Welcome to Bet Labs 2017 NFL preview series where we will look at all eight of the league’s divisions. As part of the preview, we will highlight each team’s chances of winning their respective division and take a look at their season win total.
To create our projections, we simulated the 2017 NFL season 10,000 times using team projections and adjusting for Strength of Schedule.
2016 Record: 11-5
Home Games: GB, BUF, MIA, DAL, MIN
Away Games: CHI, DET, NE, NYJ, SEA
It is easy to remember the Falcons 2016 season for the crushing overtime loss the team suffered in the Super Bowl after leading 28-3. Despite the poor ending, last year was one of the most successful in franchise history. Atlanta won the NFC South for the first time since 2012, reached its second Super Bowl ever and Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP. What does 2017 look like?
Ryan and the Falcons finished last year second in offensive efficiency leading the NFL in points per game (33.8) by more than a field. The team will continue to score but probably not at the same rate. For starters, they lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and were incredibly fortunate with their offensive line play. The five starters on the o-line played every game last year, that is unsustainable. The defense is also a work in progress that ranked 22nd in DVOA in 2016 but the front office made moves (signed Donatri Poe, drafted Takkarist McKinley) to improve it.
What is more likely to happen? Matt Ryan plays like an MVP once again and the Falcons are true contenders or the offense takes a step back and the defense remains below average? The truth lies somewhere in between but that will be enough to win the division.
Atlanta has the highest win total in the division at 9.5 games. Our simulations peg the Falcons to win nine games (20.8% likely). There is a 55.4% chance the team wins 9 or fewer games, at +105 there is value on the UNDER.
2016 Record: 6-10
Home Games: BUF, PHI, MIA, MIN, GB
Away Games: SF, NE, DET, CHI, NYJ
How quickly the mighty can fall in the NFL. Heading into the 2016 season the Panthers had won 15 games the year before and were the defending NFC conference and NFC South champions. Injuries and poor play (started 1-5) caused Carolina to miss the playoffs, the first Super Bowl runner-up to do so since 2008.
If the Panthers fall was quick, their resurrection will be even faster. Cam Newton should be healthy after offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He will enjoy some new weapons as the team added Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the draft while improving the offensive line with the signing of Matt Kalil. With an improved pass rush and the return of Luke Kuechly (concussion) the defense should remain one of the best in the league.
After 10,000 simulations of the 2017 season, the Carolina Panthers have a 32.4% chance of winning the NFC South. It is basically a coin flip between the Panthers and Falcons for the division crown.
Cam Newton and company have a season win total of 9 games. The Panthers most likely record this fall is 9-7 (occurs 20.7% of the time). The OVER is juiced to -140 odds, there is a 50.1% chance the team wins 10 or more games giving no value to placing that bet.
2017 NFL Season
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New Orleans Saints
2016 Record: 7-9
Home Games: NE, DET, CHI, WAS, NYJ
Away Games: MIN, MIA, GB, BUF, LAR
It has been three years since the Saints made the playoffs. Drew Brees can score points but the defense can’t stop anyone. New Orleans was first in the NFL in yards per game (426) and second in scoring (29.3 points) last year. On the other side of the ball the defense finished 29th in DVOA and allowed 273.8 passing yards per game (most in the league).
The team used first, second and third round picks to improve the defense but until the unit takes a step forward the team is stuck in mediocrity.
The Saints are projected to go 7-9 (19.7%). The season win total in the Bayou is 8.5 games. We give New Orleans a 69.8% chance of winning 8 or fewer games, at -125 odds there is value on the UNDER.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2016 Record: 9-7
Home Games: CHI, NYG, NE, NYJ, DET
Away Games: MIA, MIN, AZ, BUF, GB
2016 was full of firsts for Tampa Bay. The Bucs avoided finishing last in the division for the first time in five years. The team also enjoyed a five-game winning streak for the first time since 2002. Yet the perennial NFC South bottom dwellers missed the playoffs for a ninth straight year, fourth longest streak in football.
Injuries slowed the offense last season and Jameis Winston still managed to rank 15th in DYAR among quarterbacks. Better injury luck and the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard could propel the offense into the top 10 of the league.
Vegas has set the Bucs season over/under at 7.5 games, which would be a 1.5 game setback from their record a season ago. The pieces are here for the Buccaneers to compete but the oddsmakers don’t think they put it together this season and we agree. The team’s most likely record is 7-9. There is a 46.7% chance the team wins 8 or more games and a 53.3% chance of winning 7 or fewer. There is no value betting the team’s total.
NFC South Division Odds
The Falcons are favored to win back-to-back division titles but the NFC South if full of .500 teams. In a division up for grabs the value lies with Carolina +245.
Check back tomorrow when we preview the AFC South.