NFC South: An open division in the post-Tom Brady era

After Tom Brady retired from the Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints became the most watched team in the open league.

Apr 8, 2024
5 min read
Quarterback Derek Carr is warming up for the New Orleans Saints' preseason game with a chance
Quarterback Derek Carr is warming up for the New Orleans Saints' preseason game with a chance to lead his new team to the playoffs for the first time since


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NFC South: An open division in the post-Tom Brady era

The New Orleans Saints enter the season as the favorite at +105 odds to defeat the underperforming NFC South, considered one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.

The Atlanta Falcons have a +200 chance to win the NFC South and enter the season as the Saints' closest rival. The Carolina Panthers (+500) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1000) are in the midst of a rebuilding phase, making the NFC South a close call between the Saints and Falcons.

There will be just one game between all four NFC South teams in 2022, with the division title not decided until the final two weeks of the season. Despite the losing record, the Buccaneers won a home playoff game and a division title.

Quarterback Tom Brady played three seasons with the Buccaneers, winning a Super Bowl before eventually retiring. As the Brady chapter ends, the Buccaneers begin a new chapter in a post-Brady world.

Since 2015, every team in the NFC South has won the division title. Brady led the Buccaneers to back-to-back division titles in 2021 and 2022. The Saints won four straight division titles from 2017 to 2020. The Falcons last won the division in 2016, while the Carolina Panthers won the NFC title three straight years from 2013 to 2016.

Since 2009, all four teams in the NFC South have been to at least one Super Bowl. Over the past 14 seasons, the NFC South has won two Super Bowls with the Saints and Buccaneers in 2009 and 2020 respectively.

New Orleans Saints: The best team in a weak division

  • NL South Odds: 105
  • Super Bowl Odds: 3000
  • 2022 Record: 7-10
  • 2023 Win Total: 9.5 o/u

There is a scenario where a team wins the NFC South title after posting a losing record for two consecutive seasons. Oddsmakers have the Saints at 9.5 o/u overall and they face one of the easier schedules in the NFL this season. The Saints have an almost identical chance of winning the division at +105 odds.

The Saints will play three teams from last year's playoffs, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. They also have a potentially formidable opponent in the Detroit Lions and on the road against the New England Patriots.

The Saints added quarterback Derek Carr in free agency and Jameis Winston will assume backup duties. They also have the versatile "Swiss Army Knife" of Taysom Hill, who can play multiple positions, including quarterback.

Wide receiver Chris Olave was one of the Saints' few standout players last season. Olave caught 72 passes for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season. Tight end Juwan Johnson led the Saints with seven touchdowns last season, and Carr likes to throw passes to tight ends such as Darren Waller in Las Vegas in recent seasons.

Running back Alvin Kamara was suspended for three games early in the season for his role in a brawl in Las Vegas. Jamal Williams will start in Kamara's place for the first three weeks, but injuries to two backup running backs create potential depth issues.

Atlanta Falcons: Reid and Robinson

  • NFC South Odds: 200
  • Super Bowl Odds: 6000
  • 2022 Record: 7-10
  • 2023 Win Total: 8.5 o/u

The Falcons are a young team, but their great offensive line should give them a chance to win a championship. These include Drew Dayman, Jake Matthews, Matthew Bergeron, Chris Lindstrom and Caleb McGary.

Desmond Reed took over as starting quarterback at the end of the season, and the rookie had mixed results. Head coach Art Smith expects Reed to take a giant leap in his second season.

The Falcons also selected Bijan Robinson out of Texas with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Robinson was the first running back taken in the draft, and the highly touted prospect had the advantage of running behind a top-tier O-line.

The Falcons have three first-round picks, including Robinson, and a strong offense. Wide receiver Drake London is the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and tight end Kyle Pitts is the fourth overall pick in 2021.

Atlanta was 1-7 on the road last season and has played nine road games this season, including a game against the Jaguars in London in Week 4. Other tough road games outside of the division include the Detroit Lions, New York Jets and Chicago Bears on New Year's Eve.

The Falcons win total is 8.5 o/u. They also have an easy schedule this season due to games against AFC South opponents. Their toughest home game outside the division is Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings.

According to DraftKings, the Falcons have a +105 chance of making the playoffs and a -125 chance of missing the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers: The Bryce Young Experiment Begins

  • NFC South Odds: 500
  • Super Bowl Odds: 8000
  • 2022 Record: 7-10
  • 2023 Win Total: 7.5 o/u

The Panthers have a rookie quarterback and a new head coach, which is usually a red flag. The Panthers praised Matt Rhule as their head coach for proving that great college coaches don't automatically translate to success at the professional level. The Panthers hired Frank Reich, who was fired by the Indianapolis Colts midway through last season, as their next head coach.

The Panthers traded running back Cristian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. They used part of their draft capital to make a big trade with the Chicago Bears to obtain the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They took a fancy to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and took the No. 1 pick. He was drafted first overall. Young has tremendous talent.But the Panthers' porous offensive line will pose a major challenge in his rookie season.

The Panthers also used a second-round pick on Mississippi's Jonathan Mingo. Mingo is on the short list of top rookie wide receivers to watch for the upcoming season. Mingo joins a wide receiver room that includes veterans Adam Thielen, DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault.

The Panthers face tough opponents on the road, including the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars. They still have two challenging home games against the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Baker Mayfield’s Last Chance

  • NFC South Odds: 1000
  • Super Bowl Odds: 10000
  • 2022 Record: 8-9
  • 2023 Win Total: 6.5 o/u

With Brady retiring, Tampa Bay needs a new quarterback to fill the void.Baker Mayfield beats out Kyle Trask to become starting quarterback. Trask, a third-year quarterback from Florida State, has seen little time as Brady's backup over the past two seasons. Head coach Todd Bowles chose Mayfield to be the starter this season because Trask wasn't ready yet.

Mayfield begins the 2021 season as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and was the starting quarterback in Carolina last season. The Panthers cut him after a disastrous stay in Carolina. He finished the 2022 season with the Los Angeles Rams when Matt Stafford missed several games with a concussion and neck injury. The Buccaneers liked what they saw and offered Mayfield a contract and the chance to compete for the starting job.

Mayfield knows this could be his last chance before being demoted to backup quarterback for the rest of his career, which would be disappointing for the former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Buccaneers have two great receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But they lost Russell Gage to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

The Buccaneers are projected to finish last in the division with 6.5 wins overall. At +1000 odds, they have the best chance of winning the NFC South.

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