NFL Betting: 3 Teams You Should Bet to Make the Playoffs
With the 32 NFL teams mere days away from hitting training camp, there has never been a better time to get a little betting action for the 2021 season. The good folks over at the FanDuel Sportsbook can certainly help you out there, with a host of markets focused on the new campaign.
One of the most intriguing markets is each team's odds to make the playoffs in 2021, as well as their odds of not achieving a postseason berth. There are some bets here that won't interest those who like a flutter. The Kansas City Chiefs are available at -1200, which implies a 92.3% probability and offers practically zero return. Then there are the Houston Texans at +710, which is an enticing 7/1 return for a reason -- it won't happen.
But there are a few bets out there worth putting your pennies on if you like a gamble. Here are three teams I like at their present price, as well as one I would steer clear of.
(All listed odds are via NFL odds.)
Los Angeles Chargers: +126
The Los Angeles Chargers share a division with the Chiefs, who have represented the AFC in each of the last two Super Bowls, so they have their work cut out when it comes to winning the AFC West. However, one of the three Wild Card spots is certainly not out of the question for the "other" team from LA.
Justin Herbert is one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the league, with an upgraded offensive line and playmakers like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler at his disposal. The Chargers' new head coach Brandon Staley is expected to get the best out of the stars on the defensive side of the ball. Some have argued he's the NFL's premier defensive play caller, and his Rams finished as the top defense by numberFire's metrics in 2020.
The Chargers will also be hoping that Joe Lombardi has learned how to coordinate an effective offense after five years at the knee of Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints.
The Chargers have the 11th-easiest schedule in 2021, according to Sharp Football Stats, and if they can put all the good pieces previously mentioned together, then +126 offers intriguing value for a team looking to return to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Washington Football Team: +156
The NFC East has not seen a successful title defense since the Philadelphia Eagles won the division three years in a row from 2002-04. While FanDuel Sportsbook has the Dallas Cowboys (-156) with the shortest odds to make the postseason of all four teams, I believe the shrewdest option to make the playoffs from the NFC East is the division's defending champion Washington.
The Football Team has made significant improvements to their offense from a year ago, with the legendary Ryan Fitzpatrick set to replace Alex Smith under center. Among the 44 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs in 2020, Fitzpatrick ranked 12th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and 8th in Passing Success Rate (I.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense). Both Smith and Dwayne Haskins ranked bottom-five in Passing NEP per drop back last season.
Curtis Samuel and rookie Dyami Brown are also key upgrades to the receiving game alongside Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas. Washington will also look for big things from second-year running back Antonio Gibson. Gibson racked up 1,042 scrimmage yards and 11 scores as a rookie.
In addition to a bulked-up offense, the Football Team also boasts the best defense in their division. In fact, Washington's defense ranked third in the league in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play last season. Their ferocious front four is littered with former first-round draft picks, including 2020's second overall selection Chase Young. The Eagles, New York Giants, and especially Cowboys will be hard-pressed to match them in terms of personnel.
Washington is +270 to win the NFC East and is available at +156 to earn a postseason berth either way. They are the most well-rounded team in their division, and could very well retain their divisional crown despite history not being on their side. Washington has not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since earning postseason berths in 1990-1992.
Miami Dolphins: +118
The Buffalo Bills are the clear favorites to take the AFC East for the second year in a row, with their title odds currently sitting at -150. While I won't be taking FanDuel up on their offer of +310 for the Miami Dolphins to take the division, it's hard not to like them at +118 to earn a playoff berth.
The Dolphins have built up an intriguing defensive unit, led by their head coach Brian Flores, with two studs at the cornerback spot in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. But they made improving the offense an offseason priority, adding speedy wide receivers Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle to give second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa some more weapons. This, plus Tua hopefully burying himself in the Dolphins' playbook this summer, could see him elevate his game after an uneven rookie season that saw him rank 32nd among 44 passers in Passing NEP per drop back (min. 100 drop backs).
The Dolphins aren't the only AFC East team to make improvements to their roster, and after missing the playoffs themselves last year, the New England Patriots won't be ready to just concede a Wild Card berth to their rivals. That said, this is a team that looks ready to challenge for postseason honors before long. That will start this season.