Deadspin’s NFL gambling guide/futures bets to make for 2021 season

Deadspin’s NFL gambling guide/futures bets to make for 2021 season

If you're going to put your money down on long-term gambles this year, read this first

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Wow, is it really that time of year already?

Believe it or not, the 102nd NFL campaign begins this very evening. But before locking in your Week 1 bets, there are still plenty of “Futures” propositions to analyze and have in place for the upcoming season. That’s why you’re here, so without further adieu, let’s just get to it.

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Team Futures: Best Over/Under Win Total

Team Futures: Best Over/Under Win Total

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Houston Texans Over/Under 4 Wins

Wondering what team attracted the lowest win total? That would be Houston.

I mean, it makes perfect sense given the crumbling of alleged sexual predator Deshaun Watson. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t even want to suit up here.

Enter new QB1 Tyrod Taylor, who has assumed this role before at multiple stops, including one stint that saw him snap Buffalo’s painful 17-year drought of not making the playoffs (my how quickly people forget). However, an ill-advised punctured lung from a team doctor cost him his chance with the Chargers in 2020.

Taylor has dealt with some awful luck but a change of scenery and a fresh situation starting can allow the 32-year-old to thrive again. He’s still effective with both his arm and his feet — making him one of the NFL’s select few true dual-threat quarterbacks — and the supporting cast around Taylor really isn’t horrible, either.

Though the running game looks messy, think of it this way: David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Phillip Lindsay are all there. Yes, that’s a mishmash of tailbacks but considering how all three are established and proven, surmise at least one emerges.

On defense, the Texans don’t look great other than a few standout players. Again, though, the goal is only four wins. That means even a unit that is something slightly below mediocre would suffice.

Houston also has something to look forward to going into Week 1, which contains a date with the division-rival Jaguars and their new shiny toy Trevor Lawrence. Well, the last 13 quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall all failed to win in their debut, meaning if the Texans can simply extend that telling streak (and at home), we’ll already be a quarter of the way to four victories by mid-September.

Pick: OVER 4 Wins (+115)

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Team Futures: Best Division Future

Team Futures: Best Division Future

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NFC West

Very rarely do you see a division in football consist of all four teams carrying less than +500 odds to come out on top.

Apparently, the linesmakers are expecting a dogfight in the NFC West this year, and they’re probably right given how each of these squads possesses realistic expectations of nabbing the division title.

Arizona carries the biggest long-shot odds of all four West residents, yet they might be the club to eye here. This is a group that is rich in talent on both sides of the ball and they also appear to be hitting their stride despite last season’s 8-8 finish.

Without question, Kyler Murray is a star on the rise and may actually be considered as a legitimate MVP candidate (that’s a worthwhile +1550 wager to make, by the way). He boasts a tremendous cast of weapons, one that has the ability to propel the Cards as the top offense in the NFC. With a quality defense to lean on as well, Arizona should be in the thick of this.

Pick: Arizona Cardinals (+450)

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Team Futures: Best Super Bowl Future

Team Futures: Best Super Bowl Future

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Kansas City Chiefs

Sometimes, you just gotta go with the odds-on favorite to win it all. For the second consecutive year, the Kansas City Chiefs have garnered this distinct honor.

Let’s first realize something: Nobody is dethroning KC in the AFC West. The Raiders, Chargers, or Broncos just aren’t there yet, meaning the Chiefs will again be solidified in the postseason come January.

I’ve said several times before how Patrick Mahomes is this current generation’s version of Michael Jordan. As a result, another deep playoff run seems imminent, and at tasty +485 odds, why not take a shot on Mahomes and Co. to take it all?

Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (+485)

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Team Futures: Best Yes/No Playoffs Future

Team Futures: Best Yes/No Playoffs Future

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Washington Football Team

A lot of things had to go right for Washington to secure last year’s NFC East division crown. At the top of that list was the fact their three longtime rivals were mired in their own state of disarray.

That’s not going to happen again with Dallas getting Dak Prescott back, New York returning Saquon Barkley to the backfield, and Philadelphia now having Jalen Hurts under center for a full season.

Don’t get me wrong; the Football Team isn’t bad. Adding veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick gives them much-needed stability at quarterback, while Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson are legit impact players. The defense, led by budding young star Chase Young, can be a useful group, too.

However, with the division vastly improved, the Red Hogs/Commanders/Presidents/whatever Tanya Snyder is cooking up are going to have a real tough go trying to repeat last season’s success, especially for a franchise saddled with a reputation of being losers. Washington hasn’t made the playoffs in back-to-back years since the early ’90s and don’t look for that to change in the coming season.

