• Deej

NFC South Preview & Predictions

We are getting closer and closer to football! Welcome to Happy Hour Sports, the best place to get sports and sports betting insight after the workday. I am on a mission to breakdown each division in the NFC. Today I, Deej, am tackling the NFC South. The last two weeks I broke down the NFC North and NFC West and threw in some of my best bets, check those out if you have interest in those teams (links at bottom of the page). My counterparts (@AndyHHSports and @RickHHSports) have been providing their breakdowns of the AFC, and college Power 5 here at Happy Hour Sports as well, so be sure to check those out as well. We are committed to providing you with the best possible content around the sports we love, so please like, share, follow and all that good stuff with the links at the top (or bottom on mobile) of the page. So, without further ado, let's get into the NFC South!


To reiterate, my goal here is to lay out the foundation of each division, what has happened over the offseason, and how I think the year will play out for each team. I will also provide some of my best bets for the season and where I think we can make some money, because who does not want that (scroll to the end of each team if you’re just here for picks).


2021 Final Standings, NFC North

Team

Record

Buccaneers

13-4

Saints

9-8

Falcons

7-10

Panthers

5-12

Above are the 2021 Final Standings for the NFC South. In the NFC South, we have Tom Brady’s ninth farewell tour and the Buccaneers. We have the new head coach Dennis Allen attempting to get the best out of Lasik Jameis for the Saints. Then come the Falcons who are looking like the laughing stock of the league. And finally, we have the Panthers who are happily welcoming Baker Mayfield to Charlotte.


There was not much competition in the NFC South last year as Tom Brady did his thing while the rest of the teams did not even really compete. However, has the whole storyline shifted this offseason? The NFC South is destined to be a fun division to keep an eye on this year. There are a ton of ways to make money in this division as well as enjoy the games. Keep reading to find out what to look for:

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

2021 Record: 13-4

2021 Outcome: Loss to Rams in Playoffs

2022 Win Total: 11.5, +105

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Rob Gronkowski, TE

  • Antonio Brown, WR

  • Ndamukong Suh, DL

  • Ronald Jones, RB

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Russell Gage, WR

  • Julio Jones, WR

  • Kyle Rudolph, TE

  • Akiem Hicks, LB

In 2021 the Bucs were one of the most dominant teams in football. Coming off a super bowl debut in Tampa Bay from Brady, the Bucs were able to remain hot and dominate the not-so-great NFC South. If it weren't for a few deep plays from Cooper Kupp, we might be talking about Tom going for his record ninth Lombardi Trophy. However, their Super Bowl hopes fell flat in the playoffs.

Photo by: Getty/Cliff Welch


The 2022 NFL Season is shaping up to be a great one for the Buccaneers. They lost some key players in the offseason, like Rob Gronkowski and Ronald Jones but have got a new head coach, Todd Bowles. Brady should have no issues adjusting to a “new” offense, if it is even going to be new because Brady will call Brady’s shots at the end of the day. Looking ahead, they have a relatively easy schedule as well, along with an improved receiving core.


The major offensive storyline for the Bucs is when will they get Chris Godwin back. One of Tom’s favorite weapons, and a dynamic one at that, significantly improves the Bucs offense. He also could be the difference between winning 10 games and winning 13 games. Aside from Godwin, the Bucs have an improved receiving core from last year. They were able to rid themselves of Antonio Brown and picked up Russell Gage and Julio Jones. Who knows how much impact Jones will have, but I can guarantee he is better this year with Brady throwing to him. In addition to those wideouts the Bucs have replaced Gronk with Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph will greatly supplement Cameron Brate in this offense and give Brady the offensive weapons he needs to bring this team back to the big dance.


The loss of Ronald Jones hurts for sure, as the Bucs lose their great backfield depth. However, this does open up the door for Fournette to be the dominant workhorse he looked like he could be coming out of LSU. He will be running behind a revamped top 5 offensive line and I believe he is poised for a big year. I do not think the 45 year old will want to lead the league in passing attempts this year again, so draft Fournette in your fantasy leagues.


To go along with their formidable offense, the Bucs have one of, if not, the best, defense in the NFL. They did lose the big names like Suh and Pierre-Paul, but the likes of Vita Vea and Tryon-Shoyinka will easily fill the gaps. In the backfield, the same story hits pretty hard, the Bucs are good. Among the best secondaries in the NFL, most are in the NFC, and its safe to say for me the Bucs have the best of the best. Carlton Davis, Jamal Dean, and Logan Ryan are some of the key players that, if they remain healthy, will help the Bucs cruise to another playoff berth and division title.


I do have a few bold predictions for the NFC South this year, but the Bucs to not come out on top is not one of them. The greatest quarterback (I still hate saying that) of all time will end his regular season career on another high note, but time will tell if he can end it with a trophy. From a betting standpoint, I think it's tough to find some value for the Bucs this year. I think they can easily get to 12 if not 13 wins, so I will be taking the over on wins, however, I am going with the juice in case Godwin is slow to return.


