With the start of the 2022 NFL and fantasy football season fast approaching, our own Kevin Adams is going division by division to preview every team in the league from a DFS and betting perspective. Strategy, pace, personnel and more — he’s hitting the season from every angle to help you get ready to put your money on the line. Today: The NFC South.

 

 

2021 record: 5-12 | MagicSportsGuy’s 2022 Projection: 7-10
Head Coach: Matt Rhule (2nd season)
Offensive Coordinator: Ben McAdoo (1st season)             
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Snow (2nd season)

Overview

Matt Rhule and the ‘21 Panthers came out hot, winning their first three games. They proceeded to lose Christian McCaffrey and their next 12-of-14 games, including their last four games by an average of 19.25 points. Many thought that would be the end of the Rhule era, but they are giving him the third season to turn things around. They get nine home games, which helps, as does the addition of Baker Mayfield and the return of Jaycee Horn and McCaffrey. 

Ben McAdoo (should) run a fast, west coast offense. In 2016 when he was the head coach in NY, the Giants finished 3rd in neutral pace and attempted the 7th-most passes (1st in no-huddle). He will ask his QB to get the ball out quickly, which should benefit the offensive line, Mayfield and CMC with quick routes that rely on yards after the catch. 

Per Adam Pfeifer, “From 2014-2017, (Eli) Manning posted the fourth-fastest average time to throw twice, as well as the 11th-fastest in the two other seasons. And during his final two seasons with McAdoo, Manning averaged 2.35 seconds to throw, which is lightning fast. In 2017, 365 of Manning’s pass attempts were less than 2.5 seconds after the snap, which led all quarterbacks.

For a detailed breakdown be sure to read Adam Pfeifer’s breakdown 

Offseason Roster Moves 

Notable Draft Picks, Additions, & Losses. 

Draft Picks 

OT Ikem EkwonuQB Matt CorralLB Brandon SmithDE Amare BarnoOT Cade MaysCB Kalon Barnes

Notable Offseason Additions

C Bradley BozemanG Austin CorbettP Johnny HekkerS Xavier WoodsDE/DT Matt IoannidisWR Rashard HigginsLB Cory LittletonLB Damien WilsonWR Andre Roberts

Notable Offseason Losses

DE/OLB Haason ReddickCB Stephon GilmoreDT DaQuan JonesRB Ameer AbdullahDE Morgan FoxLB Jermaine CarterWR Alex Erickson

Week 1

CAR +3 vs. CLE, O/U 42
Implied Team Totals: CLE - 22.5, CAR - 19.5 

Remaining Schedule

Week 2 - @ NYG
Week 3 - vs. NO
Week 4 - vs. ARI
Week 5 - vs. SF
Week 6 - @ LAR
Week 7 - vs. TB
Week 8 - @ ATL
Week 9 - @ CIN
Week 10 - vs. ATL (Thu)
Week 11 -  @ BAL 
Week 12 -  vs. DEN
Week 13 - BYE
Week 14 - @ SEA
Week 15 - vs. PIT
Week 16 - vs. DET (Sat)
Week 17 @ TB 
Week 18 - @ NO

Offense

Way back in 2019, a young Baker Mayfield was the apple of the fantasy community's eye, being drafted as the QB4 after a strong finish and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. in Cleveland. He finished as the QB19, with a PFF grade of 74.8 (17th). He did grade out as the 8th-best QB just a year later, tossing 26 TDs and 8 INTs as the QB17 in drafts, but with the heavy run offense in CLE he was nothing more than a streamer QB2. He is just 27 years old and an upgrade from Sam Darnold. After a run of lucky rushing TDs dried up, Darnold was exposed and finished 27th or lower in over 25 QB stat categories. In terms of DVOA, Darnold finished at -31.8% compared to Baker at -8%. Darnold connected on just 27.5% of his deep passes and ranked dead last in passer rating. Mayfield completed 40.8% of deep passes, and 34.7% of his deep passes were in the “perfect spot” (per PFF). What got Mayfield in trouble was interceptions, he finished 12th in INT rate after tossing seven in his last three games. 

