If there’s one thing US sports fans are always ready for, it’s football. And within football, there is nothing that can compare to the NFL Divisional Races before the playoffs.
With the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) combining to match up a total of 32 teams, the drama and excitement is incomparable.
We’re going to dive into the nitty-gritty of the divisional races, how to make the best bets and what kind of odds you can expect for the 2021 season. So let’s get started!
Last year in 2020, the AFC North division was won by the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 12-4 record. Despite that, they ended up losing to the Browns during Wild Card weekend.
Unfortunately for Steelers fans, 2021 does not look like their year. We do expect them to lead in sacks and interceptions just like last year, but with odds at +450, chances of winning the division and reaching the Super Bowl are looking slim.
The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand, finished with an 11-5 record thanks to their stellar defense and a great rushing offense. With recent draft picks rectifying their lack of receivers plus an elite QB, the Ravens have everything they need for a Super Bowl push.
Within the AFC North Division, their odds stand at +115 as they prepare to reach the finals.
The Cleveland Browns returned to relevancy as well, thanks to HC Kevin Stefanski. They remain hopeful this year thanks to their stacked roster. Their odds stand at +150, so they’re not far behind the Ravens in winning this division.
The Bengals come in last when we look at the odds of 2021 divisional champs—they currently stand at +2500, which is a stark difference compared to the other three teams within the AFC North. They were the fifth pick in the draft and made some interesting decisions, but overall, we’re not watching the Bengals as the team to win this year.
The New England Patriots have held the AFC East Division title for eight years until their dethroning by the Buffalo Bills last year. With Tom Brady gone, their fears became a reality as they became forgettable in this previous season.
But HC Belicheck is outspending every other franchise in the Free Agency picks, and they have reinforced the Pats’ roster. Despite the improvements in their defense, questions remain, and their odds sit at +350.
The Bills are favorites to win the AFC East Division and one of the favorites for the Super Bowl itself. They even set a franchise record with 13 wins, thanks to HC McDermott and QB Josh Allen.
With WR Emmanuel Sanders and OC Brian Daboll on the 2021 team, they stand at -150 for the division.
And then there is the New York Jets—we don’t have much to say here mainly because there isn’t much to say at all after last year’s performance. However, the Jets are in a new era, with Gase leaving as HC and Robert Saleh at the helm.
Although it’s Saleh’s first year as HC, his reputation presides him, and we have higher hopes this time around for the Jets. Despite that, they remain underdogs with odds of +2100.
The Miami Dolphins were in playoff contention until the very end where they started to fall off. Without a firm QB1, they pulled through with an impressive season.
They managed to retain QB Tua and wideouts like Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle for the season. They’re also hoping to imitate last year’s top 10 defense standing, but the odds are looking bleak at +310 for the divisional champs.
The Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts are the ones to watch this season as their odds stand at +110 for the former and +115 for the latter. The Colts traded to acquire Eagles QB, Carson Wentz whereas the Titans have patched their shoddy defense.
Both teams are the ones to watch this season as they are neck and neck in the race.
Despite the AFC South looking like a two-team race, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a completely new team after last year’s loss of 15 straight games. New HC Urban Meyer plus the no.1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, as their new QB1 shows they have some kind of a chance. Their odds stand at +700, but let’s not count them out just yet.
The Texans, on the other hand, are a team to forget. After losing JJ Watt and QB Deshaun Watson demanding a trade (only to be met with multiple accusations of sexual assault), the Texans have stripped their team from the front office to head coach.
The odds of them winning stand at +2800—as we said, this franchise is one to forget this season.
The AFC West Division contains Super Bowl favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. They remain the favorites for not only the division but for the championship itself, with QB Patrick Mahomes leading them to, hopefully, their third appearance in the finals.
This would be their fourth year as divisional champs as well, which we don’t doubt as their odds stand at -250.
The LA Chargers, on the other hand, are hoping to have a better year. Last year, poor playcalling and coaching didn’t bear them well.
But this year, improvements to their offensive line has given them the motivation to take on the Chiefs with odds of +450. In this division, they are the only ones who can do it.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, last year was riddled with injuries, and the COVID-19 pandemic did not make it easier on them. However, injuries heal, and vaccines have been distributed, which brings them back with odds of +550.
As the underdog for this division, we have the Las Vegas Raiders, who stand at +2000. In 2020, they started hot but ended the season poorly as the team began to fall apart.
Not much can be said in terms of 2021 as other franchises continue to make improvements to their lines, but the Raiders are going in reverse by breaking up their best unit, the offensive line. These questionable decisions have left them last on the list for divisional winners.
With QB Aaron Rodgers on their side (until at least 2023 when his contract is up), the Greenbay Packers are the favorites for this division. Their odds stand at -125 after a 13-3 record last year and an unstoppable offense.
The Vikings displayed poor defense all of last season despite wideout Justin Jefferson bringing in a few games with Dalvin Cook. But with Patrick Peterson, Nick Vigil, and Mackensie Alexander joining the team for 2021, their defense is expected to do better this year with odds of +225 within the NFC North division.
