If there were any skeptics of Tom Brady or the Tampa Buccaneers, they’re gone now. Brady brought a championship to his new team in just year one, beating out division-rival Drew Brees and New Orleans in the playoffs on the way up. This past season was also Brees’ final one as he announced his retirement later in the spring. It was a two-horse race in 2020 and is expected to be a one-horse race moving forward until questions are answered with the other NFC South participants.
This page lays out the landscape of the NFC South in 2021, complete with a 2020 recap, divisional odds, and where to bet.
Before diving in and throwing all your money on the Buccaneers to win the NFC South, be sure to shop around. Just because BetMGM offers Tampa Bay at +100 to win the division doesn’t mean other outlets like DraftKings and FanDuel will. Consider your options – a minute or two of extra looking around could pay out big in the end.
NFC South odds
2020 NFC South results
Many may forget that the New Orleans Saints took the NFC South crown in 2020. They battled injury to Drew Brees and a majorly silent year from Michael Thomas en route to 12-4 and the second seed in the NFC. Their success was short-lived, however, as the Buccaneers ended their season in the NFC Divisional Round. Plenty of positives came from the season, though, as Alvin Kamara fully broke out, even scoring six touchdowns on Christmas Day against the Vikings. They also got to see what utility man Taysom Hill was all about, helping them judge what direction to move in going forward.
As mentioned, the Buccaneers completed the dream season in their first year with Tom Brady. Bruce Arians enacted his let-it-fly system with Brady, pushing him to his most touchdown passes since 2007 and his most passing yards since 2015. The so-called experiment worked with flying colors, even resurrecting players like Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, and Leonard Fournette after they were cast out by most NFL faithfuls. The offense was effective, but the defense was downright frightening. The linebacker tandem of Lavonte David and Devin White was an unstoppable force and wreaked their most havoc on the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. It was an incredible season wire-to-wire.
While Teddy Bridgewater served as a fine placeholder for 2020, it was clear that Matt Rhule needed more in his first season as head coach of the Carolina Panthers. The offense was decimated early, losing Christian McCaffery early on for most of the year. However, other pieces stepped up big time, namely Mike Davis. Newly-acquired receiver Robby Anderson also shone bright alongside D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. Despite the offensive fireworks, the Panthers were largely noncompetitive, falling to 5-11 by the end of the year.
Dan Quinn’s 2020 stay with the Atlanta Falcons was a short one, lasting just five weeks before being canned. The 0-5 Falcons were bleeding points and even blew a massive lead against the Cowboys early in the year. After defensive coordinator Raheem Morris took over, the Falcons’ defense sprung to life. They shot up ranks, finishing seventh in defensive efficiency over the last 11 games of the year. It was also a terrific year for Calvin Ridley, who took over the WR1 position previously held by Julio Jones. Regardless, Atlanta finished a dismal 4-12 and landed the fourth overall pick in the draft.
2021 NFC South outlook and predictions
How can you bet against the first Super Bowl winning team to return all 22 starters? They also re-signed depth pieces like Leonard Fournette and Antonio Brown and the 2021 Bucs are essentially the same as 2020. As long as Tom Brady is at the helm, Tampa Bay will be in the Super Bowl conversation. With Drew Brees departing for retirement and the rest of the division mostly treading water during the 2021 offseason, the Bucs () have moved to being firm favorites in the NFC South.
The biggest question for the Saints moving forward is who will be behind center? They have a couple of proven options, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, who will compete for the job in the offseason. Brees isn’t the only player to not return to New Orleans– zero of the Saints top nine highest-paid free agents are expected to return. While players like Kwon Alexander and Janoris Jenkins are expensive aging commodities, the return wasn’t great during free agency. As long as Sean Payton is coaching, it’s hard to see the Saints moving in a downward trajectory, but the future doesn’t look as bright as it did a couple years ago.
The Panthers were brought up in the quarterback conversation moreso than almost any other team in the NFL; they were frontrunners to land the once-available Deshaun Watson. When they didn’t land Watson, they were expected to be contenders for one of the draft’s top quarterbacks. However, expectations were averted again as Carolina passed on a signal caller in favor for cornerback Jaycee Horn. Instead, the Panthers landed Sam Darnold from the Jets in a trade– a move that was met with resounding indifference across the league. With Christian McCaffery expected to return this year, the Panthers should improve. By how much, though, remains to be seen.
Matt Ryan isn’t getting any younger and many Falcons “prophets” are projecting him to be finished with the team by the end of this coming season. It would only make sense for Atlanta to go find his eventual successor, but they decided to pull the trigger on Kyle Pitts in the draft instead. The team also respected the wishes of Julio Jones to be traded, where they dished him to the Titans in exchange for a couple picks. The offense is something to keep an eye on under new head coach Arthur Smith, who just recently led the Titans to historic efficiency numbers. However, in order to move forward, the Falcons need to make a difficult decision involving their quarterback.
Past NFC South division winners
|2020||New Orleans Saints||12-4|
|2019||New Orleans Saints||13-3|
|2018||New Orleans Saints||13-3|
|2017||New Orleans Saints||11-5|
|2011||New Orleans Saints||13-3|
How to bet on NFL division winners
To reiterate advice given here, shop around before diving headlong into the first bet you see. Different outlets offer different odds and a minute or two of your time could result in some more money coming your way.
When reading an odds table, there’s several numbers of note. The first is the odds, which tells you who is favored (lower numbers are favored) and how much a successful bet would earn you. For example, a $100 bet on New Orleans (+260) would win you $260 with a total payout of $360. Next is the handle, which tells you what percentage of the total amount bet on the NFC South division winner each team commands. For example, the Bucs have 81% of the handle– meaning 81% of all money bet on the NFC South winner has gone to Tampa Bay. Last is the percentage of bets, which refers to the number of bets– not the amount– wagered on each team. The Panthers have 13% of all bets, which doesn’t reflect how much was bet (the Panthers have 9% of the handle, meaning smaller betting amounts are being placed on the Panthers).
NFL division betting previews
|AFC East||NFC East|
|AFC North||NFC North|
|AFC South||NFC South|
|AFC West||NFC West|