July is here which means we’re inching closer to the start of the 2021 NFL season.
29 NFL teams will report to training camp on July 27, which means we’re just over three weeks from re-entering the constant NFL news cycle.
Now’s a good time of year for football fans to start looking ahead to the regular season and getting your pre-season bets in.
Here are my best bets for the upcoming year.
All odds are from Bet365.
To win Super Bowl LVI
Los Angeles Rams (+1200)
The Los Angeles Rams made a major statement this offseason when the team traded away quarterback Jared Goff in a package to acquire Detroit Lions passer Matt Stafford. The move signalled that the team is clearly in win-now mode, and despite playing in a highly competitive NFC West, is committed to winning a Super Bowl. At 33-years-old, Stafford still has some productive years ahead of him, and he’s joining a Rams offense that possesses elite skill position talent with the likes of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Cam Akers in the fold. Defensively, this remains a very solid group even with safety and defensive play-caller Josh Johnson III leaving to join the Cleveland Browns. With an upgrade under centre, there really doesn’t appear to be many holes on this team.
Longshot bet: Minnesota Vikings (+4000)
I really like the number you can get on the Minnesota Vikings. As it currently stands, it appears that both the Green Bay Packers’ (+1400) and Denver Broncos’ (+2000) numbers are impacted by a potential Aaron Rodgers trade as Denver is seemingly the front-runner to acquire the quarterback if he is dealt. Minnesota’s current odds don’t seem to be affected by Rodgers’ potential absence, despite the fact that it would significantly increase its chances at winning the division, which also drastically boosts its Super Bowl outlook. Additionally, after an uncharacteristically poor year defensively, the Vikings have added DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB Patrick Peterson, LB Nick Vigil, DE Stephen Weatherly and S Xavier Woods to help bolster the unit. The team will also get back DE Danielle Hunter and DT Michael Pierce, who both missed the entirety of the 2020 season.
To win conference
AFC: Cleveland Browns (+800)
The Cleveland Browns made major strides in 2020, jumping to 12 wins after picking up just six victories the year prior. In his first year in the position, head coach Kevin Stefanski led the Browns to their first playoff win in 26 years. Entering 2021, Cleveland’s roster appears to be even better than it was a year ago. The team added safety John Johnson III, corner back Troy Hill and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to an already formidable defense this off-season. The offense will get wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back after he underwent knee surgery, and still features the best running back duo in the game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. After tossing 35 interceptions through his first two years in the league, Mayfield got that number down to eight as the Browns became a run-first offense. Based on 2020 results, Cleveland is slated to have the easiest schedule of any team in the AFC North, something that could help them win the division and potentially the conference.
NFC: Los Angeles Rams (+600)
For all the reasons illustrated above, I think the Rams have a legitimate chance at vaulting themselves into the elite in the NFC. There’s not a ton of value at +600, but none of the other numbers in the conference really seem to be worth targeting.
To win division
AFC East: Buffalo Bills (-150)
You have to pay up to bet the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East title, but they seem poised to repeat as the division champs. Buffalo is the only team in this division not entering this year with major questions surrounding the quarterback position and it returns pretty much exactly the same as it ended 2021. The addition of first-round edge rusher Greg Rousseau should help the defense put pressure on the quarterback after the Bills finished last season with the 10th-fewest QB hurries.
AFC North: Cleveland Browns (+166)
As I wrote above, the Browns have the easiest strength of schedule of the four teams in the AFC North. That, along with the improved performance in 2020 and the key offseason additions should be enough to give them a real chance to win their first divisional title since 1989. For reference, the Jacksonville Jaguars have won two AFC North titles since the last time Cleveland finished in the top spot.
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts (+105)
Similarly to the Bills, there isn’t a whole lot of value in selecting the Indianapolis Colts to win the division, but the seem like the best bet to me. Outside of the Colts and the Tennessee Titans, no other pick to seems sensible for this division. I like Indianapolis, because even though it failed to claim the AFC South last year, it did win both its games against Tennessee and it’ll enter this season with a sizeable upgrade at quarterback in Carson Wentz. The former Philadelphia Eagles passer struggled mightily last year, but he’ll receive both a skill position and offensive line upgrade with the Colts, and it’s fair to expect a bounce-back campaign from the former second-overall pick.
