NFL 2021/22 NFC betting preview - Can anyone stop the Bucs?

Planet Sport takes a look at the NFL's NFC with a division-by-division rundown and best bets as the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to defend their crown.

The Super Bowl champions, led by the GOAT Tom Brady, will aim to defend their NFC title and Vince Lombardi Trophy this season after bringing back all of their starters from their title winning squad. Can anyone stop them?

The frightening thing for the rest of the NFC is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should get even better with a full preseason this time, with every single starter being retained and their younger stars all having top level experience.

Chasing them down is reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers after his summer ding-dong with Packers officials ended with him staying at Lambeau Field - but this could be his 'Last Dance' season in Green Bay.

The rest of the contenders have a lot to do, with the main threats all seemingly coming from the NFC West with the LA Rams, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers all well fancied. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are hoping to bounce back from a nightmare season last year.

Let's take a look at how the NFC will shape up this season...

Best bets

Packers to win the NFC Championship at 13/2

Packers to win the NFC North at 4/6

Cowboys to win the NFC East at 11/8

Cardinals to make the playoffs at 13/8

Vikings to finish second in NFC North at 11/8

Divisional acca: Buccaneers, Packers, Rams and Cowboys all to win their division at around 17/1

NFC South

Odds to win the division: Buccaneers 1/2, Saints 10/3, Falcons 9/1, Panthers 10/1

Lost somewhat in that superb history-making effort by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers was that the New Orleans Saints actually won this division last season. They were overpriced last year as the Brady hype saw them being overlooked while their big price this year reflects the fact they've lost future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, who retired.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay have their now 44-year-old GOAT Brady looking as fit and hungry as ever - make no mistake his desire to win will never go away.

The Bucs have also made history as coach Bruce Arians can call upon all 22 starters from last season as they attempt to 'Run it Back' - that's the first time a Super Bowl-winning team has been kept together in the salary cap era (since 1994).

It is, in fact, the first time a Super Bowl team has remained intact since 1977 as players are usually poached or want to go and make more money elsewhere. It really is a huge achievement by the team's front office and with a full preseason under their belts, Tampa Bay will certainly be a better side this year.

That's a scary thought for the league, but even more so for the NFC South. With the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers both in rebuilding periods and the Saints having to live without Brees, it's Tampa Bay's division to lose.

Prediction: Buccaneers, Saints, Falcons, Panthers

Best bets: I'm trying to make a case for the Saints as they're a big price and still a good team, but the combination of Tampa Bay's improvement and big question marks over the New Orleans' quarterback situation means you just can't trust them.

If the Saints ride star running back Alvin Kamara then they could make the playoffs (Evens) but even if they don't, they're a better side than the Panthers or Falcons so 2/1 on them finishing second is a nice bet.

NFC North

Odds to win the division: Packers 4/6, Vikings 5/2, Bears 11/2, Lions 28/1

The reigning MVP is back in Green Bay! And having Aaron Rodgers alone makes the Packers division favourites given they've gone 13-3 in the last two seasons while making the NFC Championship.

Whatever beef Rodgers still has with team officials, his relationship with head coach Matt LeFleur seems strong and his commitment to the team and fans means even if this is his 'Last Dance' moment in Green Bay, he'll be going all-out to win a second Super Bowl.

Rodgers definitely hasn't had the superstar receivers provided for him of late in Green Bay but he does have arguably THE best around in Davante Adams and they'll be a scintillating combination once again.

It's also hard to talk about receiving threats when that really wasn't the area that let them down in their two NFC Championship losses. You also don't get bad teams making successive conference title match-ups and stacking up 26 wins in two seasons.

If anything, two bad coaching calls cost them against Tampa Bay in January and there's no reason why they can't claim the division again, although the Minnesota Vikings will be a threat, with some veteran defensive additions making them a mean-looking unit.

It could be QB Kirk Cousins' last year to earn that whopping contract he's on, but with Justin Jefferson having an electrifying rookie season at receiver and Dalvin Cook returning as an elite running back, they'll have plenty of problems for opposition defenses to solve.

The Chicago Bears have drafted a hugely talented quarterback in Justin Fields, but he's been stuffed behind veteran Andy Dalton on the depth chart. That won't last and Fields will get his chance, but whether coach Matt Nagy is the right fit for the team is a bigger question. Fields may be brought in too late.

The Detroit Lions are starting over and new head coach Dan Campbell's intense press conferences might be the highlight for Lions fans this season. They have Jared Goff at QB this season and some good running backs, but that defense looks undermanned and they could be playing from behind far too often.

Prediction: Packers, Vikings, Bears, Lions

Best bets: Again, you can't look beyond the Packers even after the summer Rodgers has had - he's too experienced to let that get to him and while there are good pieces in the other teams, this Green Bay outfit still looks to be in the 'Super Bowl window' while the others are rebuilding jobs. I actually don't think 4/6 on the Packers to win this is that bad a bet, certainly if combined in a divisional winners acca.

NFC West

Odds to win the division: Rams 15/8, 49ers 15/8, Seahawks 11/4, Cardinals 6/1

Absolutely love this division and there's a decent shout for it to be the strongest in the NFL this season, with even outsiders Arizona only just missing out on last year's playoffs on a tiebreaker. The bookies can't split the LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers and neither can many pundits given they're so well matched.

