2021 NFL Predictions: Best bets to make or miss the playoffs in the NFC

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs up the field.
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Ricky Dimon

NFL

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The 2021 NFL season will be here before we know it, so it’s time to start previewing the upcoming action and making some predictions. Although there are still plenty of questions to be answered (including the playing status of Aaron Rodgers), most of the offseason moving and shaking has come and gone and the 2021 festivities have taken shape.

For now, let’s take a look at the NFC picture and discuss which teams could be in line to make or miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams to make the NFL playoffs (-195)

Is Matthew Stafford the puzzle piece that will put the Rams over the top and bring them a Super Bowl title? Well, such a discussion would be getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. More important for the purposes of this bet is that they should at least be able to make the playoffs. Obviously, it won’t be a walk in the park as part of a loaded NFC West that also includes Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona. Still, a division title is possible and even if the Rams don’t win it they have every reason to snag a wild card. A defense with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey is formidable, so it’s not like Stafford has to come in and immediately win NFL MVP.

Minnesota Vikings to make the NFL playoffs (+123)

The Vikings also won’t be given a free pass — not in the NFC North, from which two playoff teams emerged last season (Green Bay and Chicago). However, the Packers are dealing with Rodgers’ holdout and the Bears’ offense may not be any good until the Justin Fields era really gets going. Thus the door should be open for Minnesota, which features Dalvin Cook at running back and boasts a stout defense. Kirk Cousins doesn’t have to be a star; if he can just manage games by playing smart football, the Vikings could be headed back to the postseason.

New York Giants to make the NFL playoffs (+210)

It would be no surprise to see the NFC East be the laughingstock of the league yet again. The relative lack of talent in that division gives everyone a decent chance of making the playoffs, and the best chance may belong to the Giants. They certainly have the best value at +210. Dallas (and specifically Dak Prescott) is always a question mark, the Football Team’s quarterback situation is also up in the air, and Philadelphia is in rebuilding mode. New York overachieved in a big way last year without Saquon Barkley, contending for the playoffs until the final week. With Barkley back, the NFC East could belong to the Giants.

Check out the rest of our 2021 NFL futures picks

New Orleans Saints to miss the NFL playoffs (-139)

I’m torn here between the NFC South rival Saints and Falcons. Obviously, Atlanta is more likely to miss out on the party than New Orleans, but at -305 the value is not quite as good. Therefore I will roll with the Saints—or fade them, to be more accurate. The Drew Brees era is over, so it would be understandable if a bit of a rebuilding process takes place for at least one season. Nothing about having Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill under center inspires much confidence. This division belongs to the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, and it’s not like wild-card spots will be easy to come by.

Be sure to read our picks and best bets for which AFC teams will make/miss the playoffs

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