NFL Schedule Analysis – NFC South

18
NFL NFC

Atlanta Falcons

2019 record: 7-9
Last playoff appearance: 2017
Bookies over-under for Falcons wins: 7.5
Punt Sports projects: 7 wins

The NFC South isn’t a breeze, and plenty of tests dot the Atlanta slate start to finish. Going to Green Bay, Kansas City and Minnesota is a steep climb in nonconference play without considering the new and intense challenge of visiting Tampa Bay. Hitting .500 looks like a home run here.

Upset watch: It’s been a few moons since head coach Dan Quinn helped Pete Carroll build a Super Bowl defence in Seattle, and he knows where the weak spots are in Russell Wilson’s game. Seattle built a 24-0 lead at halftime when these teams met Week 8 last year, but the game finished as a one-possession result.

Longshot wager: If the wheels come off for the Falcons — the schedule is rough, and an injury to Matt Ryan could spell doom, for example — PointsBet has installed Atlanta as a +3000 shot (11th-best odds) for the NFL’s worst record. Stranger things have happened.

Atlanta Falcons 2020 schedule

Sept. 13 vs. Seattle Seahawks
Sept. 20 at Dallas Cowboys
Sept. 27 vs. Chicago Bears
Oct. 5 at Green Bay Packers
Oct. 11 vs. Carolina Panthers
Oct. 18 at Minnesota Vikings
Oct. 25 vs. Detroit Lions
Oct. 29 at Carolina Panthers
Nov. 8 vs. Denver Broncos
BYE
Nov. 22 at New Orleans Saints
Nov. 29 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Dec. 6 vs. New Orleans Saints
Dec. 13 at Los Angeles Chargers
Dec. 20 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dec. 27 at Kansas City Chiefs
Jan. 3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Carolina Panthers

2019 record: 5-11
Last playoff appearance: 2017
Bookies over-under for Panthers wins: 5.5
Punt Sports projects: 5 wins

The turnaround in Carolina could be more expeditious than national pundits are projecting, but 2020 isn’t going to bring a playoff aroma to the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater helps stabilize an offence with an MVP candidate — Christian McCaffrey — front and center. First-year head coach Matt Rhule did everything possible to address his defence by investing each of the team’s draft picks on that side of the ball. The Panthers still don’t stack up from a talent and overall playmaking standpoint.

Upset watch: Close games could be the calling card of this team. They rank 18th in strength of schedule. We like their chances to tip the Chicago Bears because of what appears to be an offence without star power, but within the division, the New Orleans Saints are at risk in this matchup. Carolina typically keeps it close against New Orleans and fell just shy — 34-31 — of the upset last November.

Longshot wager: McCaffrey is +4500 to win the NFL MVP award, and we get that he won’t likely win if the Panthers aren’t putting up Ws. But consider he will be in the running if he gets near 2,750 total yards and 25 touchdowns on a mediocre team. He posted 2,392-19 last season.

Carolina Panthers 2020 schedule

Sept. 13 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Sept. 20 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sept. 27 at Los Angeles Chargers
Oct. 4 vs. Arizona Cardinals
Oct. 11 at Atlanta Falcons
Oct. 18 vs. Chicago Bears
Oct. 25 at New Orleans Saints
Oct. 29 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Nov. 8 at Kansas City Chiefs
Nov. 15 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nov. 22 vs. Detroit Lions
Nov. 29 at Minnesota Vikings
BYE
Dec. 13 vs. Denver Broncos
Week 15 at Green Bay Packers
Dec. 27 at Washington Redskins
Jan. 3 vs. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints

2019 record: 13-3
Last playoff appearance: 2019
Bookies over-under for Saints wins: 10.5
Punt Sports projects: 11 wins

NFC South division champs for three years running, the Saints still have the muscle to dominate, and the defence could be a tick better. Insurance behind Drew Brees now includes Jameis Winston, and running back Alvin Kamara is primed for a big year for a team that again made a stable offensive line a top priority. Drawing the Chiefs, Packers and 49ers at home is a huge advantage for New Orleans.

Upset watch: Taking the show on the road has always been a variable for this offence. Going to Denver and Chicago could set the Saints up for tight games — if not losses — but even with Brees out, the Saints were 11-6-0 in 2019 against the spread.

Longshot wager: The Saints have the fourth-best odds to finish the 2020 season undefeated. That’s probably not happening, but at 150-1, you can find worse ways to spend your wild-card cash. Compare the investment to the Chiefs and Ravens at 25-1.

New Orleans Saints 2020 schedule

Sept. 13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sept. 21 at Las Vegas Raiders
Sept. 27 vs. Green Bay Packers
Oct. 4 at Detroit Lions
Oct. 12 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
BYE
Oct. 25 vs. Carolina Panthers
Nov. 1 at Chicago Bears
Nov. 8 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nov. 15 vs. San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Nov. 29 at Denver Broncos
Dec. 6 at Atlanta Falcons
Dec. 13 at Philadelphia Eagles
Dec. 20 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Dec. 25 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Jan. 3 at Carolina Panthers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 record: 7-9
Last playoff appearance: 2007
Bookies over-under for Buccaneers wins: 10
Punt Sports projects: 11 wins

Underrated in the entire projection of the Buccaneers’ 2020 season is a defence that could be downright filthy. So many offensive weapons and arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time will drive a lot of attention, but Tampa’s defence will secure plenty of wins.

Upset watch: The Bucs were 5-9-2 against the spread last season, fourth-worst in the NFL, but that’s about to change unless expectations are astronomical. One game that will be watched around the world is the Chiefs visiting Raymond James Stadium in one of the headliners of the 2020 season. We like Tampa’s chances in an emotionally charged environment to post a Brady-driven victory.

Longshot wager: Shaquil Barrett is +3300 to claim Defensive Player of the Year honours, and the 27-year-old might be priced in the right spot at the moment. But if the Buccaneers are the offensive juggernaut many expect, seeing Barrett hit 17 or 18 sacks and racking up big plays is feasible. That puts him squarely in the DPOY conversation.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 schedule

Sep. 13 at New Orleans Saints
Sep. 20 vs. Carolina Panthers
Sep. 27 at Denver Broncos
Oct. 4 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Oct. 8 at Chicago Bears
Oct. 18 vs. Green Bay Packers
Oct. 25 at Las Vegas Raiders
Nov. 2 at New York Giants
Nov. 8 vs. New Orleans Saints
Nov. 15 at Carolina Panthers
Nov. 23 vs. Los Angeles Rams
Nov. 29 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
BYE
Dec. 13 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Dec. 20 at Atlanta Falcons
Week 16 at Detroit Lions
Jan. 3 vs. Atlanta Falcons