When Tom Brady ended his brief retirement and rejoined Tampa Bay, that was enough for the Buccaneers to not only be favored to win back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history but also have the top odds among NFC teams to win the Super Bowl.
The Saints might have missed the playoffs after seeing their run of four consecutive NFL South titles come to an end in 2021, however New Orleans is responsible for both of the division losses suffered by Tampa Bay.
The NFL playoff odds list the Buccaneers (+750) second only to the Buffalo Bills in the odds to win the Super Bowl.
BetUS Odds to Win NFC South
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers -325
- New Orleans Saints +350
- Carolina Panthers +1000
- Atlanta Falcons +2500
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not bring back all 22 starters on offense and defense as they did after winning the Super Bowl, there are still more than enough returning players for Tampa Bay to be the team to beat in the NFC South.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady will miss tight end Rob Gronkowski and guard Ali Marpet, who both retired. The long-term injury suffered by center Ryan Jensen is certainly not good news. Adding Julio Jones, Russell Gage, and Kyle Rudolph to a team that already has receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin could make this a scary offense.
The Buccaneers traded for guard Shaq Mason and drafted Luke Goedeke to help out the offensive line.
It will be interesting to see if there is any impact on the offense after the retirement of head coach Bruce Arians. Running back Ronald Jones and tight end O.J. Howard were other key departures on offense.
Tampa Bay brings back 11 of its top 13 tacklers from a season ago led by linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David. Top pass rusher Shaquil Barrett also returns.
Cornerbacks Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting join safety Antoine Winfield in the secondary. The loss of safety Jordan Whitehead will remove one of the Buccaneers’ most physical players.
Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal were added to the secondary.
The biggest signing of the offseason for the defense was veteran defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. Good luck to teams trying to move Hicks and Vita Vea. Tampa Bay has been using prime draft picks to add Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Logan Hall to the defensive line in the last two years.
New Orleans Saints
A year ago, the main storyline was about the Saints trying to move on following the retirement of quarterback Drew Brees. Now it is longtime head coach Sean Payton who is gone.
New Orleans Saints did have its fifth straight winning season but missed out on another postseason appearance on a tiebreaker. The Saints went 1-3 in games decided by seven points or less and that ended up costing the Saints a chance for another postseason appearance. The Saints were just 3-5 at home in 2021.
Getting star receiver Michael Thomas back after missing all of last season and the selection of former Ohio State star Chris Olave 11th overall in the 2022 draft, there should be more explosive plays coming out of the passing game.
Jameis Winston is the leader in the quarterback race after going 5-2 as a starter in 2021 with 14 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. However, veteran Andy Dalton was brought in so he could also work his way into a starting role.
Off-the-field issues do leave the status of running back Alvin Kamara up in the air. After four straight seasons with more than 80 catches, Kamara’s reception total dropped to 47 without Brees throwing him the ball. His yards per carry fell to a career-low 3.7 a season ago.
Jarvis Landry, who had 83 catches and 1,174 receiving yards back in 2019, is coming off career-lows of 52 catches and 570 yards last season so perhaps a move to New Orleans is just what the Louisiana native needs.
New Orleans has used three of its last six top-50 draft picks on offensive linemen. The latest addition is tackle Trevor Penning, the 19th overall selection in April’s draft. He could play immediately with former starting tackle Terron Armstead now with the Miami Dolphins.
Keeping Ryan Ramczyk Healthy Will be Key
New Orleans quietly finished fourth in the NFL in scoring defense and seventh in total defense. The Saints allowed 12.7 points in the nine wins and 27.6 points in the eight losses so a little consistency could go a long way.
Cameron Jordan (a team-high 12½ sacks), leading tackler Demario Davis join cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo as key returning players on defense.
Dennis Allen on Paulson Adebo: “He’s really stepped his game up to this point at camp.”
— Rod Walker (@RodWalkerNola) August 1, 2022
The safety position will look a little different without Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams. Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye were brought in at safety.
More will be expected from defensive lineman Payton Turner, a first-round pick in 2021. Other than Jordan, there are plenty of questions up front. There figures to be added responsibility for young linebackers Zack Baun and Pete Werner.
The NFL predictions show -120 odds for the Saints to top their expected win total of 8½.
Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were the No. 1 and 3 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft but both have been traded to Carolina as the Panthers try to find their quarterback.
The Carolina Panthers resisted the temptation to reach for a quarterback early in the 2022 NFL Draft and instead made Ikem Ekwonu the first offensive lineman taken.
The key to the season could be the health of running back Christian McCaffrey. Since finishing the 2019 season with 1387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards, McCaffrey has played 10 out of a possible 33 games.
With D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson, and Terrace Marshall, Carolina has some playmakers at receiver. Tight end Tommy Tremble had 20 catches as a rookie.
The Panthers finished 30th in the NFL in total offense and 29th in scoring offense in 2021 so there is some work to do.
The defense lost third-leading tackler Jermaine Carter to the Kansas City Chiefs and sack leader Haason Reddick to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The defensive line will be led by former first-round picks Brian Burns (nine sacks in 2021) and Derrick Brown although the Panthers do have to replace Daquan Jones.
Linebacker Shaq Thompson has posted three consecutive 100-tackle seasons. Safeties Jeremy Chinn (a team-best 107 tackles a season ago) and Sean Chandler as well as cornerback Donte Jackson are players to keep an eye on in the secondary.
Safety Xavier Woods, linebacker Cory Littleton, defensive lineman Matt Ionnidis, and cornerback Duke Dawson were acquired in the offseason.
The odds are at -115 for Carolina to either go over or under its expected win total of 6.5 according to the NFL picks.
Things are going to look much different without Matt Ryan, Atlanta’s starting quarterback over the last 14 seasons, who is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Veteran Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder will compete for the job.
The Atlanta Falcons used top 10 picks on tight end Kyle Pitts in 2021 and receiver Drake London in 2022. Whoever the quarterback is, they should be looking for these two huge red-zone targets.
Atlanta ranked 31st out of 32 teams in rushing offense a season ago and now second-leading rusher Mike Davis is now with the Baltimore Ravens.
Cordarelle Patterson is back after leading Atlanta with 618 rushing yards a season ago. Damien Williams, who enjoyed his best years with the Kansas City Chiefs, was brought in while fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier could also factor into the running game.
The Falcons used recent top-100 picks on offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Matt Hennessy, and Jalen Mayfield from 2018-2021 so will this be the year when the line comes together? Atlanta added Germain Ifedi, a former starter with Chicago and Seattle.
The good news is that the Falcons went 7-2 in one-score games during the 2021 season, the bad news is that Atlanta lost four games by more than 20 points.
Atlanta is coming off a season when it was 26th in the NFL in total defense and 30th in scoring defense. However, Foye Oluokun is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars after leading the NFL in tackles. Safety and fourth-leading tackler Duron Harmon headed to play for the Las Vegas Raiders.
A.J. Terrell is among the top cornerbacks in the NFL but the Falcons are lacking impact players at most of the other positions.
Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie and linebacker Troy Andersen were second-round picks while DeAngelo Malone went in the third round. The hope is that they can help improve a pass rush that managed just 18 sacks during the 2021 season. Dante Fowler, who led Atlanta with 4½ sacks, signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
Linebacker Deion Jones was tied for 10th in the NFL with 87 solo tackles to go with eight tackles for loss. Along with Terrell, he will be the face of the defense.
Veteran defensive tackle Vincent Taylor was brought in to help the interior of the defense but he will miss the 2022 season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon.
Atlanta was 2-6-1 against the spread in the final nine games of the season. Seven of the last nine Atlanta games went under the Las Vegas odds total.