The New Orleans Saints breezed their way to the NFC South title last season. New Orleans became the first team in the league to clinch a division title when they did so with a win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving night. The Saints wound up finishing the season with a 13-3 record, while none of the division’s other 3 teams even cracked the .500 mark.
We have already seen plenty of upheaval around the NFL as the free agency period officially opens on Wednesday. A number of big-name players have already verbally agreed to deals with new teams.
A couple of NFC South teams will have new starting quarterbacks in 2020. We know Drew Brees will be under center for the Saints and that Matt Ryan will continue to take charge of the Falcons’ offense, but the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will both see change at the position.
On Tuesday, the Panthers reportedly came to terms on a contract with QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was the highest-paid backup in the league last season behind Brees in New Orleans. The Panthers are expected to try and trade their former starter, Cam Newton. Down in Tampa, the Buccaneers are widely expected to move on from former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston in favor of Tom Brady, who announced earlier Tuesday that he will not return to New England next seasonn.
Odds Continue to Shift
NFL betting sites have been constantly updating their odds with each new roster move as the week progresses. As of this writing, BetOnline still has the Saints has presumptive favorites to repeat as NFC South champs next season (-225). The full odds are below, but they’re subject to change at any time:
|Team||Odds at BetOnline|
|New Orleans Saints||-225|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+300|
Clearly, the Buccaneers’ odds have improved in recent weeks as the Brady rumors circulate. Tampa Bay went just 7-9 last season with Winston running the show, and the franchise hasn’t made a playoff appearance since losing to the New York Giants in the Wild Card round back in 2007. The Bucs have the longest playoff drought of any franchise in the league.
Tampa is the expected landing spot for Tom Brady barring anything unforeseen, sources tell me and @JeffDarlington.
There's no signing date or announcement officially set up, but Brady is expected to be a Buccaneer.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2020
Obviously, adding a QB of Brady’s caliber would have a positive effect on Tampa Bay’s odds ahead of next season. Brady wasn’t quite at his best last year with the Patriots, but he is still widely considering among the best players at his position despite the fact that he’ll turn 43 later this year.
Brady will be working with capable weaponry with Mike Evans, OJ Howard and Chris Godwin on the outside. The running game is certainly suspect, but having a consistent passing attack should theoretically open things up for the ground game.
Adding Bridgewater clearly hasn’t improved the Panthers enough in the eyes of oddsmakers. Carolina is a team that has seen a ton of sea change in a short period of time. Longtime head coach Ron Rivera was replaced by former Baylor coach Matt Rhule, while stalwarts like Luke Kuechly, Trai Turner, Greg Olsen and Newton (soon) will have moved on.
The Saints are worthy frontrunners, of course. Brees isn’t getting any younger, but the team’s brass has done a good job of surrounding him with quality young talent. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are two of the most lethal weapons at their respective positions in the league.
The Falcons surged toward the end of last season, but the jury is out on Dan Quinn’s squad unless Atlanta makes some bold moves this offseason. So far, the Falcons have done little other than lose tight end Austin Hooper to the Cleveland Browns in free agency.
Saints Still the Safe Pick
While the Bucs with Brady running the show will be interesting, I’m not sold at this point that the future Hall of Famer has much left in the tank. Playing alongside capable playmakers should be helpful in terms of extending his career, but there are still some question marks with this team.
As of now, the safe bet seems to be the Saints to repeat as NFC South champs in 2020. Assuming Brees can continue to play at a high level, there isn’t much reason to expect this team to get worse.
If you want value, Tampa Bay at +300 makes for an interesting option given the Brady factor. A lot would have to go wrong for the Saints and the Bucs for either the Falcons or Panthers to emerge as a real threat, though.