NFL Division Winners, Way too Early Predictions for the AFC EAST

Which AFC teams make for the best bets to clinch division titles in 2021? Find out as we examine the odds for all 16 teams.

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots throws the ball.  Adam Glanzman/Getty Images/AFP
Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots throws the ball. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images/AFP

Buffalo Bills Tipped Team To Beat

These are unchartered waters for the Buffalo Bills as they enter the 2021-22 NFL season as the defending AFC East champions for the first time in over two decades. Not only has it been a long time since the franchise has been at the top, it’s also the first time that this coaching staff and its crop of players led by fourth-year quarterback Josh Allen have accomplished the feat.

All the best sportsbooks have installed the Buffalo Bills as the team to beat at -160 (or thereabouts depending on the preferred book) on account of their status as the reigning champions and then reaching the AFC Championship game (l. to Chiefs) in the playoffs as well. This is common practice of course for sportsbooks to take a page from the previous season in early betting markets. And yet, as untried and untested champions aren’t the Bills essentially unproven faves too? If so, can they be trusted as the best bet to win the AFC East for a second straight season?

Let’s face it, they are yet to have the experience of a title-defense campaign and managing the sky-high expectations which were set by their very own success in the previous season. Will Josh Allen demonstrate the kind of mental toughness witnessed by the best quarterbacks in the league? There’s a difference to being in the hunt and to being the one hunted – as he and the Bills will surely soon find out. Until the Bills can actually demonstrate they have the wherewithal to rise to the occasion and deliver with consistency the kind of results many are expecting from them in the coming season, it’s impossible to know with any certainty if they truly merit their incredible favor with sports betting sites.

If there’s one thing that does tip the balance somewhat towards the Bills, it’s the fact that the competition is seen to be thin in the AFC East. Well, it’s perceived to be the case because at least two teams out of the four teams in the division are still under construction – the Jets and the Dolphins. This leaves only the Patriots who’ve dominated the division for two decades as the most reliable contenders according to the NFL odds.

The Jets are in redevelopment mode under a new coaching staff and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. Whereas the Miami Dolphins may be further along in the redevelopment phase, they’re nevertheless not nearly as far along in the development cycle at the quarterback position. Mainly, it’s unclear what Miami has in its chosen starter Tua Tagovailoa because his second year in the league will actually mark only his first full year as the No.1 starter.

The New England Patriots’ record in the AFC East is undeniable, so too is the coaching nous of Bill Belichick. Those two aspects underscore New England’s NFL odds in the context of the division. However, inasmuch as the Patriots might be the most reliable contenders in the AFC East as a result, they are coming off a rather disappointing 2020 campaign that featured Cam Newton’s debut with the Patriots. The veteran signal-caller earned mixed reviews for his play and towards the end of the season visibly struggled in his role.

Whether Newton has a better campaign in 2021 depends largely on if he gets a chance to redeem himself in the upcoming season. How the Patriots will approach their roster decisions is yet unknown but they have options at the quarterback position, including rookie Mac Jones who the Patriots drafted with the No.15 selection in this year’s draft.

That said the Patriots have been one of the busiest teams in the offseason making some big moves in free agency and shoring up key positions across the board. Having the worst season record in his career with the Patriots didn’t go down well with Belichick and he’s clearly intent on rectifying that setback.

Undoubtedly, there are many reasons why the Bills are favored to win the AFC East again, but at the same time, there are legitimate reasons why bettors might look to hedge their bets in this section and look to options outside of the “chalky” Bills. The potential of a hangover effect after a banner season like theirs or simply crumbling under the weight of expectation is something to consider when betting Buffalo.

Hedging bets with the Patriots therefore might be an alternative for early NFL picks as such, especially for those that trust in the Belichick effect and his experience in producing top-tier competitive teams. One could argue the same is true for the Dolphins who finished 10-6-0 last season and narrowly missed the playoffs. Of course, to do so would mean that there’s an element of trust in Tagovailoa to carry the weight of expectation after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s departure in free agency.

As the market currently stands, the Patriots at +300 with the top sportsbooks is the most tempting option to hedge bets on.

NFL Picks: Patriots +300  to win AFC East

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