Christian McCaffrey is back (again) and set up for a monster season. We all know the “if he” that goes with that statement. I think CMC said it best, “I had a couple 300-pound guys fall on my ankle while I was already down,” McCaffrey said. “I would love to know if there is a drill someone has got out there to prevent that from happening, because I would do that every day.” Those that worry about a reduction in usage should remember he got 30 touches a game in his first two games last season before being injured, even a 20% reduction would put him in the elite RB1 level. For example, Jonathan Taylor averaged 21.9 touches on his way to his RB1 finish and Alvin Kamara averaged 22.1 touches per game last season (RB4). A reason CMC would crush either of those two in fantasy production is his receiving skills. 

CAR finished 3rd and 8th in RB target share percentage under Joe Brady. Ben McAdoo takes over, coming from an assistant role in Dallas. He was the head coach in NYG in 2016, 

CAR has Tommy Tremble (36 career targets) as their TE1, and a second-year WR (although talented) coming off an injury (Terrace Marshall)Robbie Anderson has been more of a possession receiver since coming to CAR, seeing his aDOT fall from 8th in 2019 with the Jets to 64th and 59th. That leaves my guy (sorry Adam Pfiefer, I am the true king of the DJ Moore Fanclub), and CMC to see a ton of targets (50%+ combined is likely). Last season this offense still targeted their backs at a 24% rate with CMC sidelined (25.6% in 2019 when he caught 116 balls). 

Ikem Ekwonu was selected 6th by CAR in the draft, which should help this unit that was 25th in adjusted line yards per carry (LAST in pressure rate allowed, 28.3%). They also brought in Center Bradley Bozeman and G Austin Corbett to complement their best returning offensive lineman, Taylor Moton. This will not be a top-10 line, but it shouldn’t finish last in QB pressure rate either, especially with McAdoo’s emphasis on a quick release. 

For a detailed breakdown of the CAR OL, check out Dan Fornek’s OL rankings article

Defense

Jaycee Horn CB Carolina PanthersJaycee Horn CB Carolina Panthers">Unlike the offense, which stayed consistently bad last season, the defense at least showed some signs of life. They were the 7th-ranked defense after nine weeks, falling to 23rd over the last eight weeks. They are loaded with talent. Until this season, they have invested heavy draft capital on this side of the ball, including Shaq Thompson back in 2015 and more recently DE Yetur Gross-Matos at 28th in 2022, CB Jaycee Horn (8th overall, 2021), DT Derrick Brown (7th overall in 2020), DE Brian Burns (16th overall in 2019) and S Jeremy Chinn (64th overall in 2020). They also traded for 2020 No. 9 pick, CJ Henderson from JAX. 

Per SI, “The staff is really optimistic that CJ Henderson, the ninth pick in the 2020 draft who was traded from Jacksonville to Carolina last fall, has turned a corner. The Florida product, who’s had mental health issues through his career, came to camp locked in and ready to go, and is showing signs of putting his impressive package of physical gifts together. A couple people went so far as to say, through the last three weeks, he’s become one of the Panthers’ best players.” 

I am always wary of camp hype, but he was a top-10 pick just two years ago and mental issues are no joke and may explain why he has struggled. He is not even 24 years old yet, so if he can play like a first rounder, this would be a talented starting unit. Henderson turning the corner has led to talk that he may end up outside with Horn moving in the slot. 

Horn had been playing great before he was injured. It was just 2+ games, but you could see why he was a top-10 pick. Along with 26-year-old (feels like he should be older) Donte Jackson (Stephon Gilmore is in IND), Chinn and S Xavier Woods, this is a very talented unit. 

CAR blitzed at the third-highest rate, finishing 8th in pressure rate (3rd in adjusted sack rate per Football Outsiders). They will make a good DST streamer this season, including Week 1 against Jacoby Brissett and the Browns. 

