by WizardRaceandSports Staff Writer
New Orleans Saints
We enter the post-Drew Brees era, and it will be either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill ushering Sean Payton’s Saints (+3000 odds to win the Super Bowl) into the future. Prior to the regular season, Winston was the favorite to take the first snap of the 2021 regular season for New Orleans, a team that drafted Ian Book in the fourth round of the draft this year.
The Saints’ tremendous offensive line, which includes offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk — who received a new five-year, $96 million extension — will provide the quarterbacks with the time needed in the pocket this year, but how will New Orleans fare in terms of the receiving game? The loss of Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook in addition to Michael Thomas’ extended absence will surely be felt, as Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, and Adam Trautman will have big shoes to fill.
It will be a lot of change, as double-digit starters are new to the Saints this year. Will Lutz may miss the beginning of the season, so former Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher could be the Week 1 placekicker. Can the Saints make it five consecutive double-digit win seasons? We will have to see, as New Orleans looks to dominate the NFC South yet again in 2021. Four-time Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara will be an important factor in getting this done.
2021 Saints Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 28 – DE Payton Turner
Round 2, Pick 28 – LB Pete Werner
Round 3, Pick 12 – CB Paulson Adebo
Round 4, Pick 28 – QB Ian Book
Round 6, Pick 22 – OT Landon Young
Round 7, Pick 28 – WR Kawaan Baker
Notable Other Players Added and Re-Signed by the Saints
Jameis Winston, QB
Devonta Freeman, RB
Nick Vannett, TE
James Hurst, OT
Kwon Alexander, LB
Brian Poole, CB
Marcus Williams, S
Notable Saints in New Places
Drew Brees, QB – retired
Emmanuel Sanders, WR – Buffalo Bills
Jared Cook, TE – Los Angeles Chargers
Josh Hill, TE – free agent
Sheldon Rankins, DT – New York Jets
Trey Hendrickson, DE – Cincinnati Bengals
Alex Anzalone, LB – Detroit Lions
Prince Amukamara, CB – free agent
Predictions for Notable Saints Players
Drew Brees completed his Hall of Fame career last year, and he played 12 regular season games for a record of 9-3 in 2020. Taysom Hill, the darling “tight end” of some fantasy football leagues last year, was the starter for four games, and he went 3-1. Hill threw for 928 yards (834 of which came in the four starts), four touchdowns, and two interceptions last year.
Jameis Winston, who joined the Saints in 2020, last started in 2019 for the Buccaneers: he threw for an NFL-best 5,109 yards and also led the league in interceptions with 30. For comparison purposes, Drew Lock and Carson Wentz led the NFL with 15 interceptions last year. Head coach Sean Payton always has something up his sleeves, but Vegas knows that it is more likely Winston leads the NFL in interceptions thrown (+1800) than in passing touchdowns (+6500).
Alvin Kamara became the first player in NFL history with at least 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons. He has been an offensive staple for the Saints ever since they drafted him 67th overall in 2017. The 26-year-old running back has his over/under totals set at 950.5 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. In a season with unpredictability at the quarterback, it may be difficult to place bets on Kamara’s totals, but his +1600 Offensive Player of the Year Award odds are worth it.
After Kamara (756 receiving yards), the most receiving yardage on the Saints came from Emmanuel Sanders (726) and Jared Cook (504). Kamara also led the team in receptions with 83, and then Sanders (61), Michael Thomas (40), and Cook (37) had the next-most receptions on the team.
Thomas and the Saints have had a difficult offseason, and he will miss some time after having ankle surgery. With Thomas injured, Latavius Murray and newcomer Devonta Freeman can help catch passes, but in terms of wide receivers, the Saints are lacking. Bettors will not be taking Thomas to lead the NFL in receiving yards (+2500) or in receiving touchdowns (+3500) this year. Will it be Tre’Quan Smith (34 receptions, 448 receptions, and four touchdowns) who is the team’s best wide receiver this year? It seems like it is headed that way.
