AFC South – Tennessee Titans (-110)
The AFC South is a two way race between the Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, and I like the Titans to run away with it at this good price. Their biggest competitor is the Colts, who went 11-5 last year with Philip Rivers. Last year the Titans also went 11-5, but they won the tiebreaker to go ahead and steal the division.
As mentioned earlier, the Colts are the biggest threat. They have a great overall roster, but their answer at quarterback is murky. Philip Rivers retired after coming off of a solid 2020 season, so they traded for Carson Wentz. Wentz has shown plenty of potential, but he’s also had multiple injuries and stretches of terrible play and too many turnovers. To start off the new season Wentz broke his foot, and his status for playing in September is murky at best. He’s coming off a year where he was among the worst starters in the league and his All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson also broke his foot.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and head coach Mike Vrabel have proved to be a great combo so far. After taking over in the middle of the 2019 season, Tannehill finished the year 7-4 and has gone 18-9 overall as a Titan while being one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league. That was partly while throwing to a rookie A.J. Brown and the inconsistent Corey Davis. Derrick Henry has been incredible the last two years and led the league in rushing last year. New in town is Julio Jones, who is primed to have a huge year, to boost an offense that was already top 4 in points scored and yards gained in 2020.
The Titans’ offensive line produced mixed results in 2020, as they graded poorly in pass protection but 5th in run blocking according to PFF. However, this year the Titans get left tackle Taylor Lewan back after he played only 5 games last year to go along with Dillon Radunz, who they drafted in the second round of this years’ draft.
Tennessee has the most amount of consistency from last year to this one compared to their division rivals. The Texans might be the worst team in the NFL and the Jaguars aren’t ready to compete. Take last years’ division winner to get it again.
NFC North – Green Bay Packers (-145)
Another season with Aaron Rodgers means the Green Bay Packers will secure the NFC North title again. In the last decade the Packers have won the division 7 times, and that includes the 2017 season where Rodgers only started 7 games before going down with an injury. The last two seasons the Packers went 13-3 each time with new head coach Matt LaFleur, and that won them the division both times. In that same time frame the most games a divisional opponent has won was 10 which was the Vikings in 2019.
It helps when Green Bay consistently dominates the division as that helps with potential tiebreakers. The Packers were 5-1 divisional play in 2020 and swept the NFC North in 2019. In the last decade the Packers have had a .500 or worse divisional record only 3 times, meaning that they consistently beat up on their rivals and threats for the NFC North title.
The rest of the division looks to be largely uncompetitive. The Lions are in total rebuilding mode (again), and will have to revamp their passing game with Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones all gone, and it’s not as if that good trio led to a significant amount of wins. The Bears are going through a quarterback transition at the moment, and Andy Dalton will start Week 1 despite the media and public pressure for Justin Fields which could hinder them back. The Vikings haven’t won the division since Kirk Cousins took over quarterback duties and they took massive steps back defensively last year.
Green Bay is the same team as the last two years.They have the reigning MVP, one of the best young coaches in the league, and a defensive unit in the top half of the league. The rest of the division is simply not up to par.
NFC East – Washington Football Team (+260)
The NFC LEast showed its true face last year as Washington made the playoffs at a pedestrian 7-9. The Giants and Cowboys were right behind them at 6-10, but the odds here are too good to pass up for Washington. After starting the year 2-7, Washington finished on a 5-2 run and looked to be by far the best team in the division.
The Giants won’t be a serious threat for the division and the Eagles will be one of the worst teams in the league. For some reason the Cowboys are a large favorite to win the division at +130. But do they deserve to be even with a healthy Dak? They were mediocre last year, going 1-3 in his healthy games with his only victory against the Falcons. Dak being healthy doesn’t solve their defensive woes, or a declining offensive line and Ezekiel Elliot.
Washington doesn’t have an ideal quarterback situation, but they were still able to take the division title with worse players at the position. Some sort of combination between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke will undoubtedly play better than the amazing trio of Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and a one-legged Alex Smith.
They’re helped mainly by one of the best defenses in the game and a menacing defensive line featuring Rookie of the Year Chase Young. Last year Washington finished 4th in points allowed and 2nd in yards allowed. It was their offense that held them back, as they ranked only 25th in points.
Despite the results Washington has good talent on the offensive side of the ball. In comes free agent Curtis Samuel who had 1,000 scrimmage yards last year to go alongside underrated wide receiver Scary Terry McLaurin and talented running back Antonio Gibson. They also have a good offensive line in place as they graded 3rd in pass protection and 10th in run blocking according to Pro Football Focus.
The offense will benefit from the new quarterback additions as last year Washington as a whole threw just 16 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. They’ll be able to carry the momentum they built on their run last year to have the first back-to-back NFC East winner since 2004.
NFC West – Los Angeles Rams (+200)
The Rams have been among the best teams in the league since Sean McVay took over. In 2017 they made the bold acquisition of the 30 year old offensive whiz kid as the new head coach. Since then, McVay and company have had at least 9 wins every year and have won the NFC West in 2 out of his 4 seasons.
After having back to back seasons of a passer rating over 100.0, Jared Goff declined the next two years and lost the confidence of McVay. Goff was traded for Matthew Stafford, the talented quarterback from the Detroit Lions, who played one of the worst rosters in the league.
Goff played in one of the most quarterback friendly offenses with one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Stafford had decent receiving options around him and Darrell Bevell is a solid offensive coordinator, but Los Angeles will offer more to support him in terms of a run game and defense which will translate to wins.
Despite playing for the Lions, Stafford put up better numbers than Goff in just about every category. The table below shows that in the last two seasons Stafford threw touchdowns at a much higher rate than Goff and interceptions at a lower rate, all while being asked to push the ball further down the field by an extra 2.7 yards per attempt.
|Average from 2019-2020||Jared Goff||Matthew Stafford|
|Intended Air Yards/Attempt||7.0||9.7|
In addition to being asked to throw the ball down the field more, Stafford had a comparable completion percentage to Goff. Goff has a propensity for making some boneheaded decisions, but Stafford has been in the NFL for a decade and knows what to expect from NFL defenses. Plus, McVay can open up the playbook with Stafford’s cannon for an arm and ability to push the ball downfield.
The defense will be going through change as they lost their defensive coordinator, cornerbacks coach, and their starting cornerback and safety. However, they’ve been through change before with the loss of Wade Phillips before the 2020 season while also losing starters Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler. Still, they’ve been top 10 in defensive DVOA in 3 of their last 4 seasons, thanks largely in part to All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, the jaw-dropping defensive tackle and Defensive Player of the Year 3 of the last 4 seasons.
The Cardinals have yet to prove anything, and for all the Kyle Shanahan hype the 49ers have only won 6 games more than once under his watch. Seattle should come close, but adding Stafford to an already 10 win LA Rams team makes them that much scarier for the rest of the NFL.