AFC West: Denver Broncos (+450)
The Kansas City Chiefs (-280) are most likely going to win this division, but there is absolutely no value at picking the Chiefs at that number. A key injury to Kansas City or a potential Aaron Rodgers trade would drastically improve the Denver Broncos chances of claiming this division. Quarterback aside, there aren’t any glaring holes on this team. The strongest positional group, the secondary, was overhauled this offseason with the additions of Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and first-round selection Patrick Surtain II at cornerback. The offense should improve as Courtland Sutton returns after playing just one game due to a torn ACL, and it’ll likely benefit from a quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater this summer.
NFC East: New York Giants (+450)
I find it very surprising that the New York Giants have the same odds to win the NFC East as the Philadelphia Eagles, despite one team clearly undergoing a rebuild on the fly while the other has aspirations to compete in 2021. New York is just one of two teams in this division that has a presentable defense, and the offense will look completely different with Kenny Golladay and first-round pick Kadarius Toney joining the fold. Superstar running back Saquon Barkley returning after suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 will also be a huge boost, as the rest will fall onto the shoulders of third-year quarterback Daniel Jones, who’ll ultimately dictate how this season goes for the Giants. If he has a strong year, New York will contend for the division title.
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings (+300)
At -163, there is simply zero value to pick the Green Bay Packers to win this division, especially if you have doubts about Aaron Rodgers’ status with the team. For the reasons illustrated above in my Super Bowl longshot pick, give me the Vikings with some solid plus-money.
NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-150)
The NFC South is certainly a division in transition, and that’s what makes it difficult to pick anybody other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win it. Both the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints will have a new starter under centre, while the Atlanta Falcons trot out an aging Matt Ryan in what appears to be a rebuilding year. The Bucs may have the easiest road of any team to a divisional title this year, which gives you some value even at the current price.
NFC West: Los Angeles Rams (+187)
I have the Rams as my favourite Super Bowl bet and pick to win the NFC, so of course I am going to back them to win the ultra competitive NFC West.
Most Valuable Player
QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (+1200)
In his third year, Josh Allen took a major step forward in his development and delivered an MVP-calibre season. The dual-threat QB threw for 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions while adding 421 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. It’s no coincidence that he posted his best season as a pro with Stefon Diggs on the team, and entering year two, people should expect the duo to continue and build on their success. Even though Buffalo lost wide receiver John Brown to free agency, it signed Emmanuel Sanders while both Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis returned. As it currently stands, Allen has the third-best odds of any player to win MVP, and it wouldn’t shock me in the least if he did.
Longshot: QB Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts (+4000)
I really like Carson Wentz’s setup entering 2021. Last year’s effort from the 28-year-old was a complete and utter abomination, but I think the move to Indianapolis will do him some good. For starters, he’ll be reuniting with ex-offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who’s now the head coach of the Colts. Reich was Wentz’s OC during his electric 2017 campaign, where he likely would’ve won the MVP if it weren’t for a late-season ACL tear. In his 13 games played that year, the 2016 first-round pick threw for 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. It’s been a while, but we’ve seen Wentz produce at an MVP level in the past, and now receiving a much-needed fresh start, the former Philadelphia Eagle could be poised for a massive bounce-back year.
Team Win Totals
Arizona Cardinals: Under 8.5 (-170)
Atlanta Falcons: Under 7.5 (+110)
Baltimore Ravens: Under 11.5 (-160)
Buffalo Bills: Over 10.5 (-145)
Carolina Panthers: Under 7.5 (-140)
Chicago Bears: Under 7.5 (-125)
Cincinnati Bengals: Under 6.5 (-140)
Cleveland Browns: Over 10.5 (+100)
Dallas Cowboys: Under 9.5 (-130)
Detroit Lions: Under 5.5 (-180)
Houston Texans: Under 4.5 (-150)
Indianapolis Colts: Over 9.5 (-150)
Jacksonville Jaguars: Over 6.5 (+100)
Kansas City Chiefs: Over 12.5 (+120)
Los Angeles Chargers: Over 8.5 (-175)
Los Angeles Rams: Over 10.5 (+105)
Miami Dolphins: Under 9.5 (-150)
Minnesota Vikings: Over 8.5 (-140)
New England Patriots: Under 9.5 (+100)
New Orleans Saints: Under 8.5 (+135)
New York Giants: Over 6.5 (-165)
New York Jets: Under 6.5 (-150)
Philadelphia Eagles: Under 6.5 (+125)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Under 8.5 (-110)
Seattle Seahawks: Over 9.5 (-140)
San Francisco 49ers: Over 10.5 (+100)
Tennessee Titans: Over 9.5 (+100)
Washington Football Team: Under 8.5 (-140)
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