2022 Season Reviews: NFC South

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2022 Season Reviews: NFC South

I wanted to do quick-hitting postmortem reports on every team since I spent so much time this summer breaking down all 32 franchises from a betting perspective for the 2022 season. It’s a good way for me to put a bow on the season that just finished while also getting a leg up on my early research for the 2023 season.

NFC South Reviews

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Record (ATS): 8-9 (4-12-1)

  • Postseason Record: 0-1 (0-1)

  • Season Win Total: Under 11.5

  • One-possession Record: 5-8

  • Division Odds: -250

  • Playoff Odds: -600

  • Over/Under record: 6-11

  • PPG: 18.4 (25th)

  • PPG Allowed: 21.1 (13th)

  • Average Scoring Margin: -2.6 (25th)

  • Turnover Differential: -2 (t-20th)

Season Review

Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl window slammed shut in 2022 with a 45-year-old quarterback unwilling to absorb hits behind a disintegrating offensive line. The Buccaneers appeared headed toward a rebuild early last off-season when Tom Brady announced his retirement on Feb. 1, 2022, but he reversed course 40 days later just before the start of free agency. Tampa Bay retained players like Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Carlton Davis, and Ryan Jensen to chase one more title run. Perhaps Rob Gronkowski was the only player who saw the writing on the wall when he announced his second retirement in June. Bruce Arians also stepped aside into a consultant’s role in order for Todd Bowles to take over as head coach. Brady finished with an NFL-record 733 pass attempts, but he finished with the worst TD rate (3.4%) and second-worst YPA average (6.4) of his career.

The Buccaneers fell well below their win total of 11.5 with a five-win decline from 2021, and Brady finished with a losing record for the first time as a full-time starter in his illustrious career. The Buccaneers finished a league-worst 4-13-1 ATS this year, which included a 1-7-1 ATS mark at home. The Buccaneers became just the fourth team to reach the postseason with a losing record by winning the dreadful NFC South (-250 odds), which was the first time the franchise won division titles in consecutive seasons. Brady also extended his playoff appearance streak to 19 seasons as a starter, but the Bucs wouldn’t hang around long in the postseason with Dallas easily dispatching them by 17 points in the Wild Card Round.

What to look for this off-season

The Buccaneers could be destined to go from Super Bowl LV champions in the 2020 season to contending for the NFL’s worst record in 2023 if the franchise blows everything up this off-season. Brady is all but gone after Tampa Bay slipped into mediocrity this season. The big question is will he chase one more Lombardi Trophy elsewhere or will he step into the broadcasting booth with a $375 million deal waiting for him at FOX. The Buccaneers have an ugly cap situation after bringing back many of their key pieces for the 2022 season. The Buccaneers need to decide if they want to reload in a weak NFC South with a new veteran quarterback — it hasn’t worked out well for the rival Saints the last two seasons. Or do they start to rebuild to set themselves up to select their next QB in the 2024 NFL Draft? They could let some of their top free agents walk like Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Akiem Hicks while also potentially unloading some high-priced veterans to clear up their books.

2. Carolina Panthers

  • Record (ATS): 7-10 (9-8)
  • Season Win Total: Over 6.5
  • One-possession Record: 3-5
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -450
  • Over/Under record: 8-9
  • PPG: 20.4 (20th)
  • PPG Allowed: 22.0 (19th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -1.6 (23rd)
  • Turnover Differential: -4 (t-24th)

Season Review

Matt Rhule pulled college programs out from rock bottom at Baylor and Temple before coming to the lowly Panthers in 2020, but he left Carolina in much worse shape before owner David Tepper finally pulled the plug in October 2022. The Panthers fired Rhule after a 1-4 start to the year, which dropped his two-plus season record to 11-27 (.289). Carolina had slightly raised expectations heading into 2022 after trading for 2018 first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, but he eventually suffered the same fate as Rhule in December after finishing with a dreadful 74.4 QB rating with the Panthers. Carolina also traded the face of the franchise, Christian McCaffrey, to the 49ers less than two weeks after firing Rhule.

The Panthers still climbed back into the playoff hunt in the second half of the season after promoting Steve Wilks from defensive assistant to interim head coach. They finished the season with a 6-6 mark under Wilks to climb over their season win total of 6.5. The Panthers had a chance to jump into the driver’s seat in the NFC South heading into the season finale, but they blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead to the Buccaneers in Week 17 to be officially eliminated from postseason contention (-450) for a fifth consecutive season.

What to look for this off-season

The NFC South is up for grabs with the Buccaneers and Saints trending in the wrong direction, and the Panthers have arguably assembled the best roster in the division heading into the off-season. Carolina will need to find the right coach after whiffing on Rhule three years ago. Wilks threw his hat into the ring with the team improving under his guidance, but they’ve been primarily focused on interviewing offensive coaches during the hiring process. That’s because they need to nail down the right quarterback, which has been an issue since Cam Newton’s career took a downturn after the 2018 season. Rhule failed to find success with retread quarterbacks like Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, and Mayfield so it seems unlikely that GM Scott Fitterer will go back to the veteran QB market once again this off-season. The Panthers could have a crack at a quarterback with the ninth overall pick, and the CMC trade gave them additional ammunition to potentially move up to get their guy. Carolina should be focused on improving the weaponry for their new quarterback with only D.J. Moore locked in as a threat at the skill positions. The Panthers are also headed toward contract-extension talks with Brian Burns after Fitterer hilariously turned down two first-round picks and a second-round pick from the Rams for their star pass rusher at the trade deadline.

