NFL QB Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws a pass under protection from Jacksonville Jaguars' Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms (77) and Jawaan Taylor, right, in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)


The NFL regular season begins Thursday night and smart bettors are waiting to gather as much information as possible before laying bets for 2021. Other than injuries, which are impossible to predict, there is likely no more important factor for them to consider at the outset of a season than who will be taking snaps from under center when the action begins.

Five quarterbacks were taken among the first 15 picks in this past year’s NFL Draft (including each of the top three picks), which means each of those teams, likely coming off of disappointing records in 2020, are at least considering installing a rookie as their starting QB. Giving the job to a rookie in his first season can mean a step back initially as he gains experience, so pay keen attention to who wins these battles before you lay any bets involving these teams. Some teams with starting QB questions are looking towards the playoffs this year, and that will affect their decision-making as much as anything. One thing we can count on is that once Head Coaches choose their starting quarterback, they never change their mind during the season. Right?

NEW ENGLAND: Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones


This one is already settled. The Patriots released former NFL MVP Cam Newton early in the week, leaving Jones (the fifth and final quarterback selected in the first round this year) with every opportunity to play his first NFL game as the starter for a historic franchise and a legendary Head Coach. At the moment, New England doesn’t even have an official backup for him on the roster, so he’s going to get a lot of rope, even if he struggles. Last year, the Patriots had their first losing season in two decades with an experienced Newton as their starter and the AFC East is much tougher than it was during the Tom Brady glory days, so there is certainly no guarantee Jones will thrive right away.

SAN FRANCISCO: Jimmy Garappolo vs. Trey Lance

CLUBHOUSE LEADER – Jimmy G (but check back in November)

The 49ers are paying Garappolo over 26 million dollars this year, so in subscribing to the deeply stupid “Sunk Cost Fallacy” policy, they are saying all the right things about him remaining the starter this year. Officially, they say they will just sprinkle a few packages into the offense for Lance as a change of pace. Make no mistake, though – Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and G.M. John Lynch didn’t trade away a bunch of future first round draft picks for Lance to stay on the sidelines long. Watching Lance operate in the Run Option plays Shanahan loves during the preseason was nothing short of dazzling and was already making defenses look foolish. It says here that Lance ends up being the starter by the end of this season and that Jimmy G is busy being handsome somewhere else next year. The 49ers consider themselves a serious playoff team and despite his inexperience, Lance likely gives them more of a threat by December.

JACKSONVILLE: Trevor Lawrence vs. Gardner Minshew


This one is over too, as the Jaguars traded former starter Minshew to Philadelphia for a conditional sixth round pick, leaving former 49ers third-stringer C.J. Beathard as the only other QB on the roster. Jacksonville wanting Lawrence to succeed is understandable – he was the first overall pick, after all – but trading Minshew makes little sense (Jags gonna Jag!). Sixth round draft picks are not hard to come by and Minshew is not a bad guy to have as a backup. He threw 37 touchdowns passes and just 11 interceptions in his first two seasons for terrible Jaguars teams. Even if Lawrence was named the starter in Week One, Minshew would have been a valuable guy to have around if he struggled, needed a breather or got hurt. Jacksonville has already lost their other 2021 first round pick running back Travis Etienne to a season-ending injury. New Head Coach Urban Meyer is very lucky the woeful Texans are in the AFC South with the Jags, so they won’t finish last in their division…probably.

CHICAGO: Justin Fields vs. Andy Dalton (& Nick Foles)

CLUBHOUSE LEADER – Dalton (for now)

Bears Head Coach, Matt Nagy can’t seem to do anything right in the eyes of the Chicago media or fans. Starting Andy Dalton, now on his third NFL team, over 11th overall pick Justin Fields won’t help him change their minds. Much like with Trey Lance in San Francisco, team ownership and management aren’t going to be happy with spending a lot of future draft picks to move up in this year’s draft just to have “The Red Rifle” leave Bears fans disappointed. Again. It’s bad enough the team is saddled with Foles’ horrendous contract, but Fields represents the team’s first chance at an above-average signal caller in a long time. Even if Fields is wearing a headset in Week One, it won’t be long before Nagy feels the pressure to make the switch. Or he’ll get fired and the new guy will make the move to Fields. Either way, don’t buy a Dalton jersey if you’re a Bears fan.

WASHINGTON: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Taylor Heinicke & Kyle Allen


When a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in 15 years and doesn’t even know what to call itself, has three quarterbacks on the roster and two of them have started a combined 18 NFL games and the third guy is 61 years old and has played for 27 other NFL franchises, which guy would you pick to start? It’s not a theoretical trick question – that’s actually where WFT is at right now. If Fitzpatrick can do as he’s done in the past with teams like the Canton Bulldogs and the Decatur Staleys – show leadership, steal a few wins with big plays and avoid the big turnovers, then there is zero chance of the other two guys seeing much time on the field this season. Washington hopes to repeat as NFC East division champions so veteran experience will matter for them in 2021. Neither Heinicke or Allen has much draft capital invested in them, either, so there will be little pressure on Head Coach Ron Rivera to make a switch if Fitzmagic isn’t so magical early on.

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