DJ’s Best Bet: Bucs over 10.5 Wins -175 | FanDuel

Buccaneers Projected Record: 13-4

 

New Orleans Saints:

2021 Record: 9-8

2021 Outcome: Did not make playoffs

2022 Win Total: 8.5, +105

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Malcolm Jenkins, S

  • Terron Armstead, LT

  • Marcus Williams, S

  • Kwon Alexander, LB

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Tyrann Mathieu, DB

  • Jarvis Landry, WR

  • Marcus Maye, S

  • Chirs Olave, WR

The era of Drew Brees ended in 2021 and the era of Sean Peyton will end in 2022. The Saints for the first time in forever are without both pieces from their illustrious 2009 Super Bowl campaign. The 2021 saints ended middle of the pack in the NFL at 9-8 even after several quarterback injuries and another dud year from Michael Thomas. How will the Saints turn out in 2022?

Photo by: USATSI


Dennis Allen had a short stint in the NFL as a head coach with the Ravens from 2012 to 2014. Short reigns as a coach usually do not indicate that a coach has done very well. However, Allen may just be what the Saints need going into the 2022 season. They need to stay very strong on defense and improve on offense; now that should not be so hard since they were bottom tier in just about every stat in the NFL. They were pretty injured though, and still came out with 9 wins. Lasik Jameis is back healthy this year after missing some games last season with an ACL tear.


Jameis Winston is known for scoring a lot and throwing a lot of interceptions. He looked like a perfect replacement for Drew Brees in the Big Easy before going down in Week 8 against the Bucs last year, so it is imperative for the Saints that Winston bounces back in 2022. The Saints have added star receiver from Ohio State, Chris Olave, to the offensive weaponry as well as veteran Jarvis Landry. An age old question mark for Saints fans is what will become of Michael Thomas? He can be the most dominant receiver in the league for the Saints, but it has not been seen since 2019 and his record breaking season. I am not sure the inconsistency of Jameis Winston will help him get back to what he was. With a new head coach and taking into consideration the past woes of Winston and the Saints offense, I am not sure about top 2 in this division or even playoffs.


The best player on the Saints offense is Alvin Kamara, and the sad thing is that defenses know that. He can be elite and elusive, if and only if the other weapons in this offense begin to attract some attention again. Last year Kamara had a measly 3.7 yards per carry and did not even touch 900 rushing yards. If the Saints want to compete with the Bucs and the Panthers, yes I said the Panthers, they need their offense to make a big stride. I just do not see that happening with the defensive minded head coach at the reins. I am excited to watch Olave and and hoping as a football fan that Thomas can make a serious return, but I am not confident until I see it with the Saints.


Defensively, the Saints lost two key secondary players in Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams. However, they won the Honeybadger battle and signed Tyrann Mathieu this offseason. If the Saints are going to win a lot of games this year, it will be on the back of this defense. Led by Cameron Jordan up front, the Saints allowed the 4th lowest quarterback rating (QBR) to opposing offenses in 2021 at 81.7. Most of the front 7 is coming back, so I expect them to rank high yet again. Marshon Lattimore and newcomer Marcus Maye are going to be a force in the secondary together. And as a nice stat for Saints fans, Tom Brady could not beat this defense once last year and posted a below 90 QBR over both games. Stats like that win games, we will see if the offense can put up enough points though.


Vegas has the juice on the under 8.5 win total for the Saints, and after doing my research that is the way I want to lean as well. Like I mentioned earlier, I think with a new coach and Jameis coming off an injury there are too many question marks to bet on the Saints. We know they will have a good defense, but they need to put up points against Brady and Baker, who are their rivals in this division. I think they finish in the middle of the pack again, but I think they miss out on the playoffs.

DJ’s Best Bet: Saints to miss playoffs, -144 | FanDuel

Saints Projected Record: 8-9, miss playoffs

 

Carolina Panthers:

2021 Record: 5-12

2021 Outcome: Did not make playoffs

2022 Win Total: 6.5, +105

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Jermaine Carter, LB

  • Hassan Reddick, LB

  • Stephon GIllmore, CB

  • Ameer Abdullah, RB

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Baker Mayfield, QB

  • Johnny Hekker, P

  • Austin Corbett, OL

  • Xavier Woods, S

What an offseason for the Carolina Panthers. They gave Baker Mayfield a new home to have commercials set in and they acquired one of the best punters in the league. They come off a whopper of a season at 5-12 and hope they can get things back on track in 2022, can they?

Photo by: AP


This is a team I am very excited to watch play. A healthy Christian McCaffrey and some new scenery for Baker smells like the playoffs to me. Like the lions, but not as bad, last year the Panthers were a better team than their record showed. They went 2-6 in one score games and with an upgraded offensive duo in Baker and McCaffrey, who hopefully remains healthy, they can flip that record to 6-2. They also start this season off against the Watson-less Browns and the New York Football Giants, something to consider when just thinking about their win total.