The Chicago Bears rode a rollercoaster last year as they started with a 5-1 record and a victory against the Bucs, only to lose six straight games. This year we can expect a good defense, and if not, we can expect some changes. Their odds stand at +400 for the 2021 season.
The Lions remain the worst team in this division thanks to Matt Patricia’s terrible coaching. The only positive—running back D’Andre Swift.
This year things don’t look too hopeful either as they downgraded their QB1 to Jared Goff. With odds of +2500, this year is just another in Detroit’s long road to recovery.
Injuries hit the Dallas Cowboys last year, but they further disappointed with a below-average season. The loss of their QB Dak Prescott made things worse, but fear not as he is back and better than ever, bringing the Cowboys to the top spot with odds of +135.
The nameless Washington Football Team took the title last year for the NFC East Division. With their HC battling cancer and an unbelievable defense, they’re ready for this year already.
All they need is a solid QB, and Ryan Fitzpatrick filled that slot. Washington with odds of +200 is a tempting offer.
Last year, the New York Giants came in second in the division only to lose the playoff berth. But this season is a must-win with an incredible defense and star WR Kenny Golladay. It’s a make-or-break year for the Giants, with odds at +450.
The Eagles were another team that was unfortunately struck with injuries last year. Both QB Carson Wentz and HC Doug Pederson were dropped after a terrible season. But this gives them the perfect opportunity to rebuild.
New HC Nick Sirani and Jalen Hurts as QB1 are expected to improve the team, but this didn’t change the odds much as the Eagles stand at +550. Despite things not looking great for them within their division, the Eagles should not be counted out just yet.
With Tom Brady joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and leading them to victory in Super Bowl LV, the Bucs are this year’s NFC South divisional favorites at -160. Although they got off to a rocky start last year, Brady has settled into the team, and they’re ready to win not just the division but the Super Bowl itself.
Despite sweeping the Bucs last year in the regular season, the New Orleans Saints are in for some hard work in 2021. With the retirement of QB Drew Brees, it looks like the Super Bowl window has closed for the Saints.
They still have a solid roster and odds of +300 in the division, so we’re going to keep an eye on them for now.
A new era is beginning for the Atlanta Falcons, with their previous HC leaving during a dismal season. This year, they’ve got Tennessee’s Arthur Smith coaching, so hopefully, we will see better defense from the Falcons this year. Their odds stand at +800.
The Carolina Panthers exceeded expectations last year despite RB Christian McCaffrey’s injury. They played well, although their 5-11 record doesn’t show that. The Panthers need some TLC this year as they remain the underdogs with odds of +850.
Despite being known as the best division, the NFC West saw some interesting changes in the 2020 season. The LA Rams had some of the best defensive lines in the league, thanks to DT Aaron Donald.
Some felt QB Goff held the team back, but we’ve got Matthew Stafford starting this year. Their stacked roster of brilliant defensive and offensive players has brought the Rams to the top spot for their division at +180.
The San Francisco 49ers were hit with injuries last year throughout most of the season. Their hopes to replicate the 2019 season dimmed as they lost some of their best players very early on.
However, this year they are a team to watch so long as they remain healthy. They’ve got the best roster in the division and odds of +200—yea, we’d bet on that.
The Seattle Seahawks took the divisional title last year even though their defense was unforgivable, and their offense slowly died down as well. They started to do better defensively midseason, but their offense couldn’t keep up.
Their offseason was even worse, but somehow they managed to retain QB Russell Wilson. Winning this year will be challenging, but their odds still stand at -275, which isn’t terrible.
The Cardinals had a lot of hype last year, but clearly, the HC Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t handle it. He was outcoached easily, and their only saving grace was wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
This year is crucial for Kingsbury as he will be dropped if the Cardinals don’t meet expectations. Their odds stand at +600 to win the NFC West Division.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the teams and prospects let’s get into the best way to bet within for this year’s division winners.
The first thing to do is pick a team. Now, it can be tempting to pick your personal favorite, but odds are presented for a reason, so making sure the team you choose has a chance of winning your wager is the most important thing when betting on sports.
Line shopping is what we recommend before making a choice.
For example, DraftKings has the Tennessee Titans favored to win the AFC South Division at +110 with the Indiana Colts at +115. However, FanDuel has the Colts at +110 and the Titans at +115.
Odds differ depending on the sportsbook, so that’s what we mean by “line shopping.”
Take a look at multiple sportsbooks to ensure you have all of the information and make the best decision possible with the best odds.
We recommend taking three different things into account when looking at an odds table. Odds tell you precisely what you are looking for—which team is the favorite to win. The lower the number, the higher the chance of your wager winning.
Let’s look at an example. If the 49ers are slotted at +200, and you place a $100 bet, you would receive $200 in terms of profit and a total of $300 after regaining your initial $100.
Next, take a look at the handle. The handle is the total amount of money that has been wagered on a bet to win. If the Chiefs have 65% of the handle, 65% of the bets in the AFC West Division will go to Kansas.
Lastly, take a look at the percentage of bets. This doesn’t show you how much is wagered but how many wagers have been made.
For example, if the Vikings have 35% of all bets but only 20% of the handle, smaller bets are placed on the Vikings.