Remaining relevant, throughout the entire calendar year, the NFL is the most popular sport in North America. For the first time since 1978, when the slate went from 14 to 16 games, the NFL lengthened the regular season again this year. The 2021 NFL schedule was released on May 12 and all 32 teams will play 17 games over an 18-week season. That means NFL fans get an added week of NFL betting and fantasy football action. It has also had an effect on team win total betting odds and the price of juice.
Week 1 opens with Dallas visiting defending NFL champion Tampa Bay on September 9. The week ends with Las Vegas hosting Baltimore in the Monday Night Football fight. Regular season action concludes with Seattle visiting Arizona on Jan. 9, 2022. Wild Card Weekend, Divisional Round playoffs, and Conference Championship Sunday follow. The season ends with Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Cali.
NFC West Division Futures Odds
Seattle raced out to a 5–0 start last year, before sputtering during a 3–3 run. The Seahawks (12–4) closed with four straight wins and claimed the NFC West title after a Week 16 victory against the Rams. Sporadic throughout the season, the Rams (10–6) longest winning streak was two games. Los Angeles earned the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. Arizona lost a tiebreaker against the Bears, for the final NFC wild-card spot. The Cardinals (8–8) lost five of their final seven games. San Francisco closed on a 2–7 slide. The 49ers (6–10) finished last in the division and 10th overall in the NFC.
Several U.S. sportsbooks are offering preseason wagering options. NFC West Division title odds, plus team win totals, are posted on the NFL futures board at FanDuel. While the odds and prices are subject to change, unless a stud player changes teams, or there is a serious injury, the moves will be subtle. Are bookmakers correct in making San Francisco top chalk in the West? Will gunslinger Matthew Stafford recharge the Rams? Did Seattle add enough weapons for Russell Wilson? Based on talent, why are the Cardinals such huge underdogs? Let’s break down the division for answers.
Every team rides different waves of injuries during the season. San Francisco had most of the waves crash down on them as they lost several key players on both sides of the ball. We dig into why the 49ers are co-favorites to win the NFC West below.
After regressing the last two seasons, Los Angeles decided to end their four-year experiment with QB Jared Goff. The Rams defeated Seattle in the Wild Card round before losing to Green Bay in the Divisional playoffs. Stafford is saddled with high expectations heading into his first season with the Rams. If he stays healthy, he has weapons around him.
While not as publicized, as the Aaron Rodgers vs. Green Bay feud, Wilson is trying to hammer out a new contract with Seattle. He carried the Seahawks again last season and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. While Seattle lost 30–20 to the Rams in the NFC Wild Card round, their third favorite price is slightly surprising. The Cardinals’ bloated fourth-favorite moneyline odds are even more surprising. Arizona added multiple big-name veterans including J.J. Watt and A.J. Green, but also lost a couple notable names in Kenyan Drake and Patrick Peterson during a busy offseason. While I’m not betting the farm, I will take the generous (+600) moneyline price and back Arizona to surprise in the West.
NFC West Champion Prediction: Arizona Cardinals (+600)
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San Francisco 49ers – NFC West Win Total Futures
Longer than a postgame laundry list, San Francisco was hit hard by injuries in 2020. No team lost more players, of more value, than the 49ers did. Jimmy Garoppolo (3-1), Nick Mullens (2–7), and C.J. Beathard (1–2) formed a carousel at QB. They finished with 4,320 combined passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. In their defense, they were without TE George Kittle and WR Deebo Samuel for most of the season.
Making made a blockbuster deal, prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, San Francisco moved up nine spots and selected third overall. Trevor Lawrence went first, Zach Wilson was second, and the 49ers selected North Dakota State star Trey Lance third. Jimmy Garoppolo is the projected Week 1 starter. That may change as the preseason plays out. Understanding the Niners’ have a “light” schedule, finishing with an 11–6 record is a tall order.
