Atlanta Falcons (2012: 13-3 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +140
Season win total: 10.0
Why to bet the Falcons: Once again, Atlanta cruised through the regular season with a 13-3 SU record. The Falcons are now 36-12 over the last three years. Their offense is set with Matt Ryan at quarterback and all of the weapons at his disposal. You can normally expect a solid regular season from the Falcons, but playoff success has been a different story.
Why not to bet the Falcons: When the games matter the most, the Falcons crumble. Atlanta is just 1-3 SU in the playoffs over the last three seasons, and they actually should be 0-4 but they miraculously won their game against Seattle last year. The Falcons only played two teams that made the playoffs last season, so their gaudy win/loss record wasn’t accumulated by beating good teams. Atlanta plays my 11th toughest schedule this season.
Season win total pick: Under 10.0
Carolina Panthers (2012: 7-9 SU, 9-7 ATS)
Odds to win division: +510
Season win total: 7.0
Why to bet the Panthers: Last year, Carolina appeared to be a below average team because of their losing record. However, the Panthers overall stats show they were a much better team than their record indicated, and since seven of their nine losses came by 6 points or less, there’s a lot of upside coming into 2013. The offense has talent and as long as QB Cam Newton continues to improve, the Panthers will be a tough out.
Why not to bet the Panthers: Carolina’s defense needs help, especially their weak secondary which faces Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in four games each year. They also have to face Tom Brady and Eli Manning this year which makes improving their win/loss record a little more difficult.
Season win total pick: Over 7.0
New Orleans Saints (2012: 7-9 SU, 8-8 ATS)
Odds to win division: +170
Season win total: 9.0
Why to bet the Saints: Head coach Sean Payton was missed by New Orleans last season. Payton served his one year suspension, and he’ll be back on the sidelines for 2013. His return will rejuvenate this Saints team, and we expect them to return to the playoffs. Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense will be potent as usual, and they will apply a lot of pressure on their opponents to trade points with them.
Why not to bet the Saints: New Orleans must get better on defense if they want to improve upon last year’s disappointing season. In 2012, the Saints allowed 28.4 points per game and a whopping 440 yards per game. If their defense fails to improve, the Saints will be mediocre once again this season. New Orleans plays a tough schedule this year as well; No. 9 based on my ratings.
Season win total pick: Over 9.0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012: 7-9 SU, 10-5-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +570
Season win total: 7.5
Why to bet the Buccaneers: Tampa Bay made a big trade with the Jets to get cornerback Darrelle Revis, and he’s a major addition for their defense. Teams couldn’t run on the Bucs last season; they had the No. 1 rush defense and held opponents to just 82.5 yards per game. With “Revis Island” in the defensive backfield, the Bucs’ defense may be tough to score on this season.
Why not to bet the Buccaneers: They finished right where they should have in 2012 as a mediocre 7-9 SU team. Their offense needed to out-score their opponents to win because their pass defense was a sieve. The Bucs allowed 24.6 points per game and 380 yards of offense per game. QB Josh Freeman is wildly inconsistent, and he throws a lot of unnecessary interceptions which really hampers Tampa Bay drives. The Buccaneers also play the No. 1 toughest schedule in the league this season based on my ratings.
Season win total pick: Under 7.5