2021 NFL Futures Odds & Picks: Bet the Bills to Win Super Bowl, Broncos To Go Over Win Total, More
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Allen
With the NFL regular season set to kickoff this Thursday, I thought I’d share the 10 season-long wagers I placed, comprised of six win totals and four futures. Let’s head to western New York and kick things off with the lone Super Bowl future I have in my pocket heading into the 2021 season.
Super Bowl Futures Bet
I will only have one Super Bowl future headed into the 2021 NFL regular season: Buffalo.
Here’s five reasons why I’m so high on the Bills:
1. Elite Quarterback: I believe in Josh Allen, who has proven himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. You’re pretty much not winning a Super Bowl in 2021 without one. This is an elite offense.
2. First-Rate Coaching: An elite coaching staff that knows how to call a game. They have also made top-notch adjustments on both sides of the ball midway through each of the past two seasons. I also think they learned a great deal from that Kansas City loss in the postseason.
3. Trending Metrics: The Bills had a very good overall season in 2021, but the trending numbers in the second half of the season were even better after the offensive line started to gel and the defense implemented a few schematic changes.
4. Defensive Additions: Don’t sleep on the return of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei at the one-technique. That should help with the interior run defense and also allow Ed Oliver to slide over to his more natural three-technique defensive tackle. I also really liked the defensive additions off the edge this past offseason. This defense has a very high upside if it can stay healthy.
5. Division Dynamic: I’m much lower on the Dolphins than the market and think the ceiling of both them and the Patriots is limited by inexperience at quarterback. I’m also lower than the market on the Jets. As a result, despite winning the AFC East last year, I have the Bills with one of the three easiest schedules in the NFL and think they have a better shot at winning their division — and of also getting the No. 1 seed — than the market implies, which obviously contributes to value when it comes to the Super Bowl future.
I bet them at 14-1 a few months ago and still like it down to 12-1, which you can still find at FanDuel and other sportsbooks if you shop around.
NFL Division & Playoff Bets
Jaguars to win AFC South (+800) at WynnBET
Eagles to win NFC East (+500) at FanDuel
49ers to make playoffs (-175) at Caesars
Since the 2002 division realignment, 24 NFL teams have gone from worst-to-first in 18 seasons. In my opinion, the two teams with the most value to make that turnaround this year are the Jaguars and Eagles — as I detailed here.
In regards to the 49ers, who sit as the NFC West favorites after finishing in last place lat year, I project them to finish with the most wins in the division. However, that’s partly due to a very favorable schedule as I have them and the Rams rated equally from a power ratings perspective. I personally only make the Niners an underdog in two road games against the Seahawks and Rams — and the latter could turn into a 49ers’ home game late in the season.
Consequently, I don’t really see a ton of value in the division odds, but I did bet San Francisco to make the playoffs at -200 — a wager I love given the low floor with two viable options at quarterback, manageable schedule and modeled range of outcomes in a fairly weak conference with an expanded playoff field.
NFL Win Total Bets
A year after finishing 4-0-2 on my season-long NFL win totals (AFC and NFC) in 2020, I will have six more for this season. If you listened to our pre-draft win totals Action Network Podcast episode (or follow me in the app), you may have joined me on the first two win total bets I placed:
I obviously fancied the Broncos much better at Over 7 (-135) wins, where I bought them earlier this offseason, but I still fancy the wager (albeit smaller) at Over 8.5 (-115) wins since I project them to win just over nine games.
While the rumor of Denver getting Aaron Rodgers never came to fruition, it did add Teddy Bridgewater, who NFL bettors know as a covering machine. For his career, Bridgewater owns a 35-14 (71.4%) record against the spread (ATS) — only Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have secured more profit for bettors since 2003 per Action Labs.
More importantly, Bridgewater raises the floor for this Broncos team. He’s more than capable of managing games and letting one of the league’s best defenses run the show. Denver should also benefit as much as any team in the league from getting guys back healthy after getting absolutely decimated by injuries in 2020. Last year’s bad injury luck should also pay off in the form of improved depth this year as well.
Don’t be surprised if this team takes a similar leap to the one we saw the Bears take back in 2018. With Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, Chicago went from 5-11 to 12-5 with current Broncos head coach Vic Fangio serving as defensive coordinator.
I’m not buying anything new head coach Dan Campbell is selling. And while I think the defense could improve simply by utilizing different looks now that Matt Patricia is gone, it’s still a very underwhelming unit with major questions at cornerback.
I’m also not a fan of Jared Goff, who will have to make do with one of the league’s most underwhelming receiver groups in the NFL and will no longer have Sean McVay to hold his hand. And while the offensive line looks very strong on paper, there’s only so much an offensive line can do in today’s NFL.
The schedule also isn’t favorable as I have Detroit with the fifth-hardest slate in the NFL.