3. New Orleans Saints

  • Record (ATS): 7-10 (7-10)
  • Season Win Total: Under 8.5
  • One-possession Record: 5-6
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -145
  • Over/Under record: 6-11
  • PPG: 19.4 (22nd)
  • PPG Allowed: 20.3 (9th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -.9 (17th)
  • Turnover Differential: -11 (31st)

Season Review

The Saints entered their first season without Sean Payton at the helm since 2005 and they left the season with their most losses in a campaign since they lost 13 games in the final pre-Payton season in 2005. New Orleans picked up some late-summer steam as a popular NFC sleeper pick, but the Saints easily fell below their win total of 8.5 while missing the playoffs (-145) for the first time since 2016. Dennis Allen finished with a losing record for the fourth time in as many tries to start his head-coaching career — he led the Raiders in 2012-14 — but he at least improved his career winning percentage to .283 with a 7-10 record.

The Saints re-signed Jameis Winston in the off-season to a two-year, $28 million contract with $21 million guaranteed, and they proceeded to bench him after three games for their $3 million backup plan, Andy Dalton. Michael Thomas’s once-burgeoning career was officially derailed in 2022 after playing in just 10 games over the last three seasons because of ankle/foot injuries. New Orleans at least landed Thomas’ successor in the draft when they selected Chris Olave, who joined his Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson as the first rookies from the same college to record 1000 receiving yards.

What to look for this off-season

The Saints have been stuck in quarterback purgatory since Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season and it seems unlikely to end this off-season. They traded their 2023 first-round pick to the Eagles last off-season as part of a deal to land the 16th and 19th overall picks in 2022, which eventually resulted in Olave. They could really use that 2023 first-round pick this spring though, as they would be in a position to potentially draft their next quarterback with the 10th overall pick. They could still receive a first-round pick as trade compensation for Sean Payton, who is still under contract with the Saints, but it’s unlikely to be a top half of the draft selection in 2023. The Saints have kicked their salary-cap issues down the road for years so there’s a chance Dalton could open next season as the QB1 if he returns on another team-friendly deal — it’s difficult to envision Winston returning after his demotion. The Saints will have to work their salary-cap magic to keep free agents Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata, but the Saints restructured Thomas’ contract in early January to set up his eventual release before the start of the new league year in March.

4. Atlanta Falcons

  • Record (ATS): 7-10 (9-8)
  • Season Win Total: Over 5
  • One-possession Record: 5-8
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -1100
  • Over/Under record: 7-10
  • PPG: 21.5 (t-15th)
  • PPG Allowed: 22.7 (23rd)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -1.2 (20th)
  • Turnover Differential: -4 (t-24th)

Season Review

The Falcons won seven games in each of Arthur Smith’s first two seasons, which would be a disappointment for most franchises, but Atlanta bested their 2022 win total by two victories. Atlanta exceeded expectations even after trading away the face of the franchise, Matt Ryan, to the Colts early in the off-season, but they still missed the playoffs (-1100) for the fifth straight year. The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota, one of Smith’s old QBs from his days with the Titans, to serve as the team’s bridge quarterback while GM Terry Fontenot slowly continued to turn this bad roster around since taking the job in 2021.

Mariota finished with respectable efficiency numbers — 7.4 YPA average, 5.0% TD rate, and 88.2 QB rating — but the veteran quarterback held back this passing game, specifically their last two first-round picks in Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Pitts averaged just 35.6 receiving YPG with two scores in 10 games before undergoing season-ending knee surgery, and London posted 40 or fewer receiving yards in 9-of-13 games with Mariota. The Falcons eventually gave third-round QB Desmond Ridder a four-game tryout after their Week 14 bye, but he did little to indicate he should be the front-runner for the starting job next year with just two TDs and a 6.2 YPA average. At least fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier came into his own at the end of the season with 95+ scrimmage yards in each of the final four games.

What to look for this off-season

The Falcons managed to stay relatively competitive the last two seasons while Fontenot got their books in order from the mess that former GM Thomas Dimitroff left behind. The NFC South is there for the taking just like it was in 2022, and the Falcons are in a position to make a move to the top of the division with the NFL’s second-most cap space. The Falcons will rearrange their QB depth chart for the third straight year to start Smith’s tenure with Mariota likely to be cut after he quit on the team in the final four weeks. Atlanta could look at another one of Smith’s former QBs in Ryan Tannehill to compete with Ridder for the starting job. They could also target a quarterback with the eighth overall pick after electing to go with the best-player-available approach in Fontenot’s first two seasons with Pitts and London. The Falcons still have plenty of defensive holes to address in free agency and the draft, specifically at pass rusher after they finished with the second-fewest sacks (21). They also need to lock up LT Kaleb McGary who made huge improvements in 2022 after the team declined his fifth-year option. Atlanta could look to lock up cornerstone players like RG Chris Lindstrom and CB A.J. Terrell to long-term extensions with their newfound financial flexibility.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.