Futures Outlooks for the NFC South

NFC South Futures Thoughts

In 2020, the NFC South served as the one of those wager busters. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team who did not win the division, ended up winning the Super Bowl. They are just a handful of teams to have accomplished such a feat since the Super Bowl Era began.

So if you bet on someone else, like the Kansas City Chiefs, to win the Super Bowl after winning the division, making the playoffs, and encroaching on the Over/Under

Don’t feel so bad.

2020, in many ways, acted as an outlier and you shouldn’t use it to dictate your NFL futures betting. Also, will the Bucs even serve as a good futures bet in 2021, or will another team sneak up on them and take the NFC South?

Today’s post gives you an idea of what each NFC South team’s futures outlook is like in 2021. Starting with the Falcons.

1. Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons still keep their offensive core from years’ past, with Calvin Ridley, Matt Ryan, and Julio Jones leading the way. Sure, they have the fourth overall pick and they can easily draft a quarterback to eventually replace Ryan, and that’s your cue whether they’re a good bet.

If the Falcons draft what will probably be the 4th-best quarterback on the board, odds are, you’ll steer clear from them because they’re in for a long season.

And as things are pointing, they’re stuck with either Justin Fields or Trey Lance, with Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones projected to go earlier to the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49ers.

Please Note:
If this is the case, expect growing pains galore, since Fields and Lance are the weaker of the 5 prospects. Fields was inconsistent in a limited 2020 sample size, and Lance has only 17 career starts at the FCS level, having never faced an FBS opponent. He is in for quite the learning curve.

If the 49ers and Jets go with Lance or Fields, don’t expect Mac Jones or Zach Wilson to fix the team’s woes early, either. Wilson benefited from a weak schedule and had only one good season at BYU. Jones’ only good fit as a rookie would be with the San Francisco 49ers because of their system.

However, if the Falcons go with an offensive lineman or if they go defense, or even if they trade the fourth pick to a quarterback-needy team, they have an opportunity to outperform expectations and even threaten the playoffs. Ryan, Jones, and Ridley can still produce in this league, and they can still win.

But the Falcons still need a lot of work on defense, and they signed nothing more than stopgaps during free agency. If they have a good draft on the defensive side of the ball, then they’re still a risky, but fairer bet. However, if they continue to neglect their porous defense, it’s tough to bet on them in 2021.

2. Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers pulled off a blockbuster trade for former New York Jets quarterback, Sam Darnold. Darnold struggled in New York, but hey, he had to play with lackluster coaches, offensive systems, and even lackluster talent around him.

In Carolina, he’s in a much better position to succeed.

Also, the Panthers have Christian McCaffrey returning, and they also signed a few solid sleepers at receiver and tight end in David Moore and Dan Arnold. Also, they beefed up the offensive line with Cam Erving, Taylor Moton, and Pat Elflein, an adequate if unspectacular group.

While the A.J. Bouye signing is so-so on defense, the additions of Haason Reddick, Denzel Perryman, and Morgan Fox will drastically improve the unit. The Panthers still aren’t at the same level as the New Orleans Saints or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they’re a good draft away from contention.

Please Note:
You must monitor the team’s progress, because odds are, they’re the deepest sleepers in at least futures betting among teams who might outperform their outlook. If McCaffrey returns at full health and Darnold reignites his old rapport with Robby Anderson, watch out for the Panthers.

Better yet, with Darnold now under center, it shows that they won’t draft a quarterback. And despite his mediocre to poor numbers in New York, Darnold is probably a better product than any of the names listed under Trevor Lawrence. At just 24 years of age, he’s also young enough to be a rookie in the league.

3. New Orleans Saints

Obviously, Drew Brees’ retirement will scare some of you away. But it shouldn’t, considering the Saints finished 5-0 in 2019 with Teddy Bridgewater (who may very well end up back in Nola) and in 2020, went 3-1 without Brees with Taysom Hill as the starting quarterback.

Taysom Hill Happy Saints QB

History shows that the Saints can win games without Brees, whose ability declined in 2019 and 2020 despite posting good numbers. This leads us to believe it’s Sean Payton’s system that’s responsible for the Saints’ success, rather than just Brees.

Whether Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Siemian, or someone else lines up under center (Kyle Trask?) for the Saints, the story is nowhere near over for a franchise that has since 2006, become one of the NFL’s most storied teams.

However, we can’t just talk about Brees’ absence for 2021.

Football is a team sport, and it’s foolish to believe that one man’s presence or absence will set a team back.

Remember, this team still has Michael Thomas at receiver, Alvin Kamara at running back, with Ty Montgomery and Latavius Murray comprising a solid three-headed rushing attack. Tight end Adam Trautman is a candidate to make The Leap from Year 1 to Year 2.

If the Saints draft one more receiver to complement Thomas, they’re arguably in a better position in 2021 than they were with Brees in 2020. Regardless of who’s throwing the football.

Not to mention this unit ranked fourth in total defense in 2020. They also finished third with 27 takeaways, and were fifth in pass defense. The Saints also tied 3 other teams for first place in interceptions with 18, and finished fourth in total rushing defense. And for icing on the cake, they committed a league-low 64 penalties, per Pro Football Reference.

Knowing that the Saints return a lot of defensive starters along with the fact they are 8-1 over the past 2 seasons without Drew Brees lining up under center, it shows that they remain a solid futures bet in just about every category.

Sure, they can fall off the face of the Earth without Brees. It’s possible. Anything’s possible in the NFL. But don’t count on a setback from the Saints.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you didn’t place a futures bet on the Buccaneers winning the division, but you bet on them to win the NFC South and ultimately, the Super Bowl, congrats. You won a lot of money in 2020, and now you’re looking for an encore presentation.

Can the Bucs repeat?

Hey, if Tom Brady’s under center, they’re always a safe bet unless Father Time finally beats Brady at his own game.

Until then, however, expect the Bucs to contend. And boy, did they retain firepower from last season.

During free agency, instead of going out and finding replacements, they re-signed their own. Leonard Fournette, Lavonte David, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Shaq Barrett, and Ndamukong Suh return hoping to repeat as Super Bowl Champs. No team has done it since Tom Brady and his New England Patriots accomplished the feat in 2003-04.

Tom Brady Patriots Super Bowl Wins

However, the Bucs have even added firepower to their cast, including their most recent signing, the underrated but effective Giovani Bernard. Besides the players mentioned above, they also re-signed key role and depth players, showing that they’re ready to make yet another run at the Super Bowl.

Will they run the table and win the NFC South as well?

The South remains a tough division with the Saints as strong as ever, discussed in the above section. But don’t count out the Carolina Panthers or even the Atlanta Falcons. If the Bucs, or when the Bucs contend, it’s not a cakewalk and nothing’s guaranteed here.

Please Note:
Sure, they’re a safe bet, but don’t let it disappoint you if someone else takes the South and gives the Bucs a knockout punch in the playoffs.

Conclusion

On paper, the Buccaneers and the Saints still look like the safest NFL futures bets for the NFC South. But don’t count out the Panthers or Falcons. The Falcons have experience on their side and the Panthers enter Year 2 of their rebuild with a legitimate franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold.

Don’t make the mistake in thinking that just because Brees left that the Bucs will run away with the division.

Expect a competitive race well into December for the 2021 season, and wager wisely. Who do you think makes the best futures bet at the online sportsbooks in the NFC South? Tell us who you like in the comments and we look forward to reading your opinions.

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Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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