Bets

DJ Moore OVER 1075.5 receiving yards - Moore has gone over 1,150 rec yards in three straight seasons, despite dealing with terrible QB play. Baker Mayfield (or Sam Darnold) are also #notgood, but they are serviceable enough to keep Moore’s streak intact. 

CAR OVER 6.5 Wins - With a little luck in the health department, this defense could be dominant. I think 8-9 wins is possible if they have one of those types of seasons, but we only need seven to cover at +105. 

CMC comeback player of the year (+800)  - Putting a half unit on this along with .25u on Allen Robinson (+2500), .5u on Saquon Barkley (+1600) and finally Derrick Henry (.5 units @ +400). 

Comeback Player of the Year - Assuming a $100 bet, $400 invested: 

  • If Saquon wins $675 profit 
  • If Allen Robinson wins $500 profit 
  • If CMC wins $275 profit 
  • If King Henry wins $75

If someone else wins, we lose 1.75u 

Camp News 

Mayfield is expected to be named the starter, per the Athletic (August 18). Matt Rhule then started PJ Walker in their preseason game, which had NFL twitter scratching their heads, since neither possible QB1 got any run with the starters. 

Ekwonu was underwhelming in his debut, but late-round pick Cade Mays continued his strong camp. 

2021 record: 13-4 | MagicSportsGuy’s 2022 Projection: 12-5 
Head Coach: Todd Bowles (3rd season with TB, two as DC), 
Offensive Coordinator:  Byron Leftwich (3rd season)             
Defensive Coordinator: Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote will operate as co-defensive coordinators but this is a “Bowles” defense once again. 

Overview

 Our favorite offense returns. Regardless of Bruce Arians retiring, this should be the same fast-paced, high-pass rate offense we love for DFS and fantasy, finishing 5th in pace & 1st (67.24%) in pass rate (neutral). Even when up by 8+ points (200 plays, 6th most), they passed at a 51% rate (2nd) and moved quickly (3rd of 12 teams with 150 plays in that situation). 

For a comprehensive breakdown, be sure to read each Coaching Breakdown from Adam Pfiefer and Matt Jones.

Offseason Roster Moves 

Notable Draft Picks, Additions, & Losses. 

Draft Picks 

DE/DT Logan HallG/OT Luke GoedekeRB Rachaad WhiteTE Cade OttonP Jake CamardaCB Zyon McCollumTE Ko KieftDE/OLB Andre Anthony

Offseason Additions

DE/DT Akiem HicksWR Russell GageS/CB Logan RyanLB Keanu NealWR Julio Jones 

Notable Offseason Losses

Ali Marpet OL, /CB Jordan WhiteheadG Alex CappaTE O.J. HowardRB Ronald Jones

Week 1

TB -2.5 @ DAL, O/U 51.5
Implied Team Totals: TB - 27 , Dallas - 24.5

Remaining Schedule

Week 2 - @ NO
Week 3 - vs. GB
Week 4 - vs. KC
Week 5 - vs. ATL
Week 6 - @ PIT
Week 7 - @ CAR
Week 8 - vs. BAL (Thu)
Week 9 - vs. LAR
Week 10 - vs. SEA
Week 11 -  BYE
Week 12 - @ CLE
Week 13 vs.  NO (Mon)
Week 14 - @ SF
Week 15 - vs.  CIN
Week 16 - @ ARI
Week 17 - vs. CAR
Week 18 - @ ATL

Offense

Tom Brady targeted his running backs at a 19% rate in 20’ & 21’, which is a far cry from his days in NE (when he didn’t have elite WRs). In 2018 and 2019, Brady threw it to his backs at a (league-high) 36% and 28% rate, respectively. To end the season (with Antonio Brown gone and Godwin hurt), Brady looked to Leonard Fournette frequently (7.71 targets p/g after seeing 4.8 his first eight games). He hauled in 48-of-54 targets (88%) to end the season (including playoffs), averaging 23.64 FPPG over that seven-game span (+8.43 FPPG vs. first eight games). At just 27 years of age, I think he is being undervalued in best ball (yet again) going off the board as the RB13 (RB3 in ‘21).

