-other, that old QB that used to get hurt all the time? And Tony Martin? Tony Martin! I had a buddy living in Athens at the time, and I asked him at the time whether people were catching Falcs fever. "Hell no," he replied, "all anybody down here gives a shit about is NASCAR and the annual Georgia-Georgia Tech game." So there you have it. I don't know anybody who loves this team, and neither does my buddy who lived in Georgia for a few years.

Charlotte Panthers

Total wins: 9
So people are still way into this team? Even after last year? We all think last year was just a fluke for Delhomme, not the beginning of the long slide into ineffectiveness? I don't think I'm buying it. This team looks 8–8 to me.

Say we start with four division. Maybe they sweep Atl and TB, maybe they split TB and NO. I think I'm being charitable here. I'll say two from the NFCW. They get to host SF and Sea in December, which is a nice draw, so I'll give 'em one of those. Say two again from the AFCN, Hou and one of the road games (@TN, @Jac). @GB and Dal? I gotta think they could pretty easily drop both of those. That's eight. They could beat Dal. That's nine. I'm feeling under, but not strongly enough. Skip it.

Division champ: 2–1
See, why are these odds so short? Because thy're considered NO's only competition?

SB champ: 25–1
Strangely tempting pick, but no thanks.

Week one: –1 @StL
StL always plays well at home and always opens the season strong. Take the Rams.

Full disclosure: My buddy M— at work is a huge Panthers fan, as in goes to a bar to watch the game on satellite every week. He's also a big Mets fan. Who used to be an Orioles fan. And he's from Arkansas. Whatever, bottom line is this is one of those teams I'm happy to see win when they're not playing the Jets because it makes someone I like happy.

New Orleans Saints

Total wins: 91/2
Whoda thunk the lowly Saints would be runaway division favourites one day? In a division with the Bucs, the Falcs and an expansion team. Not that much of a stretch, I guess. Hey, remember when Carolina was in the West and Arizona was in the East? Good times. Where was I?

This was a team I thought all offseason was destined to fall back to Earth, but on paper they look pretty strong, and their competition doesn't. They can probably win five in that division, but I'll play it conservative and say four. NFCW? @Sea and @SF is a tough draw, but how 'bout StL and AZ at home? Well, I think StL might be tough, and they're a dome team too. Let's say two. I can see them taking three from the AFCS, everybody but @Ind. They close with Phi and @Chi. You can write off a southern dome team winning at Soldier Field in December, but Phi's doable. Maybe. That's ten. Or maybe nine, depending on how strong Phi is. Too close.

Division champ: 2–3
Probably, but I don't like under-one odds.

SB champ: 8–1
Very possible. With Ind coming off a SB hangover (and losing half their D in free agency), NE too loaded to actually work and SD having hired Norv Turner, I can definitely see an NFC team sneaking in and winning this year. And why not the Saints? Because everybody's picking them to win it, that's why. Ask the Panthers how that goes.

Week one: +6 @Ind
I think Ind will probably win, but it could very easily be by a field goal. There's no over/under on the board yet, but when there is take the over no matter what the number is. I have a feeling Reggie Bush is gonna turn into one of those guys who always step it up for prime time games.

Full disclosure: Seriously? Nope. I knew a few people who lived in New Orleans for a while, but they all hated sports.

Tampa Buccaneers

Total wins: 7
My big dark-horse, against-the-grain, confound-the-experts pick from last year. Didn't really pan out. I heard someone say the other day he thought Gruden would be this year's first coach fired. We'll see. Three division? Doable. Say splits across the board. Man, @Sea's a shitty trip; write that one off. They get AZ at home, though. I'll say two from the NFCW, probably both home games. This may sound strange, but I think they can take three from the AFCS. I just think the matchups look pretty favourable. Say we start by giving 'em @Hou and writing off @Ind. They get TN and Jac at home, and I think they can take 'em. Plus they're both early enough in the season that these guys'll still be in contention. This defense used to give Vick a pretty hard time, they could do the same to Young. Jac looks shaky all around; it's starting to come out that the coach and GM really don't like each other. What the hell, I'm sticking with three. That leaves @Det and Was, two of my favourite teams to pull off a surprise improvement. Sorry guys. That's seven on the nose.

Division champ: 4–1
Not a terrible bet, but... nah. Not this year.

SB champ: 60–1
I'm not making this mistake twice.

Week one: +6 @Sea
The 'Hawks could win this one on jetlag alone. Throw in superior talent and that should be enough to cover. 'Hawks it is.

Full disclosure: I don't know anyone who likes this team. I don't think I've ever even met anyone from Tampa.

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