Adam Trautman caught 15 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown last year for the Saints. He is +20000 to lead the NFL in receiving yards, and he has the same odds to lead in receiving touchdowns. With Jared Cook now in Los Angeles, it will be Trautman and newcomer Nick Vannett, who had 14 receptions, 95 yards, and one touchdown last year in Denver. The Broncos released Vannett after one season with them, and the Saints then signed him in March.
Saints Predictions for the 2021 Season
2020 Regular Season Record: 12-4 (9-7 ATS); Lost in Divisional Round
The Saints faced the Chicago Bears during the NFL Super Wild Card Weekend, and touchdowns by Michael Thomas, Latavius Murray, and Alvin Kamara led New Orleans to the 21-9 victory. However, Drew Brees struggled in the following round, as he and the Saints fell to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. We will have to see if the Saints perform better in the 2021 postseason. Interestingly, Vegas has their win total at nine this year. The team is +100 to make the playoffs and -120 to miss the postseason.
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Read Also: AFC North Predictions and Odds
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The defending champion Buccaneers are running it back with 44-year-old Tom Brady and the majority of their roster. Tampa Bay had its best scoring season in franchise history, as they put up 492 points. Prior to 2020, Tampa Bay had not won double-digit games since 2010 and had not made the playoffs since 2007. The Buccaneers won their second Super Bowl last year, as they dominated on both offense and defense. Tampa Bay enters 2021 as the second-highest favorite to win the Super Bowl (+600), the favorite to win the NFC (+300), and the favorite to win the NFC South (-200).
2021 Buccaneers Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 32 – LB Joe Tryon
Round 2, Pick 32 – QB Kyle Trask
Round 3, Pick 32 – OT Robert Hainsey
Round 4, Pick 24 – WR Jaelon Darden
Round 5, Pick 32 – LB K.J. Britt
Round 7, Pick 24 – CB Chris Wilcox
Round 7, Pick 32 – LB Grant Stuard
Notable Other Players Added and Re-Signed by the Buccaneers
Giovani Bernard, RB
C.J. Prosise, RB
Chris Godwin, WR
Antonio Brown, WR
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Steve McLendon, DT
Ndamukong Suh, DE
Lavonte David, LB
Shaquil Barrett, LB
Notable Buccaneers in New Places
LeSean McCoy, RB – free agent
Cameron Kinley, CB – free agent (undrafted rookie)
Predictions for Notable Buccaneers Players
Can Tom Brady do it again in 2021? It did not take him long to turn the Buccaneers into a powerhouse on offense, and with a tremendous defense, Tampa Bay was a juggernaut in the NFL last year. Brady brought home his seventh Super Bowl championship and his fifth Super Bowl MVP Award in February.
The winningest player in NFL history is +1400 to win the NFL MVP Award and he has an even better chance at leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns:
- Most passing yards in the NFL: +650
- Most passing touchdowns: +500
- Over/under passing yards: 4,650.5
- Over/under passing touchdowns: 36.5
Brady, a 14-time Pro Bowler, finished with 4,633 passing yards (ranked third in the NFL) and 40 passing touchdowns (ranked second) last year. He played the entire season on a torn MCL and then had surgery during the offseason, but if he plays well again in 2021, then he could be one of the best quarterbacks in the league again this season.
Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, and newcomer Giovani Bernard will join forces in 2021 after Jones II went for 1,143 yards from scrimmage and Fournette tallied 600 yards from scrimmage. They combined for 14 total touchdowns, with Jones II finishing with two more scores. Fournette came up big with four touchdowns during the Buccaneers’ postseason run. The prop bets for the 2021 Bucs running backs are the following:
- Jones II – most rushing yards in the NFL: +8000
- Jones II – most rushing touchdowns: +6000
- Jones II – over/under rushing yards: 725.5
- Fournette – Offensive Player of the Year Award winner: +5000
- Fournette – most rushing yards: +10000
- Fournette – most rushing touchdowns: +10000
- Fournette – over/under rushing yards: 650.5
- Bernard – most rushing yards: +50000
It will be difficult to project the share of carries for the Buccaneers this year, especially since they will face a lot of tough rushing defenses. Jones II may be able to reach around 750 rushing yards, but Fournette reaching 700 yards on the ground will not be easy.