Key Players Resigned: LT Trent Williams, EDGE Dee Ford, FB Kyle Juszczyk
Key Additions: EDGE Samson Ebukam, C Alex Mack, RB Wayne Gallman
Key Departures: QB C.J. Beathard, RB Jerick McKinnon, RB Tevin Coleman
Key 2021 Draft Picks: QB Trey Lance, OG Aaron Banks, RB Trey Sermon
San Francisco 49ers Win Total Prediction: UNDER 10.5 (-130) wins
Los Angeles Rams – NFC West Win Total Futures
Taking bettors along for the ride, the Rams had a rollercoaster season. Including two playoff games, Los Angeles was 11–7 straight up and 10–8 against the spread. They won two straight games four times but lost straight-up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) in the games that followed. One of those losses was 23–20 at home vs. the New York Jets who were 0–13 and 17-point road underdogs. That game may have sealed Goff’s fate in Los Angeles.
Matthew Stafford was a superstar in Detroit. With drips and drabs of support around him, Stafford posted 45,109 passing yards (25.6 miles) with 282 TD and 144 INT over 165 regular-season games. He added 1,198 rush yards and 14 scores. Stafford can join Tom Brady as the only pivots to lead a team to a Super Bowl played in their home stadium. I’m betting OVER and will hedge off some risk if things go south early.
Players Resigned: OLB Leonard Floyd, LT Andrew Whitworth, CB Darious Williams
Key Additions: QB Matthew Stafford, WR DeSean Jackson, P Corey Bojorquez
Key Departures: QB Jared Goff, QB Blake Bortles, S John Johnson
Key 2021 Draft Picks: WR Tutu Atwell, LB Ernest Jones, DT Bobby Brown III
Los Angeles Rams Win Total Prediction: OVER 10.5 (+125)
Seattle Seahawks – NFC West Win Total Futures
Russell Wilson racked up 28 TD passes over the first eight games. That helped Seattle post the most points (459) in franchise history. The Seahawks also claimed their first NFC West Division title since the 2016 season. The offense scored 28.7 points per game while the defense allowed 23.2 points per game. Seattle was in the race for a BYE, but had to settle for a wild-card berth and lost 30–20 to the Rams in the playoffs.
Wilson’s contract doesn’t expire until the end of the 2023 season. However, he wants a new contract, and negotiations have been slow. A big season will cost Seattle, or any team that signs him, a lot of money next year. Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson resigning are positive signs for the offense. After springing a leak, several times last season, the defense remains a question mark. With a lean towards OVER, I am passing here.
Key Players Resigned: RB Chris Carlson, WR Tyler Lockett, IDL Poona Ford
Key Additions: TE Gerald Everett, RG Gabe Jackson, CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Key Departures: TE Jacob Hollister, WR David Moore, CB Shaquill Griffin
Key 2021 Draft Picks: WR D’Wayne Eskridge, CB Tre Brown, OT Stone Forsythe
Seattle Seahawks Win Total Prediction: PASS
Arizona Cardinals – NFC West Win Total Futures
Following a 5–2 run, to open the season, the Cardinals crashed and burned during a 3–6 season-ending slide. The addition of WR DeAndre Hopkins, plus a full season with RB Kenyon Drake in the fold, didn’t have the cosmic effect some pundits projected. The Arizona offense did jump from 22.6 points per game in 2019 to 25.6 ppg last year. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year and are 31–47–2 over that time.
Chase Edmonds and James Conner will likely work in a running back committee system after Drake signed with Las Vegas. A dynamic duo last year, following their first full season together, Hopkins and QB Kyler Murray should pick up where they left off. If he can stay healthy, newly acquired WR A.J. Green will be a huge addition. The Arizona win total seems low. A 9–8 record isn’t a very high bar for the Cardinals to soar over.
Key Players Resigned: LG Justin Pugh, LB Jordan Hicks, EDGE Dennis Gardeck
Key Additions: IDL J.J. Watt, WR A.J. Green, C Rodney Hudson
Key Departures: RB Kenyan Drake, DB Patrick Peterson, TE Dan Arnold
Key 2021 Draft Picks: LB Zaven Collins, WR Rondale Moore, CB Marco Wilson
Arizona Cardinals Win Total Prediction: OVER 8 (-130) wins
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