Rachaad White RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rachaad White (no relation to James) gives the GOAT yet another weapon on this already loaded offense. He had an unusually high target share and targets per route run stats coming out of Arizona State, hauling in 43-of-50 targets in his last season for 456 receiving yards. If Fournette (64% snap share) stays healthy, he should see at least 65% of team snaps again, regardless of his weight troubles coming into camp. Lenny saw six targets p/g last season and nine in their playoff loss to the Rams, so they don’t need a third-down or “pass-catching back.” That said, I think White will absorb most of the “Ronald Jones role” (seven touches p/g), with Ke'Shawn Vaughn there for roster depth and cleaning up in garbage time, though I know they are calling it a “competition” this preseason. The reason is, White is a freak athlete, perfectly capable of handling more than third-down duties. If they thought Vaughn was the guy, they wouldn’t have drafted White. 

They lost Rob Gronkowski but added Russell Gage and Julio Jones to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. They also signed Kyle Rudolph to complement Cameron Brate. Brate did not make an appearance in their Week 2 preseason game, while Rudolph played 18 snaps, which tells us he is locked in as the TE1. Brate actually saw 20 red-zone targets last season (4 TDs), nine more than Rob Gronkowski (4 TDs). 

Mike Evans WR Tampa Bay BuccaneersOne stat that has stood out to me since Brady arrived is the decline in Evans’ target share. Given how efficient he is (7th and 8th in FP per target), it would be fun to see his target share increase back to (at least) 20%. He remains a force inside the 10, he caught 9-of-12 targets inside the “money zone” for 8 TDs.

  • 2016 - 30%
  • 2017 - 24%
  • 2018 - 22%
  • 2019 - 24%
  • 2020 - 18%
  • 2021 - 16%

Chris Godwin is one factor in Evans’ declining workload. He has garnered a 21% & 18% target share with Brady. He saw a team-high 25 targets inside the 20 (4th most overall), with eight of those inside the 10.  Godwin is working his way back from a torn ACL and was recently cleared for contact practice, which is a big step. Stay tuned as Week 1 approaches. 

If Godwin misses Week 1, Evans will be busy. In nine career games without Godwin (and with Brady) he has averaged 19.64 FP. That is +4.8 FP more than his 14.78 FP average where they played together (29 games). 

The offensive line is always front and center when you project Tom Brady. You have to pressure him or you are done. Last season he was pressured on a league-low 11% of dropbacks (23 sacks allowed, also 1st), where he completed over 70+% of his passes. TB lost Alex Cappa (CIN) and Ali Marpet, so they traded for PFF’s 4th-ranked guard, Shaquille Mason. 

Considering most news out of camp is glowing, bad news sticks out. Guard Luke Goedeke has had a mixed preseason, with Goedeke himself saying he is struggling with the transition from right to left guard. “Yeah, it’s been a little disappointing…I know it won’t happen overnight, it just takes time transitioning to playing the left side and everything that goes with that at guard. I’m happy that I’m progressing, but it’s definitely not where I want it to be at this point.” 

He needs to figure it out quickly, since they lost their center, Ryan Jensen, in training camp. Originally it was thought he was done for the season, but the fact they have not put him on IR yet gives him some hope. I would look for the Bucs to try to acquire another offensive lineman before the playoffs roll around. 

Defense

This unit finished 9th in DVOA after 5th in 2020. Considering they allowed 30 points to the Rams in their playoff exit, I would assume it was a priority this offseason. In comes big DT, Akiem Hicks, to play next to Vita Vea. They also drafted Logan Hall in the second round. Hall is a LARGE (6’6”) edge-rusher for Bowles and this Tampa D to keep the pressure on. TB blitzed at the highest rate in 2021, finishing 2nd in pressure rate, 2nd in knockdowns and 6th in QB hurry rate (per PFR). 

Lavonte David LB Tampa Bay BuccaneersLavonte David is 32, Shaq Barrett is about to be 30, but they are still one of the better LBs duos in the league. Devin White is the issue, the fifth-round pick in 2019 “has not graded out above 51.9 since he was a rookie” (per PFF). 