New Rams quarterback Matt Stafford will add that x-factor and elite arm talent to a solid playoff outfit and if he stays healthy, he can make all the throws that could take Sean McVay's side over the top. His lack of playoff experience (just three losses) would be the only question mark.

Stafford's playmaking is an excellent addition to a defensive unit that allowed the fewest points and yards last season, and with defensive giant Aaron Donald still leading that pack, they're live Super Bowl contenders.

The season after Tampa Bay became the first ever team to play, and win, a Super Bowl in their home stadium, could the Rams make it back-to-back home hopes with the big game being held at their grand new home in February?

The San Francisco 49ers had terrible luck with injuries last season but a huge bounce back is expected with pass rusher Nick Bosa back to make a huge difference. The QB situation is muddied with Jimmy Garoppolo the presumed starter but they traded up far too much for Trey Lance to just sit on the bench this season.

Best guess to start the season is that head coach and offensive trickster Kyle Shanahan starts Jimmy G but has packages designed especially for Lance to use his mobility and add an extra edge to an already formidable run game.

Russell Wilson has been carrying the Seattle Seahawks for a while, but even when he was let off the leash last season, he started throwing too many costly turnovers and was then reeled in. The Seahawks defense is far from what it was and without a pass rush they could really struggle to keep pace with three strong attacks in this division.

One of those attacks involves the Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray, who is lightning quick with shifty, nimble feet that make him a nightmare to cover in the open field or near the goal line. The Cardinals splashed out plenty on receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season and now defensive disrupter extraordinaire JJ Watt and if he can stay fit then they'll be a tough side to get rid of.

Prediction: Rams, 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks

Best bets: This is a cracking division if you have a firm opinion on one of the favourites with decent odds going around, but let's face it, it's a coin toss with so many variables in play and it wouldn't even be that much of a shock if the Cardinals ended up on top! I've gone with the Rams but it could easily go down to a tiebreaker and maybe the dual forecast of the Rams and 49ers would be a nice touch here.

My firmest angle here is on the playoff chances of the teams, as I think three will get in here from this division so I'll be backing the Cardinals at 13/8 to make the postseason dance and the Seahawks to miss out on the playoffs at 23/20.

NFC East

Odds to win the division: Cowboys 11/8, Washington 9/4, Giants 7/2, Eagles 11/2

The old saying of saving the best to last certainly does not apply here! It was a shambles of a division last year when the Washington Football Team won the section and got into the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

The good news is things can only get better. Washington will be a tough team to face this year with Chase Young set to be a defensive monster and a sturdy offensive line will give second-year rusher Antonio Gibson plenty of room.

They'll have the ultimate journeyman in Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB as he continues what looks to be a desire to play for every team in the NFL - this will be his ninth different uniform in the league.

We do have the Dallas Cowboys in this division of course - with America's Team having a shocker last season even before QB Dak Prescott broke his ankle. He was stacking up gargantuan numbers but the team were still losing thanks to a defense that couldn't lay a glove on the opposition.

If new defensive coach Dan Quinn can sort that out and if Prescott can stay injury-free then this talent-laden outfit could be a danger even into the playoffs. We say that a lot about Big D though...

The Philadelphia Eagles look to have a decent QB on their hands in Jalen Hurts but they seem resigned to being at the start of a rebuild with an ageing defense and a young but inexperienced offense.

At the New York Giants, Daniel Jones is looking to make the step-up to genuine franchise QB and if all-action running back Saquon Barkley can return from his serious injury back at his best they'll have a big shout at the postseason.

Prediction: Cowboys, Giants, Washington, Eagles

Best bets: Dallas frustrate and disappoint more than any other team in the league and it's finally time they delivered at least somewhat on all that promise, especially if Prescott is healthy as the defense then just needs to be adequate to give them a chance. I'm taking 11/8 on them winning the East but also preparing for disappointment.

Washington and the Giants could be anything, and either could easily make a playoff push. They've got some star players - Chase Young could be Defensive Player of the Year and Saquon Barkley Comeback Player of the Year - but they'll also need the rest of their teams to answer serious questions to make the postseason dance.

Conclusion

Odds to win the NFC: Buccaneers 3/1, Rams 6/1, Packers 13/2, 49ers 13/2, Seahawks 11/1, Cowboys 14/1

I can't remember the last time there was a better chance of a Super Bowl repeat, but so much can happen in a season and with the Bucs so short I think it pays to look for a value alternative, and in this instance it's the Green Bay Packers.

Partly because of the Aaron Rodgers situation and the way sport often throws up these magnificent storylines, but let's not forget that the Packers are a great team, going back-to-back in the NFC title game and giving the Bucs more of a game than the Chiefs ended up doing.

It comes down to picking the Pack or the Rams/49ers from the NFC West, but I just wonder what toll that bloodbath of a division will take on those two in a longer 17-game season.

Green Bay are certainly worth backing to win the NFC North, and we're taking a chance that Dallas will deliver for once and win the NFC East. The Minnesota Vikings are a nice bet to finish second behind Green Bay in what looks a two-horse race.

Arizona are a team that have all the pieces to be a big surprise if they can put it all together and look a solid bet at 13/8 to make the playoffs this time around.

Divisional bet: Buccaneers, Packers, Rams and Cowboys all to win their division at around 17/1