The NFC South champion has made it to the Super Bowl each of the past two years, only to lose the big game.
Last season, it was the Atlanta Falcons who blew a 25-point lead in a 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots. The big question for the Falcons is, have they been able to recover from that devastating setback, or will they suffer a serious hangover?
As it stands now, Atlanta is the +170 betting favorite (wager $100 to win $170) to repeat as the division champ at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Falcons (11-5 in 2016) should be just as good as they were last year on paper, but that does not mean anything if they remain fragile mentally. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off an MVP campaign, just like Carolina Panthers counterpart Cam Newton did the previous season after losing the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos.
Carolina finished last in the division following that performance with a 6-10 record, but the team is expected to rebound according to sportsbooks as the +225 second choice on the odds to win the NFC South. The Panthers are hoping Newton has recovered from shoulder surgery and regains the form that helped him win MVP honors two years ago.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were second in the division last season at 9-7, just ahead of the New Orleans Saints at 7-9. Both teams seem to be headed in the right direction and should pose a slight challenge for the past two NFC South champs, although each of them will be hard-pressed to make the postseason this year.
The Buccaneers added wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason to take some pressure off Mike Evans. However, the continued development of quarterback Jameis Winston will be the key to Tampa Bay’s season as the +350 pick to win the division. Winston, the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, was a little better in his second year under center and needs to cut down on turnovers to take the next step.
The Saints have slipped from +250 to +400 on the NFC South odds but have a future Hall of Famer at quarterback in Drew Brees, who has averaged more than 5,000 yards over the previous seven seasons.
But the New Orleans defense is still a major concern after surrendering a division-high 454 points in 2016, which was also the second-highest total in the NFL overall a year ago. At 38 years old, the window for Brees is closing quickly, and the Saints are well back at +5000 on the odds to win Super Bowl 52.