New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, center, throws a pass as quarterback Brian Hoyer looks on during a joint practice at the Eagles NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

NFL Futures 2021 – 5 NFL Teams the Experts Can’t Agree On

I recently wrote about five NFL teams that experts all expect to contend for this year’s Super Bowl. It isn’t a surprising list, really – those five teams (including last year’s Super Bowl teams from Kansas City and Tampa) would be among the first to be mentioned as contenders by anyone with a working knowledge of the current NFL landscape.

Where it gets more interesting is when handicappers have more divergent opinions of a team’s chances to win it all in February. There are many reasons for the lack of consensus – injury questions, positional battles and strength of schedule among them – and you should research all of those factors and more before deciding which team’s odds feel right for you to lay your hard-earned money on. Many of those debatable factors will sort themselves out by the time the regular season starts, so keep your ear to the ground the next few weeks.

Here are the five teams that currently have the most widely varied odds expectations:

1. NEW ENGLAND – (Opened at +6000, currently ranging from +2500 to +6000)
Last year the Patriots had their first losing season since 2000 (coincidentally their first season without quarterback Tom Brady in nearly 20 years) and there are still a lot of unanswered questions as training camp continues. Much of it centers around whether veteran Cam Newton can improve on his underachieving first season as the team’s starting QB – or will he cede the job to 2021 first round pick Mac Jones? A former MVP running a team’s offence can make a difference for oddsmakers vs. a rookie playing his first NFL snaps.

2. NEW ORLEANS – (Opened at +1400, currently ranging from +1600 to +2800)
Again, a quarterback controversy is at the center of this debate. After 15 seasons in the Big Easy, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees has retired, and it remains unclear whether (or if) Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston will become the team’s every-down QB. Both are in the final seasons of their contract, so there is a great deal riding on this season for all concerned, including Head Coach Sean Payton. Squabbling between the front office and star receiver Michael Thomas has also likely contributed to their number continuing to slide down.

3. DENVER – (Opened at +6000, currently ranging from +2000 to +6000)
Former second round pick Drew Lock started 13 games at QB for the Broncos in 2020 and had predictably mixed results, leading the team to a 4-9 record and throwing 15 interceptions vs. 16 TD’s. Denver’s front office hardly seems convinced that he’s the long term answer, trading for former Pro Bowler Teddy Bridgewater. Another interesting battle will be between veteran running back Melvin Gordon and 2021 second round pick Javonte Williams for who gets the most touches as Denver tries to look towards becoming an AFC contender.

4. CLEVELAND (Opened at +3000, currently ranging from +1600 to +2500)
The Browns’ number keeps improving, though it’s debatable whether that’s due to actual on-field results and player/coaching personnel or Cleveland’s infamously hopeful fans betting too optimistically and too early after last year’s 11-5 record and first playoff win in over 25 years. Fourth year QB Baker Mayfield does appear ready to make the jump to join the league’s elite and their roster boasts more depth than it’s had in a long time. That said, doubts will linger – football fans have seen how things have turned out for this franchise for the last (checks calendar…) five decades or so. Until that luck changes, the odds will likely remain wildly split.

5. DALLAS (Opened at +2000, currently ranging from +2000 to +2800)
Cowboys’ fans (and bettors) are understandably concerned about the status of franchise quarterback Dak Prescott’s throwing shoulder. He left practice in late July with a shoulder issue and has not thrown a pass in well over two weeks. Prescott is certainly not embroiled in a QB controversy (he signed a 4-year, $160 million contract extension in March – so the job is his), but he is also recovering from a horrific ankle injury last October, and his health questions are probably the key reason Dallas’ odds continue to grow longer in the eyes of most experts.

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