Following the NFL schedule release, fans and analysts often try to predict which games will be won and lost by each team. Another key aspect of the schedule release involves sportsbooks setting the predicted number of games any given team should win, using the book’s models. In this series, each of the eight NFL divisions will be previewed on a team-by-team basis. The win total projections below have been taken from Caesars Sportsbook, via ESPN.
The third division that will be assessed is the NFC South. Last year's best teams in the division, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, both have new head coaches and the two returning head coaches have just three combined NFL seasons in this role. Adding that the Greatest of All Time will once again be competing in this division, many will tune in to these games.
Previous divisions in the series:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 11.5 wins
2021 Record: 13-4
Tom Brady sent shockwaves across the NFL world when he decided to come out of his brief retirement. The football player who is almost unanimously considered to be the greatest in the history of the sport, Brady will provide Tampa Bay with stability to the quarterback position the franchise didn’t think was possible coming into the offseason. The familiarity here will take pressure off of others, especially new head coach Todd Bowles.
Named head coach following Bruce Arians’ retirement from coaching in the NFL, Bowles has served in this role with the New York Jets. He inherits a team that won Super Bowl LV just two seasons prior, except they have lost a handful of players.
One moving piece for the Buccaneers is their offensive line, losing Alex Cappa to the Bengals and Ali Marpet to retirement. Jason Licht was ready for this, as he successfully traded for Tom Brady’s former teammate in Shaq Mason. However, rookie Luke Goedeke or Aaron Stinnie appear in line to start at left guard.
Other offseason additions include Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan, who each excellent positional versatility The division still may be theirs to lose, but the team’s depth appears thinner than in years past. Their schedule doesn’t do any favors either, facing five of last season’s division winners and every team that played in the conference championship.
Prediction: Under 11.5 wins
New Orleans Saints
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 7.5 wins
2021 Record: 9-8
The first season for the Saints after the retirement of Drew Brees was a turbulent one. Despite losing Jameis Winston before the halfway point and having to start four different quarterbacks, including rookie Ian Book debuting on Monday Night Football, New Orleans remained resilient. This triumphant effort fell just a tiebreaker away from the playoffs, but that was also when Sean Payton was the coach of the team.
New head coach Dennis Allen now steps into this role for the first time since 2014 with the Raiders. Like Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay, he has spent many years as defensive coordinator for the franchise, so this should alleviate some transitional pains. Another point to consider when assessing the potential success of the team is Mickey Loomis’ incredible ability to improve the roster despite salary cap uncertainty.
The wide receiving core looks completely new in contrast to last season, now sporting Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry. A healthy Jameis Winston with this trio could prove menacing, but injuries are a concern.
Seeing Marcus Williams sign with the Ravens hurt the secondary, but slotting Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu in the defensive backfield should ease the loss nicely.
Although tackle Terron Armstead will be tough to replace, first-round selection Trevor Penning is an excellent substitution through the draft. This team appears as strong, if not more talented, on paper than last year when nine wins were attained.
Prediction: Over 7.5 wins
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 5.5 wins
2021 Record: 7-10
More NFC South quarterback drama ensued in Atlanta, seeing longtime Falcon Matt Ryan seek a trade to the Colts. Filling in as the projected starting quarterback is Marcus Mariota, who hasn’t started a game since Falcons head coach Arthur Smith benched him when the two were in Tennessee. Rookie Desmond Ridder could contend for the gig, but both options may rely heavily on the skill-position players around them.
This group has improved with the drafting of Drake London, but the rookie from USC joins what appeared as a deficient unit at the start of free agency. Bryan Edwards came over from Las Vegas, but the pass-catchers may not keep defensive coordinators up at night outside of Kyle Pitts and the versatility of Cordarrelle Patterson. Calvin Ridley being suspended for the entire year hurts their offensive ceiling, but the defense has some question marks, too.
Losing Foye Oluokun and Dante Fowler Jr. hurts, and Deion Jones could soon be in another city. Despite a strong cornerback duo of A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward Jr., the defense looks no better than the one that ranked 29th in points allowed.
Prediction: Under 5.5 wins
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 6 wins
2021 Record: 5-12
One of the most pressing concerns heading into the offseason for the Panthers was addressing the quarterback position. As things stand, Sam Darnold appears to have been given an encore following his nine-touchdown and 13-interception season in his 12 games played.
Late third-round pick Matt Corral could step in if needed, but elevating the offense around him as a rookie, if thrust into such a role, may appear daunting given the circumstances.
Carolina felt building in front of their quarterback was the right move, drafting Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth selection in the recent draft. However, the offensive line that ranked second in total pressures last season still has not improved at each position. Another struggle for the Panthers in 2021 was remaining healthy. Star running back Christian McCaffrey played less than half of the season, as did 2021 first-round selection Jaycee Horn.
The hot start Carolina began with last season cooled rapidly, winning three straight games before dropping 12 of their next 14 contests, including seven consecutive losing efforts to end the year. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady was fired in December after a lackluster showing became evident to Matt Rhule.
However, the longest-tenured head coach in the NFC South must show strides toward winning, independent of the talent on his roster, should he desire a different result than his former offensive coordinator.