Focusing more on their offense, DJ Moore is a stud and now has a quarterback to throw him the ball. I expect Baker to be able to find Moore way more especially with the emergence of Robby Anderson. There is no place to go other than up for this offense that finished bottom tier in the league in just about every category. Their coach does not have a great track record, but in his stint he really has not seen a quarterback capable of winning them football games. I think Baker is that because he did take the Browns to the playoffs and managed to even win a game while there. While he has his inconsistencies he has the necessary arm strength and grit to win football games. I think he can take a leap this year with some new scenery and playmakers like McCaffrey and Moore.


Let’s focus on CMC for a minute. The best player in the league when he wants to be, CMC is a game changer. He is the best and most explosive running back in the league and can make things very easy this year for Baker. Mayfield had a lot of success in Cleveland throwing to Kareem Hunt, he even brought back Hunt’s fantasy relevancy for a short time. So, a healthy Christian McCaffrey is the difference from middle of the pack or playoffs for the Panthers. I believe he bounces back this year and I want to see what these two can do. The Panthers also upgraded their offensive line, which does not say much, but Super Bowl winner Austin Corbett brings in some much needed pedigree.


On the other side of the ball, the Panthers have made some key acquisitions. Xavier Woods is an upgrade at cornerback, but the loss of Hassan Reddick affects the interior and pass rush. Jaycee Horn, out of the University of South Carolina, looks to improve on his impressive rookie season at the CB position as well. This defense allowed the 3rd fewest yards per play in the NFL last season, so if they can manage to keep games close like they did last year, those L’s will surely become W’s. The NFC South is a tough division, but the Panthers have a relatively easy schedule. Win some divisional matchups and they could be a shoe in for the playoffs.


Its pretty clear how high I am on the Panthers this year, they are my dark horse to make the playoffs at +400. I think they are severely undervalued based on their woeful 2021 season. However, as I have described above, there is a path to the playoffs for them. If you are not as confident in them as me, then take their win total at 6.5. They open the gates with the Browns and Giants, play the Falcons twice, and also play the Seahawks, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. Pair that with at least one win vs the Saints, and there’s at least 8 wins.


DJ’s Best Bet: Panthers to make playoffs +400 | FanDuel

Panthers Projected Record: 10-7

 

Atlanta Falcons:

2021 Record: 7-10

2021 Outcome: Did not make playoffs

2022 Win Total: 4.5, -120

Key Losses (some, not all):

  • Calvin Ridley (Suspension), WR

  • Russell Gage, WR

  • Matt Ryan, WR

Key Gains (some, not all):

  • Marcus Mariota, QB

  • Elijah Wilkinson, OL

We have made it to the Falcons, folks. There is honestly not much to say here other than I am not sure how they even get to their win total of 4.5. The Falcons are in a full rebuild this year and have one of the lowest win totals in the NFL according to Vegas, how will it play out for them?


Photo by: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports


The fact of the matter for the Falcons is the players that kept them afloat for the past few years were Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. All of these players this year can not don a Falcons jersey, and that includes Ridley who made some wild parlays last year and got banned for a YEAR. Politics aside, the Falcons offense is in shambles this year.


Marcus Mariota has risen from the shadows to try and lead the Falcons to some wins this year. He is the quarterback to get them to next year, and that is about it. The one gleaming star on the Falcons offense is Kyle Pitts, who may have some fantasy relevancy. Actually, I should not say that. Their receiving core is starred by Drake London and Bryan Edwards, who will show some promise, albeit London may be covered by the top cornerbacks from opposing teams so he will need to adjust to the league speed quickly.


Defensively they will also be bottom of the league. Last year they were last in total sacks by 11 and they did not get much better this year. Their pass rush is slightly improved with the pickups of Rashaan Evans. They still have Lorenzo Carter, but I just dont think it is enough to keep the boys above water.


I wish I had more to say about the Falcons, but I just do not. Arthur Smith is going to use this year to develop some of the young stars like Desmond Ridder and Drake London. I hope they grow and grow fast to add some more competition to this fun division. Alas the only thing Atlanta will be competing for this year is the number 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.


I like the under on wins this year and the worst record play as a fun one at +400.


DJ’s Best Bet: Under 4.5 Wins -120 & Team with Worst Record +400| FanDuel

Falcons Projected Record: 3-14

 

That is all I have for the South. If you made it to the end of this article, I salute you. Thank you, seriously. I am so excited to continue bringing content to you all and ask that you follow me on twitter @DeejHHSports to share what you think! I am open to all criticism and takes and would love to discuss football with you there. Share the article and follow the accounts because every little bit helps!


Stay tuned for the other divisions, check out the NFC West here, NFC North here and I will be tackling the NFC East next! Also, my counterparts will be posting daily content you don't want to miss.


Rick Twitter: @RickHHSports

Main Twitter: @HHSportsHQ

Andy Twitter: @AndyHHSports

Deej Twitter: @DeejHHSports

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