Pick: No/Miss Playoffs (-150)

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Team Futures: Best Team Points Total Future

Team Futures: Best Team Points Total Future

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Arizona Cardinals Over/Under 422.5 Points

We already have some action on the Cardinals to take the division. Let’s somewhat double down on their offense.

As highlighted, this is a very talented group, engineered by ascending star Kyler Murray. He gets to throw to arguably the best receiver in the game, DeAndre Hopkins, and they can be as dangerous as anyone when trotting out four-wideout sets. Furthermore, I’m intrigued by the two-headed running back monster of Chase Edmonds and James Conner.

And all this offense has to do is register a touch more than 24 points per game? Let’s look at it this way: More than half the NFL averaged at least 24 points each week a year ago, the first time in league history where this has ever taken place.

Given how today’s day and age prefers to have more scoring, this new trend is likely to remain similar. So, do you think this loaded Cardinals team will end up in the top half or bottom half in points? Simple.

Pick: OVER 422.5 Points (-120)

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Player Futures: Comeback Player of the Year

Player Futures: Comeback Player of the Year

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That +2000 tag tied to elite wide-out Odell Beckham Jr. is just way too good to ignore. And it can be argued the LSU product is still comfortably in his prime.

True, he did sustain a torn ACL last season that cut his campaign short. And while that’s obviously a tough injury to come back from, a proud superstar like Beckham is worth taking the risk on. It helps he plays for a well-oiled machine like Cleveland that can generate points.

When healthy, there should be no question Beckham is still one of the best at his position in the game. He already has five seasons in which he topped the 1,000-receiving-yard plateau — and those were his only five healthy seasons in the NFL! Another such showing could do the trick.

Pick: Odell Beckham Jr. (+2000)

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Player Futures: Rushing Yards Leader

Player Futures: Rushing Yards Leader

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With J.K. Dobbins suffering a torn ACL and out for the year, that leaves Gus “The Bus” Edwards as Baltimore’s new starting running back. And given the team’s heavy tendencies of running the ball (they were the most run-heavy offense in the NFL last year), there’s no doubt he’ll be taking plenty of handoffs throughout the season.

Of course, Lamar Jackson is a huge reason why the Ravens rush more than anyone. At the same time, there will still be a lot of work for Edwards on a weekly basis, being one of the rare tailbacks that can handle a workload of 20-ish carries.

Plus consider this: Baltimore should win a lot of ballgames as expected, and who will they constantly feed the pigskin when trying to soak up clock? Not their franchise QB. Edwards may see more attempts than any other back in football, and with that comes the potential to top them all in yards. The value is incredible.

Pick: Gus Edwards (+5000)

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Player Props: Receptions

Player Props: Receptions

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Calvin Ridley Over/Under 98.5 Receptions

This seems like a no-brainer, right? Longtime Falcon Julio Jones was shipped off to Tennessee this offseason, leaving Calvin Ridley as the de facto top dog in town to receive passes from Matt Ryan.

As it is, Ridley is already a target machine, drawing a whopping 143 throws from Ryan last year in 15 games (or 9.53 targets per week), which the 2018 first-round pick converted into 90 receptions.

Now he just needs to top that number by only nine catches in potentially two extra games? They’re the same old Falcons, meaning win or lose, they’re going to be throwing a lot, especially considering their lack of depth at running back. Ride Ridley.

Pick: OVER 98.5 Receptions (-120)

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Player Props: Receiving Touchdowns

Player Props: Receiving Touchdowns

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AJ Green Over/Under 3.5 Receiving TDs

Really? One of the best wide-outs in pro football the last decade has to haul in only four touchdowns throughout the course of a full season (featuring one more game than usual) to cash a bet? And while suiting up for what is shaping up to be one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses?

OK, I’m in. While he may be 33 now, Green clearly still wields plenty left in the tank to remain a factor. Of course, he’s no longer the main go-to guy anymore like he was his whole career in Cincinnati, but that could only be beneficial, as he’ll be drawing a lot less double-team efforts — while still being plenty active on the field.

Pick: OVER 3.5 Receiving Touchdowns (-140)

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Player Props: Sacks

Player Props: Sacks

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Maxx Crosby Over/Under 7.5 Sacks

Defensive players get their own props, too! And we have an intriguing one involving ascending D-end Maxx Crosby.

A former Day 3 draft pick, Crosby burst onto the scene by notching 10 sacks his freshman campaign. He followed that up with seven last year, which is exactly what he needs to top to win the over of this bet.

In Crosby’s own words, he’s “never been in this good a shape in my life” and “never been this dedicated,” now that he’s 18 months sober. That could translate to Crosby making a bigger leap in year three.

Pick: OVER 7.5 Sacks (-130)

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