New Orleans Saints -165
Atlanta Falcons +120
Carolina Panthers +900
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +2300
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New Orleans Saints: The Saints had a fantastic season in 2009, winning the NFC South, the NFC Championship, and finally, the Super Bowl. It was a real culmination to a comeback for both a team and a city that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina not that long ago. New Orleans has arguably the most explosive offense in the NFL, led by QB Drew Brees, who is still relatively young and already amongst the top quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. The question regarding a repeat performance as Super Bowl champs is going to come from a defense which ranked in the bottom third of the league all season last year. If that unit can improve to respectability as it was in the playoffs, the Saints will not only have no troubles winning the NFC South yet again, but it could be well on its way to the Super Bowl as well.
Atlanta Falcons: Two years ago, the Falcons made their jump from the laughing stock of the NFL to a team that made the playoffs. They took a bit of a step backwards last year with a 9-7 season, but they ultimately still proved that they belonged in the discussion amongst the playoff caliber teams every single year. The second year of the Matt Ryan era went well, and even better things are expected for the former No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft coming into 2010. Atlanta’s rushing attack was slowed just a bit in 2009 by an injury to RB Michael Turner. If “The Burner” gets going again and the addition of DB Dunta Robinson can help a secondary that was woeful in ’09, Atlanta will be back in the playoff mix again in 2010.
Carolina Panthers: Carolina is going to be a very interesting squad to watch all season long. The quarterback battle is now wide open with QB Jake Delhomme finally getting cut a few years too late, while the defense is going to have to find some answers about coping with the loss of DE Julius Peppers to free agency as well. There’s no doubt that this team will run the heck out of the football, but is there enough of a passing attack to make it stand up? Save RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, there might not be a heck of a lot else out there to keep this team entertaining. With HC John Fox in the final year of his contract, there could be a very big void to fill for the Panthers very soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs clearly entered a rebuilding stage that everyone knew in the Sunshine State was going to take at least a few years to complete. There are zero expectations for Tampa Bay this season, as everyone at Raymond James Stadium knows that this team isn’t any good still. The goal is going to be improving in every aspect of the game. The play of a pair of rookie defensive tackles are going to be called upon to improve a rush defense that ranked dead last in the league. On the other side of the ball, QB Josh Freeman is expected to take some strides from last season, but no one believes that this is the year he becomes an elite signal caller. The Bucs have a chance to win some games early on the schedule, but they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.