This year’s NFC South division features a Super Bowl-or-bust franchise, a restocked playoff contender, and two teams that could vie for the division’s No. 1 spot in … 2024? But there are still many questions surrounding the Buccaneers and Saints. Could the Falcons or Panthers shock the betting world? Here are the NFL betting lines heading into 2022, as well as which team is most likely to claim the title.
NFC South divisional winner prediction for 2022
The following analysis is based on DraftKings’ “Team Futures” betting lines, including the odds as of Aug. 24, 2022. These odds could change during the preseason and assuredly will change in-season. For now, they are based on each team’s most likely win-loss record, beginning with the team with the worst odds.
Atlanta Falcons (+3500)
Atlanta is in the midst of its worst decade since the 1980s. Blowing a huge Super Bowl lead in 2017 was, in hindsight, their high point. Since last summer, they’ve begun a slow rebuild by adding Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Desmond Ridder, and other key offensive and defensive pieces. Tyler Allgeier might surprise as a starting-caliber NFL RB.
But no team has worse odds to win their division, and for good reason. The Falcons remain a franchise in flux. Their bright spots last season included the historically impressive Pitts, the late-blooming Cordarrelle Patterson, and becoming the first team in 30+ years not to give up a 40+ yard pass play.
Aside from Pitts, these are not easily replicable feats. They fell into a 7-10 record despite scoring the seventh-fewest points and giving up the fourth most.
Their path to five wins in 2022 is narrow. It would take shockingly disastrous, injury-plagued seasons for the Bucs and Saints to fall back to the pack, making Atlanta an unnecessary wager, despite the +3500 line.
Carolina Panthers (+900)
If the Falcons are a bad bet, the Panthers are worse. Matt Corral’s season-ending injury will force this team to roll with Baker Mayfield (and perhaps Sam Darnold) all season. They have an all-world RB (when healthy) in Christian McCaffrey and a terrific No. 1 receiver in DJ Moore. The team’s defense is an X-factor. It helped propel them to a 3-0 record before yet another McCaffrey injury made the offense more one-dimensional, exposing Darnold as a subpar QB and putting too much pressure on the defense to win games.
If Mayfield, McCaffrey, Moore, Robbie Anderson, and Terrace Marshall all play at or near their potential, this offense could push into the league’s upper half. And that’s also asking a lot from a unit that — aside more Moore — has been wholly unreliable. Their season will be decided in Weeks 3-9, when their opponents will include the Saints, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, Bucs, and Bengals. If that doesn’t end their faint title hopes, upcoming games against the Ravens and Broncos probably will.
Carolina’s line should be much closer to Atlanta’s than to Tampa Bay or even New Orleans. Betting on everything needing to go right is ill-advised.
New Orleans Saints (+310)
Let’s keep this simple because you can probably guess where this is headed. On the one hand, the Saints are well-positioned for a postseason push. Their defense remains stout. All of last year’s starting receivers are now merely backups. A healthy Jameis Winston — and if needed, one of the league’s better No. 2’s in Andy Dalton — should help keep the chains moving. And, of course, Alvin Kamara is still Alvin Kamara.
That said, New Orleans finished four games back of Tampa Bay last season, and while narrowing that gap is doable, closing it entirely would require something special. Late-season road matchups in Cleveland (with Deshaun Watson back) and Philadelphia closely follow two more road games against the 49ers and Bucs. To win the division, the Saints might need to run that table. Their +310 odds are more favorable than they should be.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-250)
Tampa Bay has the most favorable division-winner odds of any NFL team. And they’re also one of the safest bets. Presumably, Tom Brady will not pull an Antonio Brown by pulling off his jersey mid-game and pseudo-retiring (again). Even without Brown and Rob Gronkowski, the receiving corps is nearly as good as ever, particularly when Chris Godwin returns.
A good-to-great running game and a potentially very strong defense round out one of the league’s premier franchises. Yes, the offensive line could take a step back, and Brady probably won’t be forced to lead the league in pass attempts again. We might expect a slightly more conservative offense. But we’d have to talk ourselves out of picking Tampa Bay to win the NFC South. I’d rather talk myself out of buying another cat.