The secondary is still a strength, CB Carlton Davis, CB Jamel Dean, slot-CB Sean Murphy-Bunting and safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards make up one of the most talented units again. They brought in Logan Ryan, who is in decline, but a solid player who can play both CB and S. 

Bets 

Tampa Bay OVER 11.5 Wins (+105) - TB gets nine home games, where they scored 32.4 PPG (2nd). Without the “Bucs Stopper” Sean Peyton in New Orleans, Brady may even be able to beat the Saints this season (0-4 in last two regular seasons, though they did beat them in the ‘21 playoffs on their way to the title). ATL and CAR don’t worry me, giving them six games in the division against teams with a projected win total of 8.5 or fewer. They do have a tough out-of-conference schedule, with games in DAL, SF, CLE, AZ, SF and PIT. They also welcome an awesome group of opposing QBs in TB, such as Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford. Obviously, the TV networks had an influence on this schedule, grading out as the 7th-toughest per Sharp Football. That said, Brady is the GOAT, and this roster is loaded across the board. 

Tom Brady wins MVP  - Caesars is offering this at +900, vs. +800 on most sites. The MVP voters love a good narrative, and what better one than the GOAT riding off into the sunset with his 4th MVP? He finished 2nd last year despite being 1st in pass attempts (due to that pace and high pass rate), RZ attempts, air yards, passing yards and TDs. I think he should have won last year and would have if he didn’t lose Brown and Godwin. Had he not lost to the Saints again, I also think he would have won it (Evans was also banged up for that game). (.5u) 

Tom Brady OVER 4,500.5 passing yards - Injuries are always a factor when playing overs, but Brady has averaged 289 and 312 yards per game in TB. If we split the middle at 300 yards per game, Brady will need about 15 games to cover this (he has played 16+ games in 12-of-13 years). (.5u) 

Tom Brady OVER 35.5 passing TDs - This is arguably the best WR room Brady has ever had, assuming Godwin returns to his normal (awesome) self. Again, their pace and pass rate should be at the top again, which means another 600-650 pass attempts conservatively. He has averaged 2.5 TD passes p/g since coming to TB, which means he should cover this in Week 15. (1u) 

Training Camp News 

Gio Bernard injured his ankle in the first preseason game but returned last week. It will be interesting (for White’s value) to see if he makes the final roster. 

Mike Evans tweaked his hamstring in practice on August 5. ESPN reported the hamstring injury is minor, with HC Todd Bowles describing his status as day-to-day and "no issue for Week 1." 

More on Luke Goedeke - He played 30 snaps, which makes sense as they try to speed up his progress. PFF graded him 69 in pass blocking and 49 in the run game, but overall it was not a good performance, giving up two holding penalties and a sack. 

More bad news on the OL, Aaron Stinnie hurt his left knee late in the third quarter and is out for the season. Brutal news for Brady and company.

2021 record: 7-10  | MagicSportsGuy’s 2022 Projection: 5-12
Head Coach: Arthur Smith (2nd season)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Ragone  (2nd season)             
Defensive Coordinator: Dean Pees (2nd season)

Overview

It’s been discussed a lot, so I won’t go deep, but the 2021 Atlanta Falcons were possibly the worst seven-win football team in the history of the league. They took advantage of a soft schedule and good fortune in close games, which will not be repeated this season. They have the misfortune to play the NFC West this season, which means a trip to play the champs. They also get the pleasure of playing the GOAT two times, which has not gone well since he moved to Tampa. In four games, he has averaged 358 passing yards p/g for 29 FPPG (4-0). 

Offseason Roster Moves 

Notable Draft Picks, Additions, & Losses. 

Draft picks 

WR Drake LondonDE Arnold EbiketieLB Troy AndersenQB  Desmond RidderDE/OLB DeAngelo MaloneRB Tyler AllgeierG Justin ShafferTE John FitzPatrick

Notable Offseason Additions

CB Casey Hayward, DE/OLB Lorenzo CarterQB Marcus MariotaWR Auden TateOT Germain IfediOT Elijah WilkinsonRB Damien WilliamsWR Damiere ByrdWR Khadarel HodgeTE Anthony Firkser 

Notable Offseason Losses

WR Russell GageDE/OLB Dante FowlerP Thomas MorsteadTE Hayden HurstS Duron HarmonLB Foyesade Oluokun, RB Mike DavisDE Jonathan Bullard

Week 1

ATL +4.5 vs NO, O/U 42.5
Implied Team Totals: NO -23.5, ATL - 19

Remaining Schedule

Week 2 - @ LAR
Week 3 - @ SEA
Week 4 - vs. CLE
Week 5 -  @ TB
Week 6 - vs. SF
Week 7 - @ CIN
Week 8 - vs. CAR
Week 9 - vs.  LAC
Week 10 - @ CAR (Thu)
Week 11 -  vs. CHI
Week 12 -  @ WAS
Week 13 - vs. PIT
Week 14 - BYE
Week 15 - @ NO
Week 16 -  @ BAL
Week 17 - vs. ARI
Week 18 - vs. TB

Offense

There is a TON to cover with the offense, get out your notepad. They have new QBs (2), RBs (2), WRs (4) and two TEs (one who also runs routes as a WR). This to go along with a suspended superstar WR1 (Calvin Ridley), a converted WR/returner playing RB (and WR), and finally, a blue-chip TE running routes as a TE and WR, both in the slot and out wide. 

Kyle Pitts TE Atlanta FalconsWith the addition of No. 8 pick Drake London, my hope is they no longer ask Kyle Pitts (or at least ask him less) to line up as wideout. I would like to see him in-line and in the slot, where he has an even bigger advantage. Per PFF, here is his splits in terms of where he lined up/saw targets. 

  • Slot (286 snaps, 42% of targets, 1.87 yards per route run)
  • In-Line TE (248 snaps, 32%) 
  • Wide (237 snaps, 31%) - Travis Kelce was 23%

Per Football Outsiders, Dave Ragone, “was last in the NFL in frequency of throwing to both the No. 2 receiver and “other receivers,” both 10%. They tied Miami and Baltimore to lead the league in frequency of throwing to tight ends (29%) and also led the NFL by throwing 26% of passes to running backs.” 

Marcus Mariota gets a second (and likely final) chance to be a starter in the NFL. He comes over for LV and will allow the Falcons to make it until next season when there is a better QB class coming out. Desmond Ridder was selected in the third round this season, but from all reports and the little film I watched, he is not going to be ready to be an NFL QB this season (maybe ever). A career backup is what one draft pundit said which seems about right. What is odd about Ridder is his similarity to Mariota. He has a nearly identical athletic profile, but a weaker arm, with one scout pointing out that not only is his velocity and accuracy lacking, his windup is slow, which allows defenders to create pressure, leading to sacks and tipped passes. With Matt Ryan gone, I see why they felt like they needed to draft a QB, but last year’s class was so weak, I think they should have gone with a veteran backup and used that pick to address the holes at either the offensive or defensive lines.

Speaking of the line, our own Dan Fornek ranks them 26th, saying…“those picks haven’t yielded great results. All five of Atlanta’s starting offensive linemen played at least 16 games last season, but the unit combined to surrender 26 sacks and 187 pressures last year. One positive for the Falcons is the interior combination of center Matt Hennessy and right guard Chris Lindstrom. Both players ranked top-10 at their respective positions according to PFF thanks to run blocking grades above 87. Atlanta has questionable depth outside of backup center Drew Dalman and free-agent acquisition Germain Ifedi, which makes health imperative if this offensive line is going to take the next developmental step (ATL finished 19th in adjusted sack rate and 20th in adjusted line yards allowed).”

