NFC South Week 11 Preview
The Atlanta Falcons’ stranglehold on the NFC South loosened slightly after the Falcons dropped their first game of the season, while watching the Buccaneers and Saints both win last weekend. The Falcons still maintain a solid three-game lead over the second-place Bucs, but with seven games remaining in the season, nothing is locked up just yet. This week, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta all have the opportunity to get a little stronger in their pursuit of playoff spots as they each take on sub .500 foes. However, as always, the question is not just will they win, but will they cover their respective spreads. Let’s take a look at each of the three matchups and see for ourselves.
Arizona Cardinals 4-5 at Atlanta Falcons 8-1
The Falcons clearly have the edge in this one, being the strongest overall team in the NFC pitted against a team on a horrific five-game slide. However, a 9.5 point spread is a tall order for any team in the NFL, so to get it done, the Falcons will have to be near perfect against the Cards on Sunday.
Sure, Arizona is a team with plenty of weaknesses, but the one strength it does will serve it well in this matchup and that’s pass defense. The Cardinals have the 2nd ranked pass defense in the NFL and they’ll need their coverage to hold up against the big and accurate arm of Matt Ryan and his bevy of speedy, sure-handed receiving options.
If the Cardinals are able to ground the air attack of Atlanta and force the game into a trench war, admittedly, they will probably still lose, but I think they will cover the +10.5 spread they are up against. Look for the Cardinals to keep things close (under 10 points) in a loss this Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-4 at Carolina Panthers 2-7
Before the season began, many bettors, including myself, thought the Panthers would be the dark horse in the NFC South and possibly in the entire conference, but that distinction may belong to the Buccaneers. Thanks to the emergence of star rookie running back, Doug Martin, the Bucs are in the hunt for a wild card spot in the NFC at 5-4. He’s been the only real change to the roster from last season, but what a nice change he has been for Tampa Bay, making a huge difference in his first year in the league.
Needless to say, it’s been a disappointing year for the Panthers on the other side. Their frustrations have seemed to boil over at times as they continue to lose close games, but the fact remains that they do have talent and are capable of putting together a string of wins.
However, the Panthers are just too inconsistent to feel comfortable betting on and Martin and Co. should have plenty of success against the 16th ranked run defense of Carolina. Look for the Bucs to stay hot and cover -1 on the road in this one.
New Orleans Saints 4-5 at Oakland Raiders 3-6
After starting 0-4, the Saints are on the brink of climbing to .500 for the first time this season as they visit the Oakland Raiders this week. It’s better late than never for the Saints, who are finally starting to see things come together, while the Raiders have struggled from inconsistency and a lack of a potent running game.
Although the Saints should find plenty of success scoring on a team that allows more than 30 points per game, the Raiders should also find plenty areas to attack against the Saints defense which is ranked 31st in pass defense and amazingly even worse against the run at 32nd.
Expect a high scoring game today between these two clubs, but look for the Saints to cover the -4.5 spread on the road and continue their winning ways.