With the New Orleans Saints getting a not-so-restful Week 6 bye last week and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulling off a 38 - 10 demolition of the Green Bay Packers, Tampa now sits atop the charts as the favorites to win the NFC South. According to sportsbettingdime.com’s divisional odds tracker, the Saints and Bucs stand alone as the top contenders for the division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -106
New Orleans Saints: +106
Over the last five weeks, the teams have alternated between first and second favored in their division. The Saints solidified themselves to open up the season with a head-to-head win over the Tom Brady-led Bucs who then overtook New Orleans as the Saints dropped their second-straight game this season hosting the Packers. The black and gold reclaimed the top spot after their bounce back pair of victories against the Lions and Chargers, which coincided with Tampa’s loss to the Bears. But now, as the Saints rested up on the bye week, the pewter-clad pirates have jumped back on time with their convincing Week 6 win.
This week, the Bucs will take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium where the Saints lost their first game of the season. John Gruden’s club has already upset not only New Orleans, but also the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs this year. The Saints will hope for a similar outcome as they host the division rival Carolina Panthers on Sunday. We could see a change in the favorite to win the division for the third week in a row if the Saints win and Bucs loss.
As New Orleans hosts Carolina and former Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers have a healthy lead over the Atlanta Falcons for the third-most favored team in the division.
Carolina Panthers: +1075
Atlanta Falcons: +5025
Carolina was beginning to close the gap with the South’s top contenders but have distanced a bit after dropping last week’s game to the Chicago Bears.
The Saints became the second team in the NFC South to win the division three times in a row last year. The only other team to do so, the Panthers, did so from 2013 - 2015. New Orleans will continue their goal to become the first team to reach a fourth-straight NFC South crown while the Bucs will try to keep their lead to win the division for the first time since 2007. If the Saints want to reclaim the top spot and maintain any kind of lead atop the division, they’ll have to capitalize on the next five games of their schedule.
Five straight NFC opponents which include three divisional matchups against the Panthers, Bucs, and Falcons respectively. Notching a head-to-head win over the Panthers would create some comfortable space between them and the surprising team out of Charlotte. Locking in a sweep over their biggest competition in Tampa, FL is a near-must. And of course, beating up on the floundering Falcons is a simple pleasure. But each of those wins, in addition to important conference games at the Bears and hosting the San Francisco 49ers could help set the Saints up for what has become a simpler-than-anticipated back-half of the schedule.
New Orleans has a prime opportunity to establish themselves atop the division, distancing themselves from the challengers, and answer a lot of questions along the way. The question is, has the bye week given them enough time to iron out the wrinkles that have been tripping them up all season long so far?
Do you think the Saints can get back on top of the division? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC and Instagram @SaintsCSC. “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Instagram at @SaintsCSC, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints.