NFL division futures: NFC South edition

As we wait for training camp to begin in the NFL, we’re taking a look around the league the next two weeks to see how divisional odds shake out, along with the futures bets we like the most.

[Previous editions: NFC East | NFC North]

Next up in the conference is the NFC South, a division that seems to be squarely in control by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are the heavy favorites, especially with Tom Brady coming back out of his extremely brief retirement.

No division has a more lopsided standing in the futures market than this one, let’s explore why that it.

To win the NFC South betting odds

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-290 FD)
  2. New Orleans Saints (+450 FD)
  3. Carolina Panthers (+1000 DK)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (+2800 DK)

After winning the Super Bowl in 2020, the Bucs followed it up with a 13-4 regular season that saw them earn the second seed in the NFC. The Bucs won their first playoff game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Rams. After a brief scare that could have left the franchise in a tough spot, Brady called off his retirement for another go. Much of the team remains in place as we near the 2022 season.

The Saints finished their year 9-8 and were the first team out of the playoff race, losing in a tiebreaker to the Eagles for the seventh and final seed. New Orleans’ 2021 struggles stemmed from the quarterback position — all three of Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill were forced to start multiple games. Without continuity at one of the most important positions in sports, the Saints failed to generate enough offense to maintain competitiveness.

Carolina had a very promising start to the season before some defensive injuries and the struggles of Sam Darnold took center stage. The Panthers finished in last at 5-12 and recently traded for Baker Mayfield in an attempt to shore up the quarterback position.

The Falcons went 7-10 last year, but it would be quite a shock to see them sniff that win total in 2022. They shipped off franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, leaving them with incredible uncertainty under center. Marcus Mariota is expected to start, with rookie Desmond Ridder likely to see some starts as the season progresses. The Falcons’ outlook looks bleak, as their +2800 odds suggest.

What to expect: Atlanta Falcons

The short answer here would be not much when it comes to the Falcons’ 2022 expectations. Only the Texans have a lower projected win total this year, with Atlanta’s current over/under on wins set at just 5.

Top receiver Calvin Ridley is suspended for a year for gambling on games when he was injured, leaving this offense lacking enough juice to keep up. Kyle Pitts is an extremely intriguing player, and Atlanta will hope rookie Drake London pairs well with Pitts in this offense. With a vulnerable defense and one of the weakest quarterback rooms in the NFL, it’s best to stay away from Atlanta futures. Let’s move on.

What to expect: Carolina Panthers

I like parts of Carolina’s team for sure. Jaycee Horn is a young corner with plenty of upside, and Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson and Jeremy Chinn give this defense a chance to shut down a handful of offenses.

If Christian McCaffrey could just stay healthy for a season, it would do wonders for newly acquired quarterback Baker Mayfield. I for one think Mayfield got a bad wrap in Cleveland, and with a solid trio of receivers in DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson and Terrace Marshall, I have my optimisms about this team.

Personally, I find their value at +1000 to be much stronger than that of the Saints. Not to spoil the end of this piece, but it’s hard for me to imagine a world where Tampa Bay doesn’t win this division. I think the Panthers can finish in second place, but no, I can’t justify a bet on them taking home the NFC South crown.

What to expect: New Orleans Saints

The Saints do have a talented roster and have remained a competitive team in the NFC for some time now. They have a strong defensive line and linebackers, and Marshon Lattimore and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary bring great balance to all three levels.

Before we get to the issues, we’ll doll out one more compliments for New Orleans. If Michael Thomas can return (where has he been?), then this receiving group is strong. Thomas, Landry and rookie Chris Olave is an enviable group, but it’s hard to know what type of player Thomas is after so few games for the once-upon-a-star player.

Here’s why I don’t like a bet on New Orleans this season. First, the offensive line is a liability, and that hamstrings a team in a hurry. Jameis Winston is an OK passer, but I hardly think he’s enough to author a division title.

Alvin Kamara is likely facing a suspension for an offseason incident. We won’t get into the specifics here, but it seems likely that the Saints’ most important offensive player will miss the first month of the year. Then there’s the fact that Sean Payton has retired, leaving Dennis Allen in his stead. The coaching turnover has us fading New Orleans in 2022.

What to expect: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What is there really to say here? Of the four divisions, this is the one that feels the most cut-and-dry. Brady is still here, as are Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and almost the entire defense.

This Buccaneers team is 100% ready for another run at a Super Bowl title, and in a wide-open NFC, they stand a great chance at doing so.

Sorry if this feels like we’re phoning it in; we’re not, but this is Tampa’s division. Brady had one of the best statistical seasons of his career last year — an astounding thing when you consider the illustrious career he’s had. 

Do I contradict my point above if I mention that Bruce Arians stepping down doesn’t move the needle for me? It comes back to the QB. Brady must have signed off on that move, and the players clearly believe in Todd Bowles. I have no worries there.

Best bet to win the NFC South

This is a series of NFL futures. It comes with a self-designed format and idea: finding bets for each division. I’m sorry to say that I don’t see one that I believe in for the NFC South. No one should ever place a futures bet on something at -290; injuries could derail that in a hurry.

The prediction here is a Buccaneers division win for the third straight season. My dark horse is a competitive Panthers team, but I can’t find us an actionable bet to follow that belief.

Check out the first two divisional futures, both of which came with a plus-money recommendation, and stay tuned on Yardbarker for more. We’ve got five divisions left.

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