NF Futures: NFC South Win Totals Betting Picks (2021)

Jul 26, 2021 - 10:17 AM

The NFC South could be one of the league’s most intriguing and competitive divisions in 2021.

The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers reside within the division. The New Orleans Saints are transitioning from the Drew Brees era with an extremely talented roster. The Atlanta Falcons have a new head coach and parted ways with their longtime stud receiver, but they replaced him with a potentially transcendent tight end. Finally, the Carolina Panthers could be on the upswing with star tailback Christian McCaffrey back from injury.

Here are my picks for the NFC South win totals.

All win totals listed are from DraftKings Sportsbook. 

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Over 12 wins: -110
  • Under 12 wins: -110

The narrative surrounding the defending champs is that everyone has returned to run it back. So it’s no surprise they’re favored to win this division.

Tom Brady somehow remains ageless. He reportedly played the entire championship season on a torn MCL that he suffered during his final season with the Patriots. Whatever Brady’s doing to dodge Father Time, sign me up. Plus, all of his weapons are back after the team franchise-tagged receiver Chris Godwin.

If this offense has a flaw, it’s the running game. The Buccaneers averaged only 4.1 yards per attempt and picked up just 82 first downs on the ground, the third-lowest total in the NFL. There isn’t a single stud in this backfield, but it’s an intriguing committee. Along with returnees Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, newcomer Giovani Bernard could serve as Brady’s primary pass-catching back. Tampa could also afford to get some better production from its tight ends.

Defensively, the Buccaneers remain fearsome. All 11 starters return after the team re-signed Shaquill Barrett, Lavonte David, and Ndamukong Suh. The unit could get even better, as defensive tackle Vita Vea will be back and healthy after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in October.

Obviously, the Bucs are loaded and poised to repeat as champions. But was getting the entire band back together the right move? Remember, they were 7-5 heading into their bye week and looked out of sorts at times. It’s a great team, but it isn’t perfect.

This win total feels spot-on to me. The schedule isn’t easy, as the Bucs will take trips to face the Rams, Colts, Patriots, and Washington outside of the division. They’ll also host the explosive Buffalo Bills. The Bucs won’t have an acclimation period this year, but fade this high win total.

PICK:  Under 12 wins

New Orleans Saints

  • Over 9 wins: -115
  • Under 9 wins: -105

New Orleans already took a big blow before training camp even got underway. Star receiver Michael Thomas underwent ankle surgery in June, leaving his status for the beginning of the season in serious doubt.

Thomas’ absence leaves a significant void in New Orleans’ passing game. Tailback Alvin Kamara was actually the team’s leading receiver last season. The Saints’ second-leading pass-catcher, Emmanuel Sanders, is in Buffalo, and tight end Jared Cook signed with the Chargers. Without those guys, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and/or Deonte Harris will have to step up.

Oh, and we haven’t even addressed the biggest elephant in the room: Who’s the quarterback? With Brees retired, the Saints are playing the QB competition between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston close to the vest.

Both quarterbacks have flaws. I’m not sure Hill is even a competent passer, and we’ve seen how Winston’s crushing propensity to throw the ball to the opponent. However, head coach Sean Payton can creatively find a way to deploy both players over the course of the game. At the very least, he’ll put his quarterback in the best position to succeed.

The Saints still have a strong roster. The offensive line is solid, Kamara is a superstar, and the defense finished fifth in yards per play allowed and points allowed. This team still could win double-digit games with its strong defense, good coaching, and just enough from whoever is under center.

PICK: Over 9 wins

Atlanta Falcons

  • Over 7.5 wins: -130
  • Under 7.5 wins: +110 

The oddsmakers almost had me at plus-odds on an Atlanta under. It seems like the Falcons have been one of the most confounding teams to bet on the last few years. However, that was partly because of former coach Dan Quinn’s terrible in-game management.

Quinn is gone, and former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith takes the helm with plenty of pieces at his disposal. While Matt Ryan isn’t elite, he’s a very good starting quarterback. Smith should have fun creating ways to get the ball to receiver Calvin Ridley and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.

While Pitts may be a superstar, some are overvaluing the impact he’ll have this year. Tight ends have historically had difficulty transitioning from college to the pros. Maybe Pitts is unique enough to overcome the odds, but this offense might still take a small step back without Julio Jones.

Atlanta’s defense is a mess, especially in the secondary. The Falcons allowed 6.2 yards per play and gave up the most passing yards in the NFL last season. They let one of their best defensive players, safety Keanu Neal, walk in free agency. Atlanta also didn’t do much to upgrade this unit during the offseason.

Atlanta doesn’t have a terribly difficult schedule, but this team is still rebuilding its defense and implementing a new system on offense The Falcons will be exciting to watch, but they will ultimately lose plenty of shootouts.

PICK: Under 7.5 wins

Carolina Panthers 

  • Over 7.5 wins: -105
  • Under 7.5 wins: -115

Carolina’s season — and the franchise’s direction — likely hinges on how Sam Darnold performs in his first year with the club. The Panthers acquired the embattled Darnold from the Jets this spring. While many may have already written him off, I suspect Darnold could bounce back.

Why? Because Adam Gase is not coaching him. That’s a great start. Plus, the Panthers have weapons and a better offensive line. Instead of throwing to scrubs, Darnold will have McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, former teammate Robby Anderson, and rookie Terrace Marshall.

I’m excited to see what this offense can be under offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who kept the offense respectable despite losing McCaffrey for a bulk of the 2020 season with the conservative Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.

Carolina’s defense is still a work in progress. The front seven needs to take a step forward; the Panthers allowed 4.7 yards per rushing attempt and generated pressure on only 22.4% of opposing pass attempts. Brian Burns is a potential stud, but young pieces like Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos need to improve. The Panthers upgraded their secondary by taking South Carolina corner Jaycee Hall, whom many pegged as the top cornerback in this class.

The Panthers won five games in a unique season, with a new head coach and without their star player for most of the season. They should take another leap forward in 2021, and there’s real upside if Darnold revives his career and the defense takes significant strides. However, that’s a lot to ask for, even with this somewhat low win total. The Panthers should win more games, but they might fall short of eight.

PICK: Under 7.5

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