The NFC was the conference that ended up being represented by the eventual Super Bowl Champions last season. With the 2021 NFL season right on the horizon, let’s take a look at the early NFC futures and see where the value lies. Of course, the Super Bowl champs are favored to keep their crown.
Favorites to Win the NFC
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+325) are the obvious favorites as they were the Super Bowl champions last year and are returning with all 22 of their starters. Tom Brady has also proved time and time again that you should never count him out. The Buccaneers have such a talented offense with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Brady that it is hard to see them struggling – especially after a full training camp.
Couple that with a young and fast defense that has flashes of being a top-three group in the league last year and these guys are looking at another Super Bowl opportunity. As long as Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett continue as elite pass rushers — and word has it 1st round pick Joe Tryon could add to the pass rush this year — the Buccaneers should be a top contender in the NFC.
The Green Bay Packers (+600) should be among the NFC Championship favorites despite losing in this game in each of the last two years. They were able to get both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams to return to the organization during the offseason and traded for Randall Cobb to have one last run at a Super Bowl. Aaron Jones returns as the starting running back, while camp reporters have said AJ Dillon looks like the best back on the squad.
The Packers defense remains pretty well rounded as they continue to have a solid pass rush and really just need another cornerback to add onto their secondary to solidify this unit. Similar to Brady, Rodgers usually ends up making his teams better than they actually are. The question is does he have enough help?
The Los Angeles Rams (+800) feel rejuvenated after swapping out Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford at quarterback. Stafford finally has a chance to compete for the Super Bowl for the first time in his career. With Sean McVay on the sidelines, the Rams figure to again have one of the best offenses in the NFL and with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on defense, they should be pretty solid there too. Until proven otherwise, Aaron Donald remains the best defensive player in the league.
This is one of the best-coached teams in the league, so they should be competing for the conference – even if the NFC West is a really tough division. The loss of Cam Akers could hurt the team’s chances, but Stafford’s list of receivers is very nice: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, and rookie Tutu Atwell.
Longshots to Win the NFC
The San Francisco 49ers (+850) are longer shots but they’re just a year removed from the Super Bowl. We saw them lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl just two seasons ago before collapsing and missing the playoffs entirely last year. They suffered a ton of injuries on both sides of the ball and are finally coming back fully healthy.
Jimmy Garoppolo was able to lead the team to the big game but the team spent their top draft pick on rookie quarterback Trey Lance. He has shown well in the preseason, so Jimmy G might not be starting for too long. Lance has big play potential every time he touches the football whereas Garoppolo limits what they can run offensively. The rookie quarterback may be able to bring them to the next level if given the chance.
The next set of longshots are the Seattle Seahawks (+1000), Dallas Cowboys (+1500), and New Orleans Saints (+1600). Russell Wilson continues to play at an MVP level for the Seattle Seahawks. His weapons are as good as they’ve ever been, but the team needs an elite running game and pass rush to break through in the playoffs.
The Cowboys bring back one of the league’s best offensive units, as they pair RB Ezekiel Elliott with receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. Dak Prescott returning from a major injury is the key, but he gets back three Pro Bowl offensive linemen (Tyron Smith, Lael Collins, Zack Martin) who missed 36 of 48 potential starts last year.
The Dallas Cowboys made wholesale changes to their defense, adding Micah Parsons and Keanu Neal to defense. They hope Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker solidifies their safety position, while 2nd year standout Trevon Diggs and 2nd round rookie Nashon Wright improve the cornerback spots. The team didn’t address its pass rush, which should hold back the defense’s improvement. DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Dorance Armstrong each must step up big to help the Cowboys live up to the hype.
The New Orleans Saints are a perennial favorite but have to overcome the loss of Drew Brees, who retired in the offseason. Jameis Winston looks as if he’ll win the starting job over Tayson Hill. Winston is a former No. 1 overall pick who can make all the throws, but has been hampered in his career by turnovers. Winston has a great set of weapons in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas — that is, if Thomas returns from injury earlier rather than later.
The Saints defense should be elite. Cameron Jordan is one of the league’s top pass rusher, while the team hopes Marcus Davenport steps up on the other side. Marshon Lattimore continues to anchor the defensive backfield, while Demario Davis, Zack Baun, Kwon Alexander, and rookie Pete Werner give the team plenty of talent at linebacker. Like any NFL team, good health is a key. With the Saints, the other key factor remains what the team does at quarterback.