It will be another entertaining season from the receiving group in Tampa Bay. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Scotty Miller are all back for 2021. Evans was the leading receiver of the bunch, as he accumulated 70 receptions, 1,006 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns. In 12 games last year, Godwin, who received the non-exclusive franchise tag, brought in 65 catches, 840 yards, and seven touchdowns.
This year, Evans’ over/under totals are 1,050.5 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns, and Godwin’s are 1,080.5 yards and 7.5 touchdowns. We will have to see if Brady continues to favor Evans in the red zone because if he does, Evans could be close to 20 touchdowns this year.
Although Cameron Brate is on the active PUP list — as well as wide receiver Justin Watson, who could miss the first three months of the season — the Buccaneers still have Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard at the tight end position. Last year, Gronkowski was impressive (45 receptions, 623 yards, and seven touchdowns), as he returned from a one-year absence from football.
Buccaneers Predictions for the 2021 Season
2020 Regular Season Record: 11-5 (9-7 ATS); Won Super Bowl
The Buccaneers were already looking strong on defense during the preseason, so it looks like Tampa Bay is ready for 2021. The team was strong in takeaways and limiting giveaways last year for Bruce Arians. Arians’ odds to win the Coach of the Year Award are +3000, and the team is second in the NFL in terms of win total (12), according to Vegas. With the 2021 Buccaneers looking a lot like the 2020 Buccaneers, there is a chance that Tampa Bay can hit the over, but it will not be easy.
Read Also: NFC East Predictions and Odds
In Matt Rhule’s first year as an NFL head coach, his Panthers finished the 2021 season with a 5-11 record. The former Baylor and Temple head coach will have to see some improvement from the Panthers this upcoming year because another mediocre season would not be good for Rhule’s job status. Carolina’s struggles last year were due in part to Christian McCaffrey’s ankle, shoulder, and thigh injuries. He played just three games last season.
Teddy Bridgewater is out at the quarterback position, and former New York Jet Sam Darnold is in for the Panthers. Carolina also added cornerback Jaycee Horn and national champion wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. in the first two rounds of the draft as well as running back Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round. Darnold will look to restart his career and give Panthers fans their first top-10 offense since 2015. It will be a tough task for Darnold and the Panthers, who are +9000 to win the Super Bowl and +1000 to win the NFC South.
2021 Panthers Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 8 – CB Jaycee Horn
Round 2, Pick 27 – WR Terrace Marshall Jr.
