The predictions for the NFC South led with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed by New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina and that was exactly how it played out.
It’s time to look back at some of those future bets and which ones proved lucrative.
No Super Bowl Hangover for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It didn’t matter that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hadn’t won the division title since 2007, there was not an NFC team being shown more love by the bettors heading into the season.
Tampa Bay’s -900 odds to qualify for the playoffs was second in the NFL only to the Kansas City Chiefs team that Tampa Bay defeated in the Super Bowl. The -175 odds to win the division was the best mark in the NFC and at +600 to win the Super Bowl again, which also only trailed the number given to the Chiefs.
There was plenty of reason for the optimism as the Buccaneers became the first Super Bowl-winning team to bring back every offensive and defensive starter from that championship win.
It was strange to see a Tampa Bay team that for years has been a doormat be favored according to the NFL picks against the spread in every game. The numbers against the spread were a pedestrian 9-8 as the Buccaneers won the division title by four games trailing only Green Bay for the largest gap between a division winner and the second-place team.
The only stumbling block for Tampa Bay came when the Buccaneers faced off with division rival New Orleans. Tampa Bay was a four-point favorite at New Orleans only to lose 36-27. The rematch in Florida saw the Buccaneers favored by 11.5 and meekly fell to the Saints 9-0. Those games kept the Buccaneers from earning the top seed and a first-round bye in the NFC.
Tampa Bay opened the season by going over the total in its first three games but did have more than two straight games going either over or under.
The Buccaneers had a lofty expected win total of 11½ and Tampa Bay topped that with a Week 17 win over the New York Jets as the Buccaneers finished tied with Green Bay for the best record in the NFL (13-4).
New Orleans Saints: So Close to a Return to the Postseason
The New Orleans offense in recent years was dominated by quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara, receiver Michael Thomas and offensive linemen Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat. Brees retired, Thomas sat out the entire season while the other three combined to play 29 out of 51 games. Yet, the Saints headed into the final week of the season with a decent chance to make the playoffs. If the Los Angeles Rams had defeated San Francisco in Week 18, the Saints indeed would have secured one of the seven NFC postseason spots.
What Sean Payton said after Saints beat Falcons, miss playoffs: ‘Proud of this group’ https://t.co/YkeakLqBTN via @wwlamfm
— WWL Radio (@WWLAMFM) January 10, 2022
The Saints used a win over Atlanta to finish 9-8 and hit the expected win total of nine. The even-money odds for them to make the playoffs were also spot on and New Orleans had the second-best odds at +250 to win the NFC South and finished second so those who bet online and went with the Saints likely didn’t exactly earn the bettors a ton of money.
It was a much different looking team as the Saints had a top-10 rated defense while the offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Two wins over Tampa Bay and a convincing 38-3 victory against Green Bay were impressive but were 1-3 in games decided by seven points or less.
Atlanta Falcons: Rookie TE Wasn’t the Pitts
Matt Ryan was still the Atlanta Falcons quarterback but it was a bit of a grind with Julio Jones leaving for the Tennessee Titans and Calvin Ridley taking a mental health break and playing in just five games.
Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts was the team’s No. 1 pick and he led the team with 68 catches and 1,026 receiving yards. The other top offensive playmakers were named Russell Gage, Cordarelle Patterson, Olamide Zaccheaus and Mike Davis. Not surprisingly, Atlanta finished 29th in the NFL in total offense and 26th in scoring offense.
The defense, led by NFL tackles leader Foye Oluokun and shutdown cornerback A.J. Terrell kept Atlanta in plenty of games. The Falcons had an expected win total ranging between 7½-8 but Atlanta’s 2-6 record at home ultimately cost them a chance to hit that number.
Those who bet online must have loved the Falcons as the season went pretty much as expected. Atlanta was 4-2 straight up and 3-3 against the NFL betting odds as a favorite. When listed as the underdog, the Falcons were 3-8 and 3-7-1 against the spread.
Carolina Panthers: Quick Start was Merely Fool’s Gold
The Carolina Panthers were picked to finish at the bottom of the NFC South standings and did just that.
If there was a surprise with Carolina is was that the Las Vegas odds listed the Panthers as the favorites seven times in 17 games. Some of that was a result of the Panthers winning their first three games of the season which made the prospects of surpassing the 7½ expected win total seem a little more reasonable.
They would only win two more games the rest of the way. It didn’t help that of Carolina’s final nine games, five came against teams that made the playoffs. Carolina not only lost its last seven games but failed to cover in each of them.
Carolina’s fate was sealed when it lost three straight games decided by eight points or less in October. It didn’t help that star running back Christian McCaffrey suffered yet another season-ending injury while neither Cam Newton nor Sam Darnold proved to be the answer at quarterback.
Carolina was 3-7 when listed as an underdog and 2-5 as a favorite so bettors who picked against Carolina after its 3-0 start came away pretty happy.