This past offseason, the NFC South was the epicenter of the quarterback shuffle. The Carolina Panthers parted ways with former MVP Cam Newton, starting a new era under the leadership of Teddy Bridgewater. Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced his return for his 20th NFL season; and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed a free agent you may have heard of at quarterback. The high-flying NFC South is flying higher than ever in 2020 and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
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 +140 to win the division doesn’t mean other outlets like DraftKings and FoxBet will. Consider your options – a minute or two of extra looking around could pay out big in the end.
NFC South odds
2019 NFC South results
In 2019, the NFC South was the Saints’ to lose coming off a 13-3 season. New Orleans was setting its sights on the Super Bowl. Enter the Minnesota Vikings, who knocked the Saints out of the playoffs in dramatic fashion, a la Groundhog Day. It was certainly a disappointing way to end the season for a team that was situated in the top 5 in Super Bowl LIV betting from the preseason on. The numbers were still great for NOLA, who finished the season 11-6 ATS (third). They had a quarterback with a 27-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio despite missing four games, and a defense that finished in the top third in the NFL. Their only losses on the season came in an early-season game at the Rams in which Drew Brees was injured, a rough game against Atlanta midseason, and a wild shootout with the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. Though the sting of the Wild Card exit will last in many’s minds, the Saints put together a solid 2019 and should be optimistic about 2020.
The Falcons were looking like the worst team in the NFL through nine weeks in 2019, starting an abysmal 1-8. Their defense looked like Swiss cheese against Houston (53 points allowed) and the Rams (37 points allowed) and they were beaten by the Cardinals (who, up until that point had only beaten Cincinnati). The bye week did Atlanta wonders, though, turning them around for a 6-2 finish that included wins over the Saints and 49ers (accounting for a total 33% of both of those team’s total losses). The Falcons rushed for over 100 yards in each of their final four games and finished the season 7-9, just 1.5 games below their expected win total.
Jameis Winston had one of the best and worst statistical seasons in NFL history at the same time last year for the Buccaneers. Winston threw for an insane 5,100 yards on a lucrative 626 attempts and 33 touchdowns, but also managed 30 interceptions thrown (the most in the NFL since 1988). His season even poetically ended by throwing a pick-six on his last pass attempt. Winston was let go after the season. The buried story was the Buccaneers’ pass rush, which led the league in quarterback knockdowns and ranked seventh in sacks. The inability to create turnovers in the secondary was an issue, and the Bucs finished just 29th in total defense. They saw the emergence of superstar Chris Godwin and the 7-9 Bucs finished a half game above their expected win total (6.5).
Cam Newton played in just two games for the Panthers in 2019 before being lost for the season with a foot injury. From then on, it was the Kyle Allen show, who came out of the gates blazing and tossed for 261 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona. Beyond that, the sophomore threw 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions before being benched for rookie Will Grier in Week 15. Carolina finished a miserable 31st in scoring defense and gave up the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL. Longtime coach Ron Rivera was let go after 12 games and the Panthers lost their final four under interim Perry Fewell. It wasn’t the year Carolina fans were hoping for and the Panthers finished three games below their expected win total (8). After a messy end to the Cam Newton saga, Carolina moved their sights to the future.
2020 NFC South outlook and predictions
Despite adding Brady to the division, the Saints (-130) are favorites in the NFC South and fifth in odds to win Super Bowl LV (+1100) at most sportsbooks. Brees is back for his 20th season (15th with the Saints) and New Orleans is out to put the playoff nightmares to rest. Running back Alvin Kamara is looking to rebound after being injured on and off in 2019. The Saints managed to re-sign one of their best offensive linemen, Andrus Peat, and they added safety Malcolm Jenkins. Another addition was deep-threat Emmanuel Sanders, who is expected to complement Michael Thomas. The story for 2020 will be the Saints being locked and reloaded for what could be their last chance at a Super Bowl.
The Falcons (+900 to win the division) have gone 7-9 twice since their famous Super Bowl meltdown against Brady and the Patriots, and seem to be heading toward another bummer of a season. Dan Quinn managed to save his job over the back half of 2019, but will be on the hot seat again in 2020 and now have to face Brady and a tsunami of 28-3 jokes twice a season. Atlanta sent Vic Beasley and Austin Hooper packing and traded for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. They also signed Todd Gurley in hopes of a resurgence in his home state, but otherwise stayed quiet during the offseason. Their draft class, thin as it is, was met with a resounding “meh” from analysts and most sportsbooks have marked the Falcons at 7.5 wins– right where they were last season.
The Buccaneers were in the headlines for a notable free agent added– maybe you’ve heard of him? Tom Brady made a splash in NFL free agency and dominated offseason coverage. The addition of Brady was so significant that the Buccaneers went from +6500 odds to win Super Bowl LIV (23rd) to +1400 odds to win Super Bowl LV (5th). Also added to the juggernaut offense is Rob Gronkowski, who left retirement to join his old quarterback and make a run at another Super Bowl. Bruce Arians’ system is the polar opposite from what we’ve seen Brady play in the past, but many project this could bring Brady back to near his 2007 numbers (4,800 yards, 50 touchdowns). The draft class was highlighted by Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, who was graded as one of the best linemen available, as well as Vanderbilt standout back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Minnesota standouts Antoine Winfield Jr. (safety) and Tyler Johnson (wide receiver). It’s no secret Tampa Bay is setting up for a massive swing at the fences in 2020, and it might just pay off; the Bucs have jumped to second on odds to win the NFC South (+150).
Sportsbooks were unimpressed by the signing of Teddy Bridgewater as the Panthers’ starting quarterback and breakout college coach Matt Rhule. Carolina double-dipped in the college ranks by bringing on LSU’s Joe Brady as offensive coordinator. The defense was exclusively addressed in the draft, with the Panthers using all seven picks on defensive players– excellent ones, too. They were praised for bringing in studs like Derrick Brown (Auburn), Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State), and Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois). The offseason was not friendly to the new regime, as the lack of preseason and regular programs severely damaged Carolina’s ability to implement their new systems efficiently. Because of that, the Panthers sit a distant last in odds to take the NFC South at an ugly +2200. In fact, Carolina is looking better to land a top-3 pick and land their next franchise quarterback than compete for any titles.
The Buccaneers are this year’s hot team, as they command 38% of bets to win the NFC South – up massively from 2019 – and an NFC South-leading 46% of the handle. Following them is New Orleans, who leads the division in total bets (53%) and 39% of the handle. Atlanta falls third with 7% of all bets to win and 13% of the handle. The rear is brought up by Carolina, which sits second to last in the NFL in division handles (3%) and total bets (2%). It’s a two-man race at the top which should provide some of the most intriguing football this year.
Past NFC South division winners
|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 Atlanta (+800) would win you $800 with a total payout of $900. 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 46% of the handle– meaning 46% 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 Saints have 53% of all bets, which doesn’t reflect how much was bet (the Saints have 39% of the handle, meaning smaller betting amounts are being placed on the Saints).
NFL division betting previews
|AFC East||NFC East|
|AFC North||NFC North|
|AFC South||NFC South|
|AFC West||NFC West|