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Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook, correct as of 9/27/2023.
The NFC South was among the uglier playoff races in 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed the doubloons atop the division, but still failed to record a winning record at 8-9.
All four teams within the division will tout different Week 1 starters under center than they did the year prior. But which teams will benefit the most to the tune of a division title from their new quarterbacks?
The retirement of Tom Brady puts the Buccaneers on a sinking ship down to Davy Jones’s locker. With Baker Mayfield likely to replace one of the greatest to ever play it seems incredibly likely that Tampa Bay goes from first to worst.
The Buccaneers are among the favorites for the worst record in the NFL, not just within the division. Odds range from +750 on Caesar’s Sportsbook to +900 odds on DraftKings to +1100 odds on bet365.
That’s a good bet to make. This is a bad team.
Mayfield hasn’t finished inside the top-25 in QBR since 2020, a feat he’s achieved just twice in his five-year NFL career. Even though Brady was a shadow of himself last season he still threw just nine interceptions. Mayfield has thrown 35 interceptions in his last 30 games.
Those turnovers will prove costly, especially if second-year rusher Richard White cannot improve upon an underwhelming rookie season. Tampa Bay had the eighth-worst scoring offense in 2022, a metric that is unlikely to improve with a downgrade under center.
While defensive depth is also worryingly thin at most positions the Buccaneers do still have some shiny pieces on defense. Lavonte David is still among the league’s best coverage linebackers, and cornerback duo Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis are coming off strong seasons.
The Buccaneers will still be close to last in the league, let alone the division. The Under offers the best odds on DraftKings at -130, with most books currently sitting slightly worse at -140.
The Buccaneers have the 11th-easiest schedule in 2023.
Four quarterbacks threw a football for Carolina in 2022, two of which went as top-three picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Yet none of them are even on the roster a year later after a disappointing season in Carolina.
Enter Bryce Young and Andy Dalton, who should make up most of the starts for the Panthers in 2023. After setting school records at Alabama in single-season passing yards and touchdowns Young represents a hopeful future for Carolina. But as it goes with most rookie quarterbacks, the beginning will likely be somewhat bumpy.
The Panthers’ offensive weapons are among the weaker corps in the league, especially after trading D.J. Moore to Chicago. The wide receivers combined for a puny total of 2,565 yards last year, with all but Adam Thielen (716 yards) failing to surpass the 600-yard mark. Hayden Hurst should be a friendly face at tight end, but he cannot be the focal point of the offense.
The Panthers had the 10th-best rushing attack in the NFL and found their groove at the end of the year, averaging a ridiculous 188 rushing yards over their final three games. Carolina added Miles Sanders in free agency, who is coming off a career year in which the former Eagle earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
The defense also gained some help on the field as well as the sideline. Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero worked a masterclass in Denver last year. He gets Brian Burns and Derrick Brown on the defensive line, with talents like Vonn Bell, Jaycee Horn and Jeremy Chinn manning the secondary.
In 2011, the Panthers took Cam Newton No. 1 overall and went 6-10. History has a funny way of repeating itself, at least as much as a 17-game schedule will allow.
The Panthers have the sixth-easiest schedule in 2023.
The Saints just need to be average to win the division. With Derek Carr at the helm, New Orleans should be able to manage that.
New Orleans lost 10 games for the first time since 2005, albeit on an expanded 17-game schedule. Still, the Saints are poised for a bounce-back atop the division, and the odds reflect it.
At +115 on most books — +125 on bet365 — New Orleans is a noticeable favorite to win the division for the first time under head coach Dennis Allen. Cameron Jordan leads a strong defensive line with upside pieces in Carl Granderson (5.5 sacks, 13 pressures on 45% of snaps) and second-round rookie Isaiah Foskey.
Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore will return after playing just seven games last season, with a solid safety room of Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye.
Offensively, the team received an obvious upgrade under center with Carr and still boasts an up-and-coming Chris Olave. Veteran Michael Thomas has played just 10 games over the last three years but would be a sight for sore eyes if he can stay on the field. The offensive line also has multiple Pro Bowlers.
Star running back Alvin Kamara could face a suspension, which would be impossible to replace. But the team has at least prepared for that outcome by signing Jamaal Williams, who led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2022 and drafted TCU standout Kendre Miller.
The Saints should do enough to win the division, especially with the second-easiest schedule in 2023.
The Falcons could surprise many this season. That’s largely because they gripped their talons on over $120 million worth of defensive free agents.
Atlanta hasn’t had a top-16 defense in points allowed since 2017. That was also the last year the team won more than eight games. So, the big-money additions of Jessie Bates, David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss should pay big dividends to a wanting Falcons franchise.
Bates is among the best coverage safeties while Onyemata stops opposing rushers even better than teammate A.J. Terrell stops opposing wide receivers. Meanwhile, Elliss enjoyed a great 2022 with the Saints, stepping up both as an edge rusher and run defender while Pete Werner was hurt.
The biggest question marks are on the other side of the ball. Drake London and Kyle Pitts are more than capable receivers, but can Desmond Ridder effectively get them the ball?
It seems unlikely. Ridder was not impressive last season and was far from a clean prospect out of Cincinnati. The team signed Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $14 million contract, so it’s very possible there’s a quarterback change should Ridder struggle. That tends to only add to the chaos.
With an instant-impact rookie rusher like Bijan Robinson the struggles under center can be limited. But ultimately there’s a ceiling to what can be achieved without top-tier quarterback play.
The Falcons should be helped by having the easiest schedule in 2023.
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Michael Sicoli has been writing about fantasy football and betting within the NFL space since 2020. He works as a writer and content creator with ClubFantasyFFL and runs an NFL defensive (IDP) newsletter with The IDP Guys. A graduate from Quinnipiac University, Michael is a long-time NFL fan with a love for soccer and the NBA.More info on Michael Sicoli
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