NFL
April 1, 2021

Post-NFL Free Agency NFC Divisional Futures You Should Totally Bet

With free agency simmering down that means NFL betting season is in full swing, as evidenced by the money that’s flooding the futures markets. Thus far, there haven’t been any free-agency moves that have significantly disrupted the futures market for Conference and Super Bowl champions, but the latest moves have created plenty of value for divisional future picks.

From a value-betting perspective, the latest free agency updates have not impacted every division equally. For example, free agency did little to influence the Packers' projected dominance over the NFC North. DraftKings Sportsbook had GB at -230 odds to win the division before free agency started, and they now sit at -250. This line movement has less to do with GB’s free agency signings (they didn’t do much of anything), and more to do with the collective lack of impactful signings from the rest of the division. (Sorry, Red Rifle. It’s not personal, you’re just not moving the needle for Las Vegas).

Fortunately for fans of football and sports betters alike, free agency wasn’t so lackluster for the rest of the NFC. Here’s how the biggest moves impacted the futures market and which squads offer the best value. 

*Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

NFC EAST

Dak Prescott’s new deal with the Cowboys was rightfully the biggest free agency story to come out of the NFC East, but there's another quarterback signing in the division will prove to have more influence in the win column.

The one-year, $10 million contract Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with the Washington Football Team is one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. Fitzpatrick is nothing more than a one-year solution at this point, but when assessing a divisional future’s value the upcoming year is the only thing that matters.

Just to be clear, this is not a ringing endorsement of Fitzpatrick’s quarterbacking abilities, but more so an acknowledgment of the significant relative positional upgrade the Football Team is getting here.

Last year, Washington's production came from four different quarterbacks who posted a combined team passer rating of 80.0, making them the 28th-ranked passing attack in the league. In nine games with the Dolphins last season, Fitzmagic maintained a 95.6 passer rating, good for 17th in the league. Fitzpatrick’s performance was quite literally as average as can be, but for this Washington team “average” is a significant upgrade from the dumpster fire that was their QB position last season.

Fitzpatrick should be well-positioned to succeed as there are plenty of similarities between the Washington roster and last year’s 10-6 Dolphins team. Much like the 2020 Dolphins, this Washington defense is young, talented, and disruptive enough to keep nearly any game within reach. With Miami, Fitzpatrick had to face a new AFC superpower in the Bills twice a year, and despite how far they’ve fallen, the Patriots were never an easy out either. This season Fitzpatrick’s most formidable foes will be Dak Prescott leading a mysterious Cowboys team, and Daniel Jones’ marginally improved Giants.

Fitzpatrick isn’t a long-term solution in Washington, and at the end of the day it’s the NFC East so anything can happen, but +275 is a tremendous value for this Washington team.

The Play: Washington, +275

NFC SOUTH

Tampa Bay’s first — and only — goal heading into free agency was to retain the key members from their championship squad, so they can make another run at the title. They achieved exactly that by taking a page out of the Brady/Belichick playbook on building a perennial contender. Brady and the Bucs came to a contract agreement that allowed the Bucs to go out and re-sign every impact player from last year’s team: Chris Godwin, Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Rob Gronkowski and even Lombardi Lenny are all returning on team-friendly deals. The only question mark at this point is Antonio Brown, but something tells me Brady will find a way to get his man paid.

To get a better sense of how the latest moves have impacted the NFC South futures market, DraftKings Sportsbook had the Buccaneers' odds of winning the division at -137 before free agency started, that number now sits at -150. This means two things: Tampa Bay’s roster is holding its value, and none of the other teams in the division did anything noteworthy enough to shift the line dramatically. The 13-point shift from -137 to -150 feels like a small price to pay, especially when the next closest threat is on a completely different tier.

The only other team that could be an outside threat to the defending Super Bowl champs is the Saints, whose QB situation looks questionable at best when considering they’ll be learning to live without Drew Brees.

Some folks seem convinced Sean Payton must have an ace up his sleeve, but as long as those aces are Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, then the Saints aren't a legitimate threat to the Bucs.

The Play: Buccaneers, -150

NFC WEST

While the NFC West may be the most competitive division in the NFL, there appears to be a bigger gap in talent between the Rams and the rest of the division than the number at most books implies, especially in light of the latest free-agency developments.

Before free agency, the Rams were +175 to win the division at DraftKings Sportsbook, and now they’re sitting at +185. This small jump in price has less to do with the Rams, and more to do with the 49ers' big move to trade up to No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft, which caused San Francisco's number at DraftKings to shift from +200 to +190. While neither of these line movements seems that significant independently, when assessing them in tandem it becomes clear that the books are pricing these teams closer together than they should be.

The 49ers' trade to move up in the draft doesn’t convince me they’re in a better position to contend for the division now than they were before, in fact, it leads me to believe the opposite. While the Niners say that Jimmy Garoppolo will be back as the team's starter in 2021, it's still unclear if that'll be the case. And while the Niners did well to bring in new talent, including center Alex Mack, the idea of a rookie QB learning the ropes against the NFC West’s defenses does not bode well for the win column. 

Last year, the Rams were the No. 1 defense in the NFL both in points allowed and yardage, the only thing keeping them from contending for a Super Bowl was an anemic offense that Jared Goff couldn’t get off the ground. Enter: Matthew Stafford.

Stafford has finished in the league’s top-10 in passing yards seven of the last 12 seasons, he’s posted a completion rate above 64% in each of the last six seasons, and last season he had the second-best QBR under-pressure (91.8). But the most intriguing Stafford stat has nothing to do with him at all. Going back to 2009, the Detroit Lions wide receivers lead the league in drops. 

We’ve seen what Stafford can do when working with the bottom of the barrel, so there are high hopes for what he’ll be capable of achieving with support from the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and new addition DeSean Jackson.

Whether or not trading for Stafford was the right long-term move for the franchise is debatable. Frankly, McVay and Co. could regret giving up the haul they did, but that regret will come much later. LA has made it clear they intend to win now, and the significant positional upgrade at QB should allow them to do just that. 

The Play: Rams, +185 

Photo: Getty Images