Posted on: March 15, 2023, 12:59h.
Last updated on: March 15, 2023, 06:15h.
The New Orleans Saints enter the 2023 season as the betting favorite to win the NFC South at +125 odds. But the entire division is wide open, because all four teams – including the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – will feature a new starting quarterback.
The NFC South was the worst division in the NFL last season, and every team had a losing record. The Bucs secured an automatic playoff berth as the division winner, but they won the NFC with an 8-9 record. The Panthers, Saints, and Falcons finished last season with 7-10 records.
In the last few weeks, the NFC South has undergone a complete overhaul of its starting quarterbacks. The entire landscape has changed after Tom Brady entered retirement … for the moment. Brady ended his three-year stint with the Bucs, which left the NFC South crown up for grabs this upcoming season.
The Saints are a slight favorite to win the NFC South ahead of the Panthers (+240), Falcons (+400), and Bucs (+550)
None of the NFC South teams have Super Bowl LVIII odds greater than the Saints at +3500. They’re ahead of the Panthers (+5500), Bucs (+6500), and Falcons (+7500).
New Orleans Saints +125
The Saints struggled to find an identity after Drew Brees retired following the 2020 season. Head coach Sean Payton abruptly retired in 2021 and sat out one season before resurfacing recently with the Denver Broncos.
The Saints gave Jameis Winston a shot at the starting job. But the former Bucs quarterback battled injuries in New Orleans. He blew out his knee two seasons ago and missed significant time last season with a fractured back.
The Saints turned to Derek Carr in free agency after the Las Vegas Raiders and Carr parted ways after nine seasons. The New York Jets, Panthers, and Saints were each interested in Carr, but he signed with the Saints for a four-year deal worth $150 million.
The Saints have the best quarterback in the NFC South right now and a solid defense, which is why they’re the consensus favorite to win the division at +125 odds.
Carolina Panthers +240
The Panthers hired Frank Reich to help get the franchise back on track after three ugly seasons under Matt Rhule. Team owner David Tepper made a bold move by securing the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in a trade with the Chicago Bears. The Panthers jumped from the #9 pick to first overall with the intention to select a quarterback.
CJ Stroud, the standout quarterback from Ohio State, is the betting favorite at DraftKings to become the #1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s unknown if Stroud will quickly earn the trust of Reich and the Panthers and get tapped as the starter in the season opener.
The Panthers signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton as an insurance plan and mentor to the future #1 pick. Dalton spent last season with the Saints, starting 14 games after subbing in for an injured Winston.
The Panthers are +240 odds to win the NFC South as the second favorite on the board, which seems ambitious, considering the draft is still four weeks away.
Atlanta Falcons +400
The Falcons went 7-10 in their first year without Matt Ryan at quarterback last season. Ryan spent 14 seasons with the Falcons, leading them to a Super Bowl berth in 2016. But the Falcons were ready for a change of pace in 2022. “Matty Ice” headed to the Indianapolis Colts for a one-season rental, but Ryan and the offense struggled, which led to a late-season benching.
The Falcons didn’t fare any better last season with Marcus Mariota at quarterback. Mariota also got benched late in the season, which caused a rift with head coach Arthur Smith.
The Falcons gave rookie Desmond Ridder a shot to start in December, but he had mixed results. Ridder demonstrated some flashes of excellence but struggled overall with a 2-2 record as a starter.
The Falcons cut Mariota in the off-season, then signed Taylor Heinicke to a two-year deal that could be worth up to $20 million in incentives. The Falcons added Heinicke as a backup behind Ridder next season. But they know Heinicke could take over as the starter if Ridder fails to develop in his second season.
Heinicke started nine games for the Commanders last season and posted a winning record at 5-3-1. Overall, he has a 12-11-1 record in 24 starts with the Commanders. Over the previous two seasons with Washington, Heinicke completed 65% of his passes, with 33 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Tampa Bay Bucs +550
The Bucs were linked to Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency, but both quarterbacks signed with different teams. Garoppolo joined the Las Vegas Raiders this week, replacing Carr as the starter. Meanwhile, Carr heads to New Orleans while the quarterback carousel continues to go around and around.
The Bucs knew that Brady would probably retire this season. But they had limited options to replace the GOAT in a weak free-agent market. They settled on Baker Mayfield, but they didn’t have many other choices.
The Bucs become Mayfield’s fourth team in the last two seasons. After four bumpy seasons in Cleveland, the Browns traded the former #1 pick to the Panthers before the start of last season. Mayfield struggled with the Panthers, who cut him after he posted a 1-5 record as a starter.
The Los Angeles Rams took a flier on Mayfield to replace a banged-up Matthew Stafford late in the season. Mayfield joined his new team on a short week and had less than 24 hours to prepare for a Thursday Night Football game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 14. Mayfield engineered a stunning comeback victory and let the rest of the league know he wasn’t completely washed up.
The Bucs signed Mayfield to a one-year deal worth $8.5 million. Mayfield gets a shot — possibly his final one — to prove he still has enough talent to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. If he fails with the Bucs, Mayfield will get relegated to backup duty or, possibly, end up in the XFL.
Bookies and bettors alike have little faith in Mayfield, and the Bucs are the long shot to win the NFC South at +550 odds.