Looking up and down the divisions in the NFL, several, such as the AFC North, AFC South and even the NFC West are too tight to call for the forthcoming season. One division that has a clear odds-on favorite, however, is the NFC South. With the most successful quarterback in the game’s history back at the helm after enjoying a retirement that also set a league record in terms of brevity, Tampa Bay is the team on everyone’s lips.
Do Tampa really have it sewn up?
Can they be beaten? The bookmakers think it is improbable, given their 13-4 record last year, making them the joint-best team in the NFC. Wide receiver Chris Godwin is likely to miss the opening weeks, but the Bucs have that eventuality covered, having signed Russell Gage on a $30 million deal during free agency.
The biggest risk to the Bucs domination is that so much of it seems to hinge on the fitness of a certain 45 year old quarterback. The bookmakers had a completely different view on the likely fortunes in the NFC South during his brief period of retirement. If Brady fails to deliver for whatever reason, the divisional title could easily go elsewhere.
Panthers ready to pounce
In David Tepper, Carolina boasts the wealthiest owner in the NFL and the team have not been shy about spending his money during the off season. New deals with guard Austin Corbett and running back D'Onta Foreman ensure some backbone to an offense that was unable to fire last year. But the real gamechanger could be Baker Mayfield. He proved in his first two years at Cleveland that he is capable of providing that all important spark and belief to turn a struggling offensive unit around.
The Panthers are at +900 to win the division, but could be a shrewd outside shot for a wildcard berth in the playoffs.
Saints are marching
New Orleans had decidedly mediocre fortunes in 2021. That’s not meant unkindly, simply as a reflection of their PFF ranking of 14th and marginally positive points differential across the regular season. It was all going so well till quarterback Jameis Winston’s season came to an abrupt end in week eight with a serious knee injury. He is expected to be fit for the start of the regular season, so don’t read too much into the Saints pre-season misfires against the Texans and the Packers.
New Orleans will doubtless miss outgoing head coach Sean Payton, but Dennis Allen is stepping up from defensive coordinator to replace him and will be a safe pair of hands. Successful though Payton was, a change could work wonders to help the Saints achieve their full potential and return to the form that saw them clinch the NFC North in 2020/21.
Another long year for Atlanta
Anyone who enjoys a long shot will love Atlanta’s +3500 odds to win the division. But that would truly be a story of the ages. The Falcons were third in the division last year with 7-10, and frankly, they will be defying the odds if they can repeat that feat.
Free agency signing Marcus Mariota and third round pick third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder will compete for starting quarterback duties, but the lack of firepower on offense means it could be a poisoned chalice.Back to the NFL Newsfeed