We’re now heading into Week 12 of the NFL season, with Thanksgiving featuring three intriguing games for Americans to watch while they enjoy turkey and celebrate the holidays. While a lot of divisions in the league look to be more or less decided, the NFC South is one that is still very much wide open.The New Orleans Saints are in first place with a 5-5 record, but they’re still without quarterback Derek Carr. The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meanwhile are right behind the Saints with 4-6 records. The Carolina Panthers are in last at 1-9. Although the latter is very much out of the picture, this division is still up for grabs. Below, we’ll lay out the NFC South futures and discuss the three teams who still have a shot at winning the NFC South.
The Saints are the clear favorite at -160 odds. The Falcons sit at +250, while the Bucs are at +400. Carolina realistically can’t win the division, hence their +25000 odds. Heading into the 2023 season, the NFC South was seen as one of the most unpredictable divisions in football. That’s been true so far.
There’s been nothing outstanding about New Orleans this year. Offense is certainly not the bright spot, scoring only 21.4 points per game and ranking 14th in total yards. Defensively, though, Dennis Allen’s squad ranks top-10 in numerous categories. Derek Carr has had a respectable campaign, but not great. He’s completed 65.9% of his passes for 2,231 yards and 10 touchdowns against four interceptions. Carr suffered a concussion in Week 10 and was replaced by Jameis Winston as the Saints ultimately went on to lose 27-19 to the Minnesota Vikings.
The team had a bye last weekend and Carr returned to practice on Wednesday, which is a good sign for him potentially suiting up in Week 12 against the divisional rival Atlanta Falcons. In fact, NOLA plays Atlanta twice more, with both matchups undoubtedly important to possibly winning the NFC South crown. Aside from Week 13 vs the Detroit Lions, the Saints don’t have a very tough remaining schedule.
Everyone wants Arthur Smith fired. I mean, he clearly has no idea how to run an offense and continues to misuse his best player, Bijan Robinson. There’s a reason the Falcons are on a three-game losing streak, previously sitting in a prime position to win the NFC South. Atlanta lost 25-23 to the lowly Arizona Cardinals on November 12th and had a bye last Sunday.Desmond Ridder briefly lost his starting spot for one game to Taylor Heinecke but will retain his QB1 role in Week 12 against the Saints. Nevertheless, that doesn’t hide the fact that he’s been very disappointing, failing to find much chemistry with his weapons out wide. Drake London and Kyle Pitts are legit yet haven’t been involved nearly enough. If it wasn’t for Robinson’s 4.9 yards per carry, the Falcons could be in a much worse position.
There’s really no excuse for Atlanta not making a run at the NFC South title. The Jets, Bucs, Panthers, Colts, Bears, and Saints round out the schedule after Sunday’s meeting with New Orleans. Expect them to rely heavily on the run game with Bijan at the forefront. It’s clear Ridder isn’t capable of producing much of a passing game. The Falcons are lucky they’re in such a poor division or else the playoffs would already be out of the cards.
Tampa is still in the mix in the NFC South futures, sitting one game back of the Saints. Baker Mayfield has reinvented himself with the Buccaneers in 23′, putting together a rather solid campaign. He’s thrown for 2,389 yards and 15 touchdowns against six picks while completing 64.6% of his passes. But, consistency has been an issue overall. The Bucs offense is 23rd in points, 25th in total yards, and 32nd in rushing yards. The run game is non-existent, with Rachaad White averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry. They don’t even have a legitimate second back, with Mayfield their next-best option. It doesn’t matter that Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are great options downfield, it’s hard to win without a rushing attack.
Todd Bowles’ squad started off the year 3-1 but have now lost five of their last six games, dropping them back in the divisional run. Only one clear-cut playoff team is ahead on the schedule and that’s the Jacksonville Jaguars. Luckily for Tampa Bay, they face the Panthers twice more. That should be two wins right there.
NFC South Futures Picks
Even though the Saints just placed Michael Thomas on the Injured Reserve, the Bucs and Falcons don’t instill any confidence. I expect New Orleans to end up winning the NFC South.They have enough options to get by without Thomas for now.