How To Bet NFC South Futures Odds: Buccaneers Might Not Be As Lucky In 2021, Should Still Take Division Easily
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady.
Action’s Director of Predictive Analytics, Sean Koerner, simulated the 2021 NFL season 10,000 times to project win totals and playoff odds for every NFC South team in order to identify early value on their futures.
Read more: AFC East Futures
2021 NFC South Projections
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||76.4%||16.7%||4.6%||2.0%|
|New Orleans Saints||11.0%||36.7%||30.4%||21.8%|
Buccaneers Win Total Projections
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||88.8% vs. 11.2%|
Last season, the Buccaneers were the only team to finish in the top five in DVOA for both offense (third) and defense (fifth). They were also able to hang onto all 22 starters from their Super Bowl LV championship team. For these reasons, it seems foolish to fade this team in any way heading into 2021. However, my projections show there is some value in taking them to go under their win total of 12.
The Bucs had the best injury luck of 2020, according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric. It’s nearly a given they will face more adversity when it comes to injuries in 2021. They were also fortunate to go 11-5 based on their average time leading/tied/trailing. My expected wins formula had them closer to an 8.3-win team based on their splits.
While I still consider the Bucs a legit Super Bowl contender and have them at No. 2 in my power ratings, they are due for some slight regression in 2021. I’m projecting them closer to 11.5 wins this season.
I’m also seeing value in taking the Bucs to win the NFC South at -175 (via DraftKings). It will be a much weaker division this year, and they don’t need to win 13+ games to finish first. Here are how many wins the NFC South winner had in my simulations:
- 11 or fewer 44.6%
- 12 exactly 24.4%
- 13 or more 31.0%
Saints Win Total Projections
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||37.9% vs. 62.1%|
According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, the Saints benefited from the fourth-best injury luck last year. Unfortunately, that luck has already taken a turn for the worst as New Orleans has lost lost star receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) and defensive tackle David Onyemata (suspension) for the first six games of the season. Thomas’ injury is a significant blow to the offense, especially considering the Saints’ lack of WR depth after losing Emmanuel Sanders in free agency.
Here are how the Saints fare in my season simulations:
- 8 wins or fewer 48.8%
- 9 wins exactly (a push) 20.1%
- 10 or more wins 31.1%
I will be betting on the Saints to go under 9 wins as a result. They are a team that likely missed its Super Bowl window and will transition into a rebuilding period over the next couple of seasons. Jameis Winston being the team’s Week 1 starter gives this team a wide range of outcomes, but I’ll be betting on the Saints to finish closer to their floor.
Bet: Under 9 wins (-105) at DraftKings
Falcons Win Total Projections
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||24.9% vs. 75.1%|
Atlanta averaged 28.5 minutes with the lead a game last season, ranking 10th in Football Outsiders’ Game Time Leading metric.
No other team inside the top 10 finished with fewer than 10 wins. So it’s safe to say the Falcons were significantly better than their 4-12 record would indicate. The reason for this was likely a mixture of bad luck and inept coaching.
New head coach Arthur Smith should help the Falcons get back on track, at least in terms of in-game decision making. Another factor that should help Atlanta turn its fortunes around will be a much easier schedule. The Falcons had the hardest schedule last season (according to DVOA), and I’m projecting them to have the 10th-easiest schedule in 2021.
Between a very shaky secondary and the departure of Julio Jones, the Falcons aren’t going to be Super Bowl contenders. However, I’ve found that the market is overlooking how much positive regression they are due for heading into 2021. Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley and rookie Kyle Pitts give Smith plenty of firepower to put up points. Therefore, I’m taking over 7.5 wins.
Bet: Over 7.5 wins (-125) at BetMGM
Panthers Win Total Projections
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||17.8% vs. 82.2%|
There are plenty of reasons to be bullish on the Panthers heading into 2021. They are certainly due for some positive regression after going 3-8 in one-score games last year. The Panthers also have the 15th-easiest schedule this season after being strapped with the second-hardest slate in 2020.
When it comes to big-name players in Carolina, stud running back Christian McCaffery is back at 100% after missing 13 games due to injury last year. Sam Darnold, fresh off his trade from the Jets, has ample potential for a post-Adam Gase breakout — something we’ve seen from numerous players now. (See: Ryan Tannehill, Robby Anderson, Jarvis Landry, etc.)
Deciding whether to bet the over or under on their 7.5 win total comes down to where you stand on Darnold. If you foresee a post-Gase glow up, take the over. Otherwise, this will be a team that struggles to win 7+ games. My projections lean toward the under, but I’m going to pass on their total.