Happy NFL Opening Sunday! Earlier on the holiday, NFLbets released our prediction for the winner of the AFC Championship. And now, let’s talk some NFC…
NFLbets arrived at our final pick through a process of elimination. Even before the preseason began, the NFC has looked as though through a bank of fog, and it’s been easier to mentally eliminate teams from final contention than affirm a favorite. Our thinking in brief:
Los Angeles Rams – we swear we’d eliminated the Rams from the betting well before their immolation by the Buffalo Bills in the Thursday Night Football opener. Beyond selling out the future for last season’s championship, it’s just hard to repeat, particularly with one viable WR on the roster…
Philadelphia Eagles – aside from the overcrowded bandwagon offering no space, NFLbets cannot back sight unseen a team whose fortunes will depend on new additions to the roster and a quarterback who may not be of the franchise variety.
Dallas Cowboys – When Jerry Jones’s guys finally end their 21st-century title drought, NFLbets will probably be unpleasantly surprised and lose lots of Moneys, but we’re willing to wait.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Defense may win championships (and whoa, is Tampa Bay’s still loaded) but have you seen the issues ol’ Touchdown Tom Brady and his 40%-of-an-OL are having in the preseason alone?
San Francisco 49ers – As insane as it sounds, unless Jimmy Garoppolo is quarterbacking the 49ers, they’re not winning anything. The stat bears repeating: As a head coach, Kyle Shanahan is 31-14 in regular season games that Garoppolo starts, 8-28 in all others. And in the playoffs? 4-2 with Jimmy G. starting, 0-0 without. Considering that Jimmy G.’ll probably be in Tampa Bay or Tennessee before season’s end, we can’t back the Niners.
A dark horse – By definition, no one sees a superduper longshot like the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals coming. But geez, are the NFC’s dark horses dark. Who would you like here? The New York Giants with Daniel Jones and trashed Saquon Barkley? Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals amidst their annual last-season collapse? Baker F. Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers? come on, now…
For us, the Packers are well too popular a pick after a net loss in the offseason left Green Bay without even a clear no. 1 wide receiver. Aaron Rodgers & Co. have fared worse with better options. Fair enough, Rodgers can likely find a way to create viability in targets like rookies Romeo Dobbs and Christian Watson. And maybe Sammy Watkins, on his third team in three years, can return to relevance.
But if we’re betting on maybes, we’re going with the more interesting choice. The Minnesota Vikings do have a first-year head coach in Kevin O’Connell, but after Mike Zimmer seemed to have outstayed his tenure, this may be an upgrade. Justin Jefferson has emerged as a top-5 receiver and a pretty unimpressive defense made some nice offseason acquisitions in DT Harrison Phillips and LBs Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Hicks. This feels like a Cinderella story in the making, and the odds are excellent. Take the Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC at 18/1.
O’Connell may bring enough new ideas and excitement to the Vikings, but on the big stage is where the inexperience will show. Plus, can you imagine Kirk Cousins facing up against what will be by February a monster Chiefs defense? It’s gonna be an old-fashioned blowout as the Vikings become the first NFL franchise to go 0-5 in Super Bowls: Kansas City Chiefs 41, Minnesota Vikings 10.