NFL nut Kyle Robins (@AhhYeahKyleYeah shares his expert opinion on the ante-post NFC Division ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
NFL 2020/21: NFC Season Preview
The most talked about division in football, the NFC East, is home to some of the most recognisable franchises in the sport. That doesn’t necessarily mean its competitive, however.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys have passed division titles between them over the previous four years, and I can’t see any reason why that trend won’t continue this year.
The two teams are just lightyears ahead of both the New York Giants and Washington Football team who combined to go 7-25 last year, and haven’t done anywhere near enough to make me believe they’ll be more competitive this time around.
Washington have one of the weakest rosters in all off football, outside of a Terry McLaurin and rookie Chase Young, no-one else on their roster is really worthy of taking about. They’ve question marks at pretty much every position, including both running back and quarterback.
The Giants, on the other hand, at least have a bit more talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, with Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram and an improving offensive line. They also have a few, and I couldn’t stress the word few any more, nice defensive players, but still not nowhere near enough to be on the level of both Philly and Dallas.
Not only do the Eagles and the Cowboys have much more talented overall rosters, but they’re also levels above in terms of quarterback play. Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott are just better than Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins. It’s that simple. Both offenses are much more explosive and their ability on the defensive side of the ball is clear for everyone to see.
So whist it’s hard for me to split the Cowboys and the Eagles for the division title, I do slightly favour Dallas at 10/11 with Betway as they couldn’t be in a better spot for a bounce back year and could also be one of the more explosive teams on offense.
But for me, whilst yes, the odds may be short, it’s just going to be printing money taking the Cowboys and Eagles as Top 2 Any Order with SkyBet at 8/15.
The disparity between the four teams is clear for everyone to see, but if you perhaps fancy a bit more value and risk reward, you should be looking at the Exact Finishing Order of 1st) Cowboys, 2nd) Eagles, 3rd) Giants and 4th) Washington at 11/4, also with SkyBet.
Another division with some of the more recognisable and historic franchises in the NFL – The NFC North is, just like the NFC East, looking like a two-horse race to the division title. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers lead the market at 17/10 and 7/4 respectively, whist Chicago Bears (9/2) and the Detroit Lions (13/2) sit as the two outsiders.
Now the disparity between the teams is nowhere near of that in the NFC East, but the Vikings and Packers still have the overall more talented rosters. However, this division is on track to be one of the more competitive ones in the NFL.
Given how last year played out, with Chicago having one of the worst offences in the league, yet still somehow managing to win eight games, and Matt Stafford going down with the Lions sitting at 3-4-1, there’s plenty of chance this season doesn’t go in the same direction.
Stafford was on a tear last season before his injury, and his return should certainly see the Lions win more than three games, with some projections even having them win between 8/9 games.
In his four losses last year, Stafford didn’t lose a game by more than one score, and for that matter, in the remaining games without Stafford, Detroit did go 0-8, but still managed to stay competitive in most games, even with David Blough and Jeff Driskel taking the snaps.
Behind Aaron Rodgers, Stafford is probably the second best quarterback in the division and if you flip those one score games in the other direction, the Lions certainly look poised for a bounce back year.
Unlike Detroit, Chicago has a lot of questions still surrounding the quarterback position, with coach Matt Nagy still yet to announce who will start week one. They traded for Nick Foles this off-season after the disappointing play of Mitch Trubisky last year, so it’ll be interesting to see who they go with to start the season.
They certainly have some talented players, especially on the defensive side of the ball with Khalil Mack, but they can’t rely on them like they did last year. The offense put up on average just 17.5 points per-game, and only managed to work their way to an 8-8 record given their defence allowing the fourth-fewest total points in the league. Although they do still have a lot of question marks around their secondary.
Ahead of the Bears were the Vikings and the Packers, both of whom made the play-offs, with the Packers falling just one game short of the Superbowl. Green Bay won 13 games last year en-route to a 13-3 finish, but they still have an awful lot of doubters given the amount of one possession games they won and how they were completely blown out by the 49ers on two occasions.
Whilst I can’t see Green Bay winning 13 games again this year, and they’ll undoubtedly regress. They failed to add a single weapon to help Aaron Rodgers, instead just drafting his replacement in the first round of the draft. That might however ignite the fire underneath Rodgers.
Minnesota lost twice to the Packers last season, and you flip those results around, we would be talking about the Vikings as defending divisional champions. They did lose a lot of familiar faces in their secondary, and look pretty thin at cornerback, but the defence is still pretty well set and has always performed well under the guidance of Mike Zimmer.
With Dalvin Cook in the backfield, they also have one of the better running backs in the league, and with Kirk Cousins continuing to do just enough, he’s more than reliable enough to be a winning quarterback in the NFL.
Now whilst this prediction is a little bit tricky, I’ll be going for the two favourites (Packers and Vikings) in the division to finish Top 2 Any Order at 7/4 with SkyBet, given that it’s pretty decent value. As I also like Detroit for a bounce back year, and the fact they have a more explosive offense than the Bears, I’ll take Chicago to finish 4th 21/10 with SkyBet.
Onto the NFC South now, and possibly the most talked about team of the entire league this off-season: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are basically the Leeds of the NFL. Having not really been relevant since the early 2000s, they’ve only just made it back into the limelight this past summer.
For Tampa, the addition of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, as well as bringing the exuberant Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, rightfully brings with it an awful lot of attention and expectation.