Below are the four other win totals (all unders) I showed enough value in to bet on. As always, make sure you shop around as prices can vary at different books — and every 10 cents matters!
I’m not buying quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just yet. After all, this might actually be closer to Year 1 than 2 after he dealt with an injury last offseason in a COVID-impacted 2020 while sharing time with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Some of Tagovailoa’s advanced stats were ugly and he seemed very indecisive too often. I also have questions about the offensive scheme with two new co-offensive coordinators.
In fairness, it’s not like he had a ton of time in the pocket with one of the rawest offensive lines in the NFL, and that will be the case once again this season. He has all of the tools to succeed at this level, but I think he and this offense (which did add some more talent at wideout) are a year away from taking the next step required to be a real contender in the AFC.
And while I’m a big fan of Brian Flores and his heavily-disguised defensive looks, that unit (and potentially special teams) could have some negative regression coming its way one season after forcing a turnover on a league-high 16% of opponent possessions. If you dig a little deeper, the defense was right around league-average if you remove turnovers, which are much less productive.
Last year, the Dolphins won 10 games, but I had them with a true expected win total closer to 8. Plus, fellow division rival New England should have a much better team this season and the Jets have a higher upside with a new coaching staff and quarterback.
Miami also has an exhausting early-season travel schedule and doesn’t get a bye until Week 14.
Washington Under 8.5 (+115) at PointsBet
Another reason the Dolphins over-performed last year was because Ryan Fitzpatrick bailed them out in a few different situations. He was simply marvelous under pressure, which seems like a fluke compared to his career statistics and skill set.
Even though he should serve as an upgrade at QB for a Washington team that did boost their wide receiver unit in the offseason, the regression monster looms. And I’m just not sure I trust him at quarterback all season.
And while the defensive line might be the best in the NFL, the defense might be a tad overrated. Last year, Washington won seven games against the following quarterbacks (and decimated offensive lines):
- Andy Dalton (twice)
- Carson Wentz
- Jalen Hurts (pulled for Nate Sudfeld)
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Nick Mullens
- Ryan Finley (Joe Burrow got hurt)
Washington allowed 30-plus in five of the other seven non-division games. Regardless of what you think of this defense, it undoubtedly benefited from a very quarterback-friendly schedule.
That’s certainly not the case this year. Just take a look at who they will face:
- Tom Brady
- Aaron Rodgers
- Patrick Mahomes
- Josh Allen
- Matt Ryan
- Justin Herbert
- Russell Wilson
- Derek Carr
That means in eight of its 12 non-division games, it will face eight of the top-11 passers from last season. Plus the Cowboys and Eagles should have much healthier offensive lines this year, and Dak Prescott has returned for Dallas.
In 2020, four of Washington’s seven wins (57%) came against those two clubs.
Bottom line is that the schedule gets exponentially more difficult. In fact, I have Washington with the league’s hardest schedule, per my preseason power ratings.
The defense should once again struggle to get stops since it lacks talent at cornerback and doesn’t generate enough pressure. And while an already dynamic offense added Julio Jones in the offseason, it also lost Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.
The Titans better hope and pray the 32-year-old Jones can stay healthy and that Derrick Henry can continue to shoulder the load one season after carrying the ball 378 times. That’s a lot of work for a 27-year-old running back. An injury to either player would crush this offense.
A lot of things broke the Titans way last season:
- +11 in turnovers margin
- 7-3 in one-possession games. And one of those losses was due to garbage time scoring against the Browns, so really 7-2.
- Stayed relatively healthy
They finished 11-5, but their pythagorean win total suggested they should have won just over nine games. If things break the other way this year, it could get ugly in the Music City.
And while Tennessee does get nine homes games with a relatively easy overall schedule in a weak division, I think there’s value in under 9.5 wins up to -110.
This is an organization that has got itself into quite a mess due to the salary cap and failed draft picks. Bears fans better hope Justin Fields works out as a franchise quarterback or else it could get even uglier.
There’s not much to say here other than the quarterback options are either Andy Dalton or a rookie playing behind a poor offensive line with a sub-optimal play-caller. The defense has been the calling card in recent years and does get Eddie Goldman and a healthy Akiem Hicks back on a strong defensive line, but there are major questions at cornerback and the linebacker group (outside of Roquan Smith) is an aging unit that could continue to slide in production.
Chicago did manage to finish 8-8 last season, but it started out 5-1 thanks to five fairly fortunate one-possession victories. It went 3-7 the rest of the way with the only wins coming against the Texans, Jaguars and a shell of a Vikings team.
The Bears also has depth issues as a result of trading so many top draft picks. That could come back to bite them over the course of a 17-game schedule. Speaking of the schedule, it’s not an easy one, especially since division rival Minnesota should have a much better team this year.