Drake London often gets compared to Mike Evans, a 6’4” receiver, but he is not as fast as Evans was coming out of Texas A&M. He is also not as filled out as Evans, giving up 20 pounds. In fairness to him, he just turned 21 years old in July. I have no doubt he will gain some bulk as he matures. Again, his presence as a bonafide “X” WR, along with free-agent signings Bryan Edwards and Auden Tate, should allow Pitts to play more in-line and in the slot. ATL also added DFS hero (and villain) Anthony Firkser. Firkser had a high slot rate while in TEN and can be a low-pro weapon for Mariota as defenses key on Pitts and London. 

London is banged up but appears to be on track to play in Week 1. He has put out some impressive camp highlights, including this impressive route on Heyward. 

Here he is on Dee Alford down the sideline. 

Finally, a sick route that got Mike Ford completely spun. 

Finally, the RBs. This is a strange RB room. Cordarrelle Patterson got an endorsement with ATL only bringing in 30-year-old Damien Williams on a one-year contract. They also drafted BYU RB Tyler Allgeier in the fourth round. He will need to prove he can pass block, like all rookie RBs, or we may only see him on early downs, which is not very appealing on a team projected to win four or five games. With all this in mind, I keep wondering why Patterson is going so late in drafts. Even if he doesn’t average nine carries again this season, his role as the pass-catching specialist in an offense that likes to throw to their backs is money in the bank at his current ADP. I would assume he is also the goal-line back again, which makes him one of my favorite RBs to target on Underdog. 

Defense

Unlike the Saints, ATL generated no pressure last season, which puts tremendous stress on coverage. ATL finished 29th in overall DVOA despite having one of the best young CBs in the league, A.J. Terrell. New Falcons’ CB Casey Hayward will play opposite Terrell. Now 32, the two-time Pro Bowler is still a tough matchup (6th in FP per game allowed for Las Vegas last season). Isaiah Oliver will slide into the slot, he and their safeties are the issues for this secondary. Richie Grant will move from the slot to safety, and Darren Hall will move to dime coverage. The top two corners are arguably the best duo in the league considering how dominant they were statistically last season, but the rest of the secondary leaves a lot to be desired. 

The inside LBs are also a major issue, so look for teams to attack inside with TEs, RBs and slot WRs. Same with their run D, the front seven can’t stop opposing RBs, allowing 4.67 adjusted line yards per carry (29th, FO). They drafted edge-rusher Arnold Ebiketie in the second round and brought DE/LB Lorenzo Carter, but I don’t see either of those players making a big impact against the run (according to PFF, ATL was only defensive line in the league to grade below 50.0 as a unit in 2022). 

Per FTN Data, Terrell led the league in yards per target, FP per target, passer rating and catch rate allowed. 

Bets 

Drake London OVER 749.5 rec yards - As with all OVERs, health is the first thing you need. But I have him only needing 14 games to cover this which fits the model. Russell Gage was able to post 700 yards in just 14 games, but it was actually 600+ yards in his last eight games that got him there. This is one of the softest lines on the board. Pound it. 

Drake London wins Offensive Rookie of the Year +1400

ATL OVER 4.5 - ATL is going to be bad, I have them at 5-12, which would not be enough for me to post, but both Jeff Ratcliffe (6.4) and Football Outsiders (7.5) have them projected to cover easily.

Camp Notes 

AtlantaFalcons.com reports Deion Jones “remains on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from a reported offseason shoulder surgery.” 

Arthur Smith didn't have a timetable for when Jones would start practicing again.

"He's in there every day, working," Smith said. "I don't give predictions and I'm not a doctor. But he's working all the time."

2021 record: 9-8 | MagicSportsGuy’s 2022 Projection: 9-8
Head Coach:  Dennis Allen (5 seasons with Saints as DC, 1st as HC)
Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael (12th season)             
Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Allen

Overview

For a comprehensive breakdown, be sure to read each Coaching Breakdown from Adam Pfiefer and Matt Jones.

Offseason Roster Moves 

Notable Draft Picks, Additions, & Losses. 

