NFC South: Wide Open Division in a Post-Tom Brady World


The New Orleans Saints enter this season as the betting favorite to win a lackluster NFC South at +105 odds, which is considered one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.

Derek Carr Saints
Quarterback Derek Carr, seen here in warmups for a preseason game with the New Orleans Saints, has a chance to lead his new team to a playoff berth for the first time since 2020. (Image: Getty)

The Atlanta Falcons are +200 odds to win the NFC South and enter the season as the Saints’ closest competition. The Carolina Panthers (+500) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1000) are in rebuilding years, which makes the NFC South a two-horse race between the Saints and Falcons.

Only one game separated all four NFC South teams in 2022, and the division title wasn’t decided until the final two weeks of the season. The Bucs secured a home game in the playoffs and a division title despite a losing record.

Quarterback Tom Brady spent three seasons with the Bucs and won Super Bowl LV before he finally retired. With the Brady chapter ending, the Bucs begin a new chapter in a post-Brady world.

Each team in the NFC South has won a division title since 2015. Brady led the Bucs to back-to-back division titles in 2021 and 2022. The Saints won four division titles in a row between 2017 and 2020. The Falcons last won the division in 2016, while the Carolina Panthers won three straight NFC crowns between 2013 and 2016.

Since 2009, all four teams from the NFC South secured at least one trip to the Super Bowl. In the last 14 seasons, the NFC South claimed two Super Bowl champions with the 2009 Saints and 2020 Bucs.

New Orleans Saints: Best Team in a Weak Division

  • NFC South Odds: +105
  • Super Bowl Odds: +3000
  • 2022 Record: 7-10
  • 2023 Win Total: 9.5 o/u

There’s a scenario in which a team clinches the NFC South title with a losing record in back-to-back seasons. Oddsmakers installed the Saints with a win total of 9.5 o/u, and they face one of the easier schedules in the NFL this season. The Saints are almost even money to win the division at +105 odds.

The Saints will play three of last year’s playoff squads, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants. They also have potential tough opponents in the Detroit Lions, and a road game at the New England Patriots.

The Saints added quarterback Derek Carr in free agency, and Jameis Winston will take on backup duties. They also have the versatile Taysom “Swiss Army Knife” Hill, who can play multiple positions, including quarterback.

Wide receiver Chris Olave was one of the few standouts for the Saints last season. Olave caught 72 passes for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns during his rookie campaign. Tight end Juwan Johnson led the Saints with seven touchdowns last season, and Carr loves throwing passes to tight ends (e.g. Darren Waller for the last few seasons in Las Vegas).

Running back Alvin Kamara begins the season serving a three-game suspension because of his involvement in a Las Vegas brawl. Jamaal Williams will start in place of Kamara in the first three weeks, but injuries to two backup running backs are causing potential depth issues.

Atlanta Falcons: Ridder and Robinson

  • NFC South Odds: +200
  • Super Bowl Odds: +6000
  • 2022 Record: 7-10
  • 2023 Win Total: 8.5 o/u

The Falcons are a young team, but they could make a run at a division title because of their outstanding offensive line. That includes Drew Daiman, Jake Matthews, Matthew Bergeron, Chris Lindstrom, and Kaleb McGary.

Desmond Ridder took over as the starting quarterback late in the season, and the rookie produced mixed results. Head coach Art Smith expects Ridder to make a huge leap in his second season.

The Falcons also selected Bijan Robinson with the eighth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft out of Texas. Robinson was the first running back selected in the draft, and the highly-touted rookie has the benefit of rushing behind a premier O-line.

The Falcons have an offensive attack with a trio of first-round picks, including Robinson. Wide receiver Drake London was the #8 pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, and tight end Kyle Pitts was the fourth overall pick in 2021.

Atlanta was 1-7 on the road last season and they play nine road games this season, including one game in London against the Jaguars in Week 4. Other tough nondivisional road games include the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, and the Chicago Bears on New Year’s Eve.

The Falcons have a win total of 8.5 o/u. They also face an easy schedule this season, thanks to games against their AFC South opponents. Their toughest nondivisional home game is against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9.

The Falcons are +105 odds to make the playoffs and -125 odds to miss the playoffs, according to DraftKings.

Carolina Panthers: The Bryce Young Experiment Begins

  • NFC South Odds: +500
  • Super Bowl Odds: +8000
  • 2022 Record: 7-10
  • 2023 Win Total: 7.5 o/u

The Panthers have a rookie quarterback and a new head coach, which is often a red flag. The Panthers whiffed on Matt Rhule as their head coach, who proved that awesome college coaches don’t automatically find success at the pro level. The Panthers hired Frank Reich as their next head coach, who was dismissed by the Indianapolis Colts in the middle of last season.

The Panthers traded running back Cristian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers prior to the 2022 trade deadline. They used some of that draft capital to make a huge trade with the Chicago Bears, and acquired the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They had their sights set on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and selected him with the first pick. Young has tremendous talent. But the Panthers’ porous offensive line will pose a huge challenge in his rookie season.

The Panthers also selected Jonathan Mingo from Ole Miss with a second-round pick. Mingo is on a shortlist of rookie wide receivers to watch this upcoming season. Mingo joins a wide receiver room that includes veterans Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Laviska Shenault.

The Panthers face tough road opponents, including the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars. They also have two challenging home games against the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Last Chance for Baker Mayfield

  • NFC South Odds: +1000
  • Super Bowl Odds: +10000
  • 2022 Record: 8-9
  • 2023 Win Total: 6.5 o/u

The new quarterback in Tampa Bay had big shoes to fill after Brady retired. Baker Mayfield edged out Kyle Trask for the starting QB job. Trask, a third-year quarterback from Florida, barely saw any time as Brady’s backup over the past two seasons. Head coach Todd Bowles tapped Mayfield to begin the season as the starter because Trask isn’t quite ready yet.

Mayfield began the 2021 season as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, and began last season as the starter in Carolina. The Panthers cut him after a disastrous stint in Carolina. He finished the 2022 season with the Los Angeles Rams when Matthw Stafford missed multiple games with a concussion and neck injury. The Bucs liked what they saw and offered Mayfield a contract and a chance to compete for the starting job.

Mayfield knows this might be his last chance before he’s relegated as a backup QB for the rest of his career, which is disappointing for a former #1 pick in the NFL Draft.

The Bucs have two outstanding wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But they lost Russell Gage to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

The Bucs are expected to finish the season in last place in the division with a win total of 6.5 o/u. They’re the long shot on the board to win the NFC South at +1000 odds.

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