NFL

NFC South Division Betting Preview: Can Anyone Beat the Buccaneers?

Last year's Super Bowl champions are the favorite to win the NFC South. Are they the best betting value in the division?

We are back to continue our division betting previews for the 2021 NFL season.

This time, we are focusing our attention on the NFC South.

The odds are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, which has odds for every division winner, conference winner, and player props, plus a whole lot more. It's a great place to go if you are fond of a flutter.

Let's get to it.

Looking Back to 2020

New Orleans Saints
The 2020 NFL season marked the fourth NFC South division title in a row for the New Orleans Saints. They finished 12-4 and ranked fifth in points scored (482).

They were among the elite teams in terms of efficiency on offense, averaging 0.17 Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play in 2020. Only six teams averaged more.

They beat the Chicago Bears in the wild card round of the playoffs before losing to eventual Super Bowl Champions and NFC South rivals: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round.

Quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement at the end of the season, ending what will surely be a Hall of Fame career in possession of a slew of team and league passing records.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers, in their first season with Tom Brady at quarterback, earned their first trip to the postseason since 2007 with an 11-5 record in 2020.

They were 3rd in points scored and 7th in yards gained, while they were one of the few teams more efficient than the Saints with an average of 0.19 Adjusted NEP per play.

They enjoyed a postseason run for the ages, beating Washington, New Orleans, and Green Bay in the NFC playoffs before claiming the second Super Bowl title in team history with a demolition of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers, in Matt Rhule's first season in charge, were a fairly pedestrian outfit on both sides of the ball in 2020. They finished 5-11 after starting 3-2 and posted the 21st-most points in the league while allowing the 15th-most.

They traded away 2020 starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos while landing former third overall selection Sam Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets heading into the season.

Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons ended the 2020 season with a 4-12 record, their worst mark since an identical finish back in 2013.

In their fourth season since their epic Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, the Falcons fired head coach Dan Quinn after an 0-5 start to the 2020 season.

Raheem Morris took the reins for the final 11 games, in which the team went 4-7. But he was overlooked for the job at the end of the season, as the Falcons named former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith the 14th permanent coach in team history.

2021 Strength of Schedule

Here's a snapshot of each team's division win odds (per FanDuel Sportsbook) and their 2021 schedule strength (per Sharp Football Stats).

TeamOdds to
Win Division
2021 Strength
of Schedule
Implied
Probability
Tampa Bay Buccaneers-1855th64.9%
New Orleans Saints+33029th23.3%
Atlanta Falcons+70015th12.5%
Carolina Panthers+95013th9.5%


The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers have been able to bring back virtually their entire title-winning squad for the new season, an almost unheard feat in the modern era. Their explosive offense, a punishing defense, and the fifth-easiest schedule make them an easy choice with the bookmakers to clinch the division, something they have not actually managed since 2007.

The Saints find themselves in quarterback purgatory, with a choice between the enigmatic Jameis Winston or the multi-faceted Taysom Hill. They also have issues on offense, with star wide receiver Michael Thomas missing for a large chunk of the season and not much in proven talent behind him. It has been a golden era for the Saints, but it will be something to behold if it continues into the new season.

The Falcons are in a weird position, choosing not to take a possible successor for Matt Ryan in the NFL Draft and instead investing in a playmaker in tight end Kyle Pitts. They have so many holes in their defense that the team should make use of him, not to mention Calvin Ridley, as they spend a good deal of time behind in the coming year. Their schedule isn't that daunting, but this is not a team overflowing with talent all across the board.

As for the Panthers, they, too, have question marks at quarterback. The debate could be settled this season regarding the reason for Darnold's NFL struggles: former head coach Adam Gase or Darnold himself. They have plenty of intriguing pieces on offense, with a talented receiver trio in D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. plus one of the best running backs in the game in Christian McCaffrey. But while they also don't face a murderer's row of a schedule, at least according to the charters, they are also not exactly blessed with an abundance of talent on defense. This is still a project very much in its early stages.

The Pick

It is nigh on impossible for me to suggest backing anyone other than the Buccaneers, who rank first in numberFire's preseason power rankings, for this division.

Tampa Bay is also one of two teams (along with the Baltimore Ravens) to rank top-eight in both expected offensive and defensive Adjusted NEP entering 2021.

There are just too many things that need to go wrong for them, and simultaneously right for every other team, for me to consider one of the other three taking the crown at the end of the year.

The Buccaneers are the bookmakers' favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl once again, with only the Chiefs enjoying shorter odds. A first division title in 14 years will be something to enjoy on their way there.