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NFL Futures: Best Bet to Win the NFC West (2021)

by August 31, 2021

The NFC West could easily be this year’s toughest division. With all four teams listed with a win total above eight, and with three of the four teams predicted to earn 10 or more, it’ll be a dogfight all season.

But before we get into this season, let’s quickly recap the last. Russell Wilson and company got off to a fast start and finished the regular season with an impressive 12 wins, capturing the division crown. However, they fell to the Rams and their elite defense in the Wild Card round. Surprisingly, the defending division champion 49ers finished last, but injuries were largely to blame. And finally, the Cardinals finished with an 8-8 record after winning five of their first seven.

It wouldn’t surprise me if any of these teams finished this season on top. But before we pick a winner, let’s take a glance at each team’s odds and briefly examine their chances.

Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.

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The Odds

Los Angeles Rams

Odds to win the NFC West: +200

Matthew Stafford and his prized arm are now paired with one of football’s most interesting minds, Sean McVay. Stafford has never worked with anyone quite like McVay before, and he now has the opportunity to maximize his potential.

Aside from acquiring Stafford, Los Angeles made a few other moves in the offseason. They signed DeSean Jackson to supposedly give Stafford a deep threat to help open up the field, but the ex-Eagle has been an afterthought these last few years. He has played just eight games in the past two seasons and is now 34 years old.

The Rams didn’t have the luxury of a first-round pick, but they did grab the speedy but small TuTu Atwell out of Louisville in the second round. He should give Stafford another effective option underneath. He stuffed the stat sheet with YAC (yards after catch) in college.

On the defensive side, the Rams re-signed their second-best pass rusher, Leonard Floyd. However, the departures of safety John Johnson III and defensive tackle Michael Brockers will hurt.

The Rams’ biggest challenge will be replacing Cam Akers. Having Akers in the backfield made the Stafford trade so exciting, as the quarterback would finally have a running game to help keep defenses honest. While the Rams do have a solid combination behind Akers in Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel, neither player will replicate Akers’ production.

The Rams should improve with Stafford at the helm, but the losses of Akers and Johnson III won’t make their cause easy.

San Francisco 49ers

Odds to win the NFC West: +190

Many so-called experts are picking the Niners to win the division this year, but I don’t share their confidence. Trey Lance has looked great at times during the preseason, but he went just 19-for-41 in passing attempts, and that hardly came against a vigorous pass rush.

Kyle Shanahan has hinted at a committee-style approach to begin the season, in which he would rotate Jimmy Garoppolo and Lance throughout a game. In all likelihood, the organization’s fate will eventually fall in the hands of the rookie, who will have his fair share of offensive weapons to play with.

The defense should be an above-average group if they can stay healthy, but some players have already suffered injuries. A healthy Nick Bosa, who missed almost the entire season last year, would go a long way.

With a rejuvenated defense and an exciting young offense, the Niners’ win total sits at 10.5. Their division odds are the shortest of the group, and without a clear-cut path to the title, I recommend that you look elsewhere when choosing a winner.

Seattle Seahawks

Odds to win the NFC West: +280

The Seahawks looked unstoppable during the first half of last season, but after Week 8, opposing defenses had them figured out. With very little production out of the tight end position, teams keyed in on the highly-targeted D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to slow their output. However, Seattle won their final four games of the season thanks to strong defensive play.

Seattle addressed their tight end problem by signing Gerald Everett, and he should help open the lanes back up. That would allow Russell Wilson to re-enter the MVP conversation.

Seattle’s offensive line struggled mightily at times last year, but the organization added multiple replacements to shore up the leaks. The defense remains largely the same, with middle linebacker and captain Bobby Wagner calling the shots.

As long as Russell Wilson remains under center, the Seahawks will always be a contender. Offseason drama aside, Wilson is in uniform and will start the full season for Seattle, barring injury. At +280, the Seahawks’ odds aren’t the most profitable, but they offer the second-highest reward to win the division. They aren’t an awful pick to repeat as champs.

Arizona Cardinals

Odds to win the NFC West: +600

After a fantastic start last year, the Cards fizzled down the stretch. At times, second-year quarterback Kyler Murray looked like a star by leading his team up and down the field. He dealt with a bit of a shoulder injury last year, which may have hindered his production late in the year.

Arizona added A.J. Green to replace Larry Fitzgerald, and they acquired running back James Conner to replace Kenyan Drake. They also added multiple pieces along the offensive line to help the group that forced Murray to run for his life last year.

On defense, they’ll get help from three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. They also took linebacker Zaven Collins with the 16th overall pick. I love the defense’s ability to move pieces around. For example, they can move Clemson star Isaiah Simmons from linebacker to safety. Safety Budda Baker can also play up in the zone, allowing him to punish running backs and slot receivers going over the middle. Plus, the return of Chandler Jones (19 sacks in 2019), who missed nearly all of last season, will pair with Markus Golden and Watt to create a formidable pass rush. Malcolm Butler will also be a welcome addition as a replacement for Patrick Peterson.

The Cards did lose some key players, but the replacements are more than adequate, and they actually constitute an improvement in many areas. With another year of experience under Murray’s belt and plenty of talented receivers to target, he could perform like a top-10 quarterback this year.

The Pick

Arizona Cardinals +600
The Cardinals offer the best value because the three front runners are nearly equal in terms of talent and payout. It won’t take a lot for Murray to break out and have the year the organization envisioned when they took him first overall in 2019. The offensive will score in bunches, and the defense will surprise some if they can stay healthy.

The division will likely come down to the final week, but in a make-or-break year for Kliff Kingsbury, I believe that the Cards have a much better chance to come out ahead than their implied odds of 16%. The Rams won’t be that much better with Stafford and will miss the stars they lost. The 49ers are still a year away and will go through ups and downs with a rookie signal-caller. The Seahawks’ lack of a pass rush and defensive playmakers will come back to bite them.

Take the underdog in the NFC West and root for the exciting cast of characters in the desert this year. You can find them at +600 over on FanDuel Sportsbook.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.