Under the guidance of Jameis Winston and his 30 interceptions last year the Bucs finished the season with a 7-9 record mostly down to the fact they still put up a lorry load of points. Upon signing Brady in free agency, the Bucs were cut from 45/1 to 14/1 for the Superbowl in a matter of minutes, so that alone should show his potential influence on the team.
He undoubtedly has more talent around him than he did in New England, with two elite receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, to go along with the returning Gronkowski and as of writing this today, the addition of Leonard Fournette.
Brady obviously has a lot to prove to some people after the collapse of New England in the second part of last season, but for me success for the Buccaneers will come down to their play on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed the fourth-most total points in the league last season, but maybe the added influence of Brady might inspire more confidence than playing with Jameis Winston.
The favourites for the division remain the ever consistent Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints at 11/10 at 888. They’ve won the division three consecutive years, posting back to back 13-3 seasons, but time is starting to catch up on the 41-year-old quarterback.
This past off-season the Saints made some good additions to what is already a very talented roster, in wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and former Saint Malcom Jenkins at safety from Philadelphia. Looking at it on paper, there is no real reason whatsoever that this team shouldn’t eclipse 10+ wins, especially after 37 wins in three seasons (most in the NFL). They are certainly worthy favourites with the bookies, and I’m looking to take the Saints for sure.
The Atlanta Falcons are the next best in the division in terms of bookies pricing, at 10/1 with 888. Offensively, they potentially have one of the top threee offenses in all of the NFL, but of course, that depends who you speak to.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has been figure of consistency since entering the league back in 2008, but after just 26 touchdowns last year, he’ll be looking to up than number heading into this season. He’s surrounded by talent.
The addition of Atlanta native Todd Gurley comes with it a lot of doubt, but a helluva lot of upside if he can stay healthy. Add in the duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, Ryan certainly has a lot of elite level options.
The question for Atlanta remains on the defensive side of the ball, and in a division with Tom Brady and Drew Brees, just having an explosive offense might not be enough to get them where they want to be. So though I am high on the Falcons this year and certainly like their chances to post a winning record. I’m just not as quite sold on them as I am the Saints or the Buccs.
The final team in the division, are my Carolina Panthers, and we are most defiantly in complete rebuild mode. We appointed a new head coach in Matt Rhule, acquired a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater to replace Cam Newton, as well as losing half our defence, including all pro linebacker Luke Kuechly.
And whilst I’m pretty excited about our offence this year with the playmakers we have, our defence is looking pretty thin and inexperienced with a number of rookies looking set for prominent roles. Our chances in this coming season are pretty slim, and given the strength of the division, it looks set to be a rough ride.
So to keep it short. New Orleans has all the chemistry and team cohesion you could want, and given Tom Brady is on a new team and playbook for the first time in 20 years, I’m much more in favour of going with what we know works. Take the Saints for the divisional title at 11/10 with 888.
The NFC West is another extremely competitive division, probably even the toughest there is. Headed by losing Superbowl finalists San Francisco 49ers, it’s a division with an awful lot of talent.
The 49ers sit as favourites to take home back-to-back titles at 6/5 with SportNation, and after finishing 13-3 last season on their way to a Superbowl there’s no real reason they shouldn’t be.
Behind what is possibly the best defence in the entire league, and a young dynamic offense headed by Jimmy Garoppolo and their impressive run game, they should be a set for another good run this year. The problem is however, everyone appears to be a little stronger, apart from maybe the Rams.
Seattle, who are always extremely competitive, haven’t had a losing record since drafting Russel Wilson back in 2012, and after finishing 11-5 last year and coming within a literal hair's breadth of nipping San Francisco to the division, they will certainly be hoping to take that leap this year.
The Seahawks had at least 10 wins in seven of Wilson’s years in the league, and outside of the 2013/14 team, have one of their best rosters to date, especially after the addition of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams.
Switching over to LA. I know I said they’re potentially not any stronger than last year, but perhaps maybe they’re a little wiser. They do have two of the more elite defensive players in the entire league in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but outside of that pair, they are lacking in talent for much of the defence.
Jared Goff took a step back last year, and most people believe that being down to the drop off in their run game. Todd Gurley wasn’t the factor he usually is, and the Rams struggled to run the ball for most of the year behind a declining offensive line. He still has two great receivers in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, whilst they have high hopes for Josh Reynolds, but too many question marks surround this team to make me think they win the most competitive division in the league.
Arizona are the final team that make up the NFC West, and there are certainly high expectations for Kyler Murray and second year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. With the off-season addition of DeAndre Hopkins and rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons, people certainly hope the Cardinals can take a leap forward this year.
The Cards have a more talented defence than people give them credit for, and with the emergence of Kenyan Drake late last season after being traded from Miami, have what could be a very well balanced offence. They should certainly be on track for a better record than their 5-10-1 record of 2019/20, but it still shouldn’t be enough to warrant a division title.
The team I’m favouring for that are certainly the Seattle Seahawks. They fell just short last season, eventually losing a week 17 division decider with the 49ers, and have improved this off-season to make sure that doesn’t happen again. They look good at pretty much every position and given San Francisco look set to regress slightly, I’m really high on the Seahawks chances this year. Take them at 9/4 with William Hill.
NFL 2020/21 – Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles to finish in the NFC East Top 2 (8/15 SkyBet)
NFL 2020/21 – Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers to finish in the NFC North Top 2 (7/4 SkyBet)
NFL 2020/21 – Chicago Bears to Finish 4th in NFC North (21/10 SkyBet)
NFL 2020/21 – New Orleans Saints to win the NFC South (11/10 888)
NFL 2020/21 – Seattle Seahawks to win the NFC West (9/4 William Hill)