Draft Picks 

WR Chris OlaveOT Trevor Penning, CB/S Alontae TaylorLB D’Marco JacksonDT Jordan Jackson

Offseason Additions

S Marcus MayeS Tyrann MathieuWR Jarvis LandryQB Andy DaltonDT Kentavius StreetS Daniel Sorensen

Offseason Losses

S Marcus WilliamsOT Terron ArmsteadRB/WR Ty Montgomery

Week 1

NO -4.5 @ ATL , O/U 42.5
Implied Team Totals: NO - 23.5, ATL - 19

Remaining Schedule

Week 2 - vs. TB
Week 3 - @ CAR
Week 4 -  vs. MIN
Week 5 - vs. SEA
Week 6 - vs. CIN
Week 7 - @ ARI (Thu)
Week 8 - vs. LV
Week 9 - vs. BAL (Mon)
Week 10 - @ PIT
Week 11 -  vs. LAR
Week 12 -  @ SF 
Week 13 - @ TB (Mon)
Week 14 - BYE
Week 15 - vs. ATL
Week 16 - @ CLE (Sat)
Week 17 - @ PHI
Week 18 - vs. CAR

Offense

We don’t really know what this offense will look like with Sean Payton out and Pete Carmichael in. You would assume a Payton disciple sticks to the script (28th in neutral pass rate, bottom 10 in pace), but they have an entirely new WR group to go along with one of the most talented pass-catching RBs (possibly ever), so why not pass more? The main reason will be their defense is going to be very good again, and if they are in a positive script, you can count on a high rush rate and slow pace. 

Last season, NO passed at a 37% rate if they were up by more than a field goal (31st). 

The Saints surrendered third- and fourth-round picks to move up for Chris Olave at the 11th pick. With the injury history of Michael Thomas, it made sense. Their WR room needed a major upgrade. Olave’s stock has been rising this offseason, locked into the WR2 spot, with Jarvis Landry occupying his normal position in the slot. That takes the Saints from one of the worst WR groups to (assuming MT stays on the field) one of the better ones. Marquez Callaway becomes a solid WR4, and Tre'Quan Smith would appear on the bubble with all the new talent. 

The Saints also had the 19th pick, which they used wisely, replacing Terron Armstead as their next blue-chip left tackle. Trevor Penning has that profile, 6’7”-325 with a 99th percentile speed score (per Player Profiler). Like all rookies, he may take some time to get his feet wet, even a season, but it is a solid pick in terms of value and filling a need. 

Defense

Marshon Lattimore CB New Orleans SaintsThere is no apparent weakness on this defense again (3rd in DVOA in ‘21), they are solid up front, tough up the middle with LBs Demario Davis and Pete Werner, and their secondary is a strength, led by Marshon Lattimore. Per Dan Fornek “Lattimore single-handedly accounted for 19 forced incompletions, 18 PBUs and three interceptions in 2021 on his way to a 10th overall finish in PFF grade (77.3) among 116 eligible corners.” 

Where you can attack this defense was going at the other CBs, Paulson Adebo and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, as well as the safeties. What has helped them was the strong pass rush of Cameron Jordan and company without having to blitz. The Saints were bottom 8 in blitz rate while being top 12 in pressure rate and 5th in QBKD% (QB knockdowns). They replaced both safeties this offseason with Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu.

Bets 

Chris Olave OVER 719.5 receiving yards - Michael Thomas is already banged up after returning from a two-year absence. This is a bet against him making through the entire season. BetMGM has this at 774.5. 

Camp Notes 

Aug 17 - Something to monitor heading into Week 1 is the health of the offensive line. Per Sports Illustrated, “Things probably couldn't have gone worse for the Saints today on the offensive line. Trevor Penning first exited due to injury, being able to walk off under his own power with trainers. The good news is that he later returned. Next, James Hurst left the field and did not return. Dennis Allen said that it's a foot injury, and that's the only details we have. Later, Sage Doxtater left the field with an apparent left arm injury and did not return.

New Orleans was down all three of their main tackles at one point, and with others not playing, it certainly put a heightened focus on Doxtater and Lewis Kidd. Look for the Saints to make some quick moves and calls to get some players in before their game on Friday evening.”