The clock is ticking down until the start of the 2021 NFL season and it’s that time of the year when hope and unbridled excitement consumes gridiron fans across the US. That hope surrounds potential qualification for the postseason playoffs and a shot at the Super Bowl – the biggest final as a competitive and commercial spectacle in world sport.
As NFL franchises up and down the land embark on their preseason schedules, now is the ideal time to familiarize yourself with the likely contenders for this season’s Lombardi Trophy. Who will be the dominant force in the AFC and NFC and who could be the surprise package of 2021?
The favorites to compete at Super Bowl LVI
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stunned the NFL scene in 2020 to win the Super Bowl. The Bucs, who recruited iconic quarterback Tom Brady and veteran tight end Rob Gronkowski, were heavily indebted to this duo who rolled back the years. After a 13-year drought of failing to even reach the postseason playoffs, the Bucs sent Tampa wild with an historic Super Bowl success. The Bucs will begin the 2021 NFL season looking to become only the eighth franchise to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies. The last team to do so? The New England Patriots – featuring the perennial winner Tom Brady himself.
The leading US sportsbooks believe they do have a chance to make history. They are rated as second favorites in the Super Bowl futures betting, having retained all 22 of the players that helped them achieve greatness last season. The Kansas City Chiefs, who were unceremoniously defeated by the Bucs in Super Bowl 2020, are still the team to beat in 2021 according to the sportsbooks. They are the +500 favorites and much of that is due to the presence of star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He remains integral to the Chiefs’ future prospects and he is head and shoulders above the rest in the betting for MVP winner in the regular season in 2021.
There are plenty of other teams that could gel and surprise the Chiefs and the Bucs this term. The Buffalo Bills are well respected by the sportsbooks, who have a regular season MVP candidate of their own in the shape of Josh Allen. Their route runners in Sanders, Diggs and Beasley should give them plenty of power and their draft picks of edge rushers Basham and Rousseau will make them a feared prospect. It would also be foolish to discount the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. He’s been given added weapons to target this season with wide receivers Bateman and Wallace expected to cause problems.
The surprise packages in the 2021 NFL season
The Tennessee Titans could be one of the teams to watch this year. They went big in the offseason to entice hot-prospect wide receiver Julio Jones from Atlanta. The Titans’ Super Bowl futures odds plummeted upon the announcement of Jones’ arrival. Tennessee’s offense has rarely been in question, but if they can tighten up their defense they could have a realistic chance of running deep in the postseason playoffs.
Alongside the Titans, the Cleveland Browns are also attracting futures betting interest from NFL fans. The return of Odell Beckham Jr. is a big boost to the Browns, while the defensive recruits of Malik Jackson and Jadeveon Clowney will tighten things up at the other end of the field. In terms of long shots, the Denver Broncos are the ultimate value bet in the eyes of many. Von Miller returns from a long-term achilles problem, while quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is motivated to prove people wrong after joining from the Carolina Panthers.
One thing is for sure, the 2021 NFL season promises to be a wide-open campaign, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Don’t forget, you can catch every game week of the 2021 NFL season across a host of US networks, including Fox, NBC, ESPN, CBS/Paramount Plus, Prime Video and the NFL Network.