Round 3, Pick 6 – OT Brady Christensen
Round 3, Pick 20 – TE Tommy Tremble
Round 4, Pick 21 – RB Chuba Hubbard
Round 5, Pick 14 – DT Daviyon Nixon
Round 5, Pick 22 – CB Keith Taylor
Round 6, Pick 9 – G Deonte Brown
Round 6, Pick 20 – WR Shi Smith
Round 6, Pick 38 – LS Thomas Fletcher
Round 7, Pick 4 – DT Phil Hoskins
Notable Other Players Added and Re-Signed by the Panthers
Sam Darnold, QB
David Moore, WR
Dan Arnold, TE
Taylor Moton, OT
John Miller, G
DaQuan Jones, DT
Haason Reddick, DE
Denzel Perryman, LB
Denzel Perryman, LB
A.J. Bouye, CB
Notable Panthers in New Places
Teddy Bridgewater, QB – Denver Broncos
Mike Davis, RB – Atlanta Falcons
Curtis Samuel, WR – Washington Football Team
Russell Okung, OT – free agent
Chris Reed, G – Indianapolis Colts
Corn Elder, CB – Detroit Lions
Rasul Douglas, CB – Las Vegas Raiders
Predictions for Notable Panthers Players
Sam Darnold played three seasons with the Jets, and 2020 was, unfortunately, his worst season. He posted a 2-10 record and passed for just 2,208 yards and eight touchdowns. On the bright side, he did rush for a career-high 217 yards last year. Darnold’s lone winning season came in 2019 when he went 7-6. He will look for a winning season in Carolina this year, as the team hopes to stay healthy on the offensive side of the football. Darnold’s props, which will be difficult to hit, are the following for the 2021 season:
- Comeback Player of the Year Award winner: +1800
- Most passing yards in the league: +5000
- Most passing touchdowns: +5000
- Most interceptions thrown: +750
- Over/under passing yards: 3,950.5
- Over/under passing touchdowns: 23.5
Mike Davis is no longer with the Panthers, so it will be Christian McCaffrey or Chuba Hubbard leading the team in rushing this season. McCaffrey battled injuries last season, but he still had six touchdowns in just three games. The Panthers hope that Hubbard can be a strong backup for the team. McCaffrey’s prop bets this season set lofty expectations:
- Offensive Player of the Year Award winner: +1000
- Comeback Player of the Year Award winner: +800
- Most rushing yards in the league: +1000
- Most rushing touchdowns: +800
- Over/under rushing yards: 1,200.5
- Over/under rushing touchdowns: 11.5
Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and second-rounder Terrace Marshall Jr. along with newcomer David Moore will be the main wide receivers for the Panthers this season. Last year, both D.J. Moore and Anderson went for more than 1,000 yards. However, it was just four receiving touchdowns from D.J. Moore that led the team. This year, Anderson is not projected to hit quadruple-digit yards in receiving, but D.J. Moore is expected to do so. The over/under totals for them in terms of touchdowns are six for D.J. Moore and five for Anderson. If Darnold steps it up in 2021, maybe one of these players can hit double digits in terms of touchdowns this season.
Dan Arnold, a tight end who previously played for the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints, joins Ian Thomas as the main tight ends on the Panthers this year. Last season, Arnold posted 31 receptions, 438 receiving yards, and four touchdowns with Arizona. Thomas had 20 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown. We will have to see how Joe Barry’s offense does this year with tight ends, but having Arnold should help Darnold this year.
Panthers Predictions for the 2021 Season
2020 Regular Season Record: 5-11 (9-7 record ATS); missed postseason
Carolina’s defensive line is in the middle of the pack, but the team’s offensive line has struggled. The Panthers are hoping that right tackle Taylor Moton will continue to play well for the team, as the organization signed him to a four-year, $72 million contract extension. Back in 2019, the Panthers finished with the fourth-most rushing touchdowns and sixth-most yards per carry. Those numbers dropped in 2020 with McCaffrey injured, but maybe a couple of changes on the offensive end can help the Panthers hit the over of 7.5 wins this year.
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Read Also: NFC North Predictions and Odds
The Falcons are +8000 to win the Super Bowl and Vegas has their win total at just 7.5 games. Matt Ryan is now 36 years old, and his better days may be behind him, especially because his offensive line has not been very strong recently. In 2019, he was sacked the most of any quarterback (48 times), and this past year, he was sacked 41 times. The 2016 NFL MVP will hope to lead a bounceback season for the Falcons.
Atlanta finished 2020 with a 4-12 record after losing each of their final five games of the season. Not only did they lose their last five contests of 2020, but they also lost their first five games of the year. Arthur Smith, the former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, is the new head coach of the Falcons, and he is hoping to bring his offensive success from Tennessee to Atlanta.
