FILE – In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla. The Bucs face the Broncos on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio, File)
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have opened as the favorite to win the NFC South in 2021
- The New Orleans Saints opened as a big favorite to win the NFC South last season and they cashed in
- The Bucs are the chalk for good reason as the other three teams have some serious concerns heading into the offseason
With Super Bowl LV in the rearview mirror, the futures have been released for the 2021 NFL season. In the NFC South, to no one’s surprise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are favored to win the division. Taking a look at the early NFC South odds, are the Bucs the best bet here, or is there value with one of the three other teams?
Opening NFC South Odds
|Team||Odds to Win NFC South|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-160|
|New Orleans Saints||+180|
Odds as of February 9th at FanDuel S
Bucs Have Plenty of Key Free Agents
One of the biggest questions around the NFL will be: just how good can the Bucs get? This is a team that experienced a lot of turnover last offseason but didn’t have the full allotment of training activities. They started slow but won their final eight games and now will have the proper runway to build the roster, chemistry and more throughout this year’s offseason.
The biggest challenge for the Bucs is they have a lot of key players who are hitting free agency and they’ll have to get very creative to keep them all. Linebacker Lavonte David, the team’s second-leading tackler, is up for renewal along with fellow linebacker Shaq Barrett. Barrett has 27.5 sacks the last two seasons.
On offense, the team will have to figure out what they want to do with wideout Chris Godwin, who finished with 840 yards in 12 games, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Leonard Fournette. Realistically, the Bucs will probably be fine even if they lost all three but losing David and Barrett on the defense will hurt.
Who Else Is Good In the NFC South?
One of the biggest challenges of betting against the Bucs is who do you take instead? The New Orleans Saints are probably looking for a new starting quarterback as Drew Brees is considering retirement. They’re currently $74 million over the salary cap too, so they’ll have to subtract off their roster; not add.
As for the Atlanta Falcons, they’re again entering a rebuild. The offense still has quality pieces in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, but it feels like that’s been said for a while now and they’ve compiled just 18 wins over the last three seasons. Their roster needs a lot of help on both sides of the ball.
Speaking of rosters needing a lot of help, what about the Carolina Panthers? This is a team that was scrappy in Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach but they still finished just 5-11. They need pass rushing help (just 29 sacks last year), help stopping the run (4.7 yards per carry allowed, which was fifth-worst) and the offense only scored 21.9 points per game.
Of these teams, the Saints are the most viable bet because if they can somehow keep their roster together and find a quarterback – maybe even someone like a Derek Carr – then they can possibly be competitive. Those are big ‘ifs’, though.
The Falcons might be capable of a miraculous turnaround – they were a 10-win team in 2016 – but it’s hard to bank on that at this point. It feels like the Ryan-Jones window of opportunity has closed. At any rate, betting them now makes no sense. Meanwhile, the Panthers are the furthest from competing.
2021 Australian Open Odds Tracker
What’s the Best Bet?
At this point, the Bucs are the Super Bowl champs and the other three teams are in flux. That means that the only logical play right now is Tampa Bay. Keep an eye throughout the offseason to see the progress the Saints, Panthers and Falcons are making. As of now, none of these teams are worth a flier.
For over 15 years, Dave has been working in mainstream media and sports betting. He hosted a station on Sirius Satellite Radio for four years, and is currently a senior writer for AskMen. He’s interviewed hundreds of hundreds of high-profile sports stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Floyd Mayweather.