Although Julio Jones has switched teams with Arthur Smith, the new head coach has a very important new player in Kyle Pitts, whom the Falcons drafted fourth overall in the 2021 draft. Pitts has the longest wingspan of any tight end or wide receiver over the last 20 years. Another player from Atlanta had some media coverage recently, as 2020 First-Team All-Pro kicker Younghoe Koo had his car stolen during the offseason. Koo, who scored the most points of any player in 2020, just wanted his cleats back, as he looks to have another Pro Bowl season this year.
2021 Falcons Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 4 – TE Kyle Pitts
Round 2, Pick 8 – S Richie Grant
Round 3, Pick 4 – OT Jalen Mayfield
Round 4, Pick 3 – CB Darren Hall
Round 4, Pick 9 – C Drew Dalman
Round 5, Pick 4 – DT Ta’Quon Graham
Round 5, Pick 38 – DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Round 5, Pick 39 – CB Avery Williams
Round 6, Pick 3 – WR Frank Darby
Notable Other Players Added and Re-Signed by the Falcons
A.J. McCarron, QB
Mike Davis, RB
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Lee Smith, TE
Brandon Copeland, LB
Duron Harmon, S
Erik Harris, S
Notable Falcons in New Places
Todd Gurley, RB – free agent
Brian Hill, RB – Tennessee Titans
Ito Smith, RB – Arizona Cardinals
Julio Jones, WR – Tennessee Titans
Alex Mack, C – San Francisco 49ers
Charles Harris, LB – Detroit Lions
Keanu Neal, LB – Dallas Cowboys
Darqueze Dennard, CB – Arizona Cardinals
Ricardo Allen, S – Cincinnati Bengals
Predictions for Notable Falcons Players
Matt Ryan has not led the Falcons to an above-.500 season since 2017, as his team has struggled over the last few years:
- 2016 (MVP season): 11-5 record as a starter
- 2017: 10-6
- 2018: 7-9
- 2019: 7-8
- 2020: 4-12
The 4-12 season last year matched Ryan’s career-worst performance from 2013. His over/under totals this season are 4,450.5 passing yards and 29.5 passing touchdowns. Ryan has the potential to go over by a lot with these numbers, but he has had just 26 touchdowns in each of the last two years.
The Falcons got to see Mike Davis twice last year, as he ran for more than five yards per carry in each of the games against Carolina. Todd Gurley, Brain Hill, and Ito Smith are all out of Atlanta, and they have replaced them with Davis along with 2019 fifth-rounder Qadree Ollison and versatile newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson. Davis went for 1,015 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns last year. He should be in for more than 200 touches again this year with a different NFC South team.
At the wide receiver position this year, it will be the Calvin Ridley show again. Ridley amassed 1,374 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns, each of which led the Falcons last year. With Julio Jones sidelined for seven games in 2020, Russell Gage stepped up with 72 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns for the season.
This year, Gage’s over/under totals are 700.5 receiving yards and 4.5 receiving touchdowns while Ridley’s are 1,350.5 and 10. Ridley’s odds are +750 to lead the league in receiving and +900 to lead in receiving touchdowns. He has yet to lead the league in either of those categories, but he is a strong dark horse pick this year.
Hayden Hurst continued his upward trajectory in his third NFL season and first with the Falcons: 56 receptions, 571 yards, and six touchdowns. However, Hurst may have to take a backseat to Kyle Pitts in 2021. Pitts caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games in his last year for Florida. Pitts’ over/under totals are tabbed at 800.5 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. If Ridley and Pitts can combine for around 20 touchdowns in 2021, then we could be on the verge of seeing a passing powerhouse in Atlanta.
Falcons Predictions for the 2021 Season
2020 Regular Season Record: 4-12 (7-9 ATS); missed postseason
The Falcons are +190 to make the playoffs while they are -240 to miss the postseason. Arthur Smith is tied for third in the Coach of the Year Award odds (+1400). If he can bring the Falcons to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, then Smith has a strong chance at the award. In 2016, the NFC champion Falcons scored a franchise-record 540 points. While that total is not likely for the 2021 Falcons, they could surpass the 1998 Falcons for the second-most points (442).