What We Learned From the 2021 NFL Preseason

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks to pass the ball against against the New York Giants on August 29, 2021. Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP
Mac Jones #10 looks to pass the ball on August 29, 2021. Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP


In this column, we take the lessons of the NFL preseason and apply them to a number of NFL Futures and prop bets for the upcoming 2021 NFL season. In no particular order, we rundown through five observations and offer up appropriate NFL odds to spot.

1. Mac Jones Makes A Strong Case To Start Week 1

The New England Patriots cap off a solid preseason with a perfect 3-0-0 record. They beat the Washington Football Team 22-13, the Philadelphia Eagles 35-0 and the NY Giants 22-20. Through the three games, rookie Mac Jones made his case to be the Patriots starter in week 1. Whether he did enough to convince Bill Belichick remains to be seen.

Perhaps, the final game of the preseason was the most insightful. Cam Newton, who missed most of the Patriots’ practice sessions due to a misunderstanding of the NFL’s Covid-19 rules, finished with 2-of-5 passes for 10 yards and an interception. Mac Jones, by contrast, went 10-of-14 for 156 yards and threw for his first touchdown. He also went with zero interceptions, extending his perfect record in that department to three games.

Early indications point to the Patriots starting the veteran Cam Newton in week 1, but don’t be surprised if Belichick flips the script. Should he not do so, the leash is certainly short. It won’t take much before Belichick decides to give the ball to Mac Jones. The earlier in the season this happens, the better for Mac Jones and those bettors that fancy the Alabama Crimson Tide product in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year betting. DraftKings Sportsbook has Mac Jones priced at +1000 to win the OROY.

2. The NFC East Is Wide Open, but Washington Football Team Offer Best Value

Reigning NFC East champions Washington Football Team have a reasonable shot to win the NFC East for a second straight season. Granted oddsmakers favor the Dallas Cowboys to emerge as division champions at +150 while the Washington Football Team are the second-best bet at +200, but the gap in those odds dwindled only recently. Initially, the Cowboys had at least a +110 edge over Washington.

Dak Prescott comes into the 2021 season with question marks after last season’s ankle injury and a recent shoulder injury that kept him out of the preseason. It’s yet uncertain where his fitness and form rank or if it’s even good enough to start in week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Separately, the Cowboys went winless in the preseason, along with the NY Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

Only the Washington Football Team recorded a win in the preseason to finish at the top of the pile with a 1-2-0 record. Of course, preseason games are meaningless and each team and coach takes a different approach. However, the Washington Football Team shouldn’t be underestimated.

3. Jordan Love Isn’t NFL Ready

The Green Bay Packers must be thanking their lucky stars that Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, is back for another season. Any notion that Jordan Love was ready to take over from Rodgers was quickly dispelled during the preseason, and nowhere more so than in the Packers’ final game. The Packers lost 19-0 to the Bills. This doesn’t mean Love was terrible. He showed flashes of promise, but not enough to challenge or threaten Rodgers. Rodgers is tipped as the second-best after Patrick

Mahomes (+500) to win the MVP award. Rodgers’s odds are +1000. As well, the Packers are runaway faves to win the NFC North at -160 and the fourth-best bet to win Super Bowl 56 at +1300.

4. Justin Fields Is Giving Andy Dalton A Run For His Money

The Chicago Bears have a quarterback controversy on their hands. Well, veteran Andy Dalton is apparently the starter in week 1 according to Matt Nagy, but that decision isn’t going down well with the wider public. Overwhelmingly, there’s a feeling that it’s only a matter of time before Dalton is replaced by Fields.

Rookie Justin Fields has impressed Chicago fans and NFL observers alike. In Chicago’s opener, he had fans chanting “Let’s go Fields.” In week 2, Fields wasn’t as sharp, but n the preseason finale, Fields had his last chance to push for the starting job. He led the Bears in a 27-24 win over the Titans going 7-of-10 for 54 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 13 yards on two carries before ceding to Nick Foles. Fields is the second-best bet to win Offensive Rookie of the Year after Trevor Lawrence, which is interesting, to say the least.

5. Brady Sleeper Pick For MVP?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up preseason play with a stellar 23-16 win over the Houston Texans that featured Tom Brady and some of the starters flexing their muscles to great effect. Brady looked sharp in his side’s preseason finale. He went 11-of-14 for 154 yards and 1 touchdown. He showed great chemistry with Chris Godwin who had 84 yards receiving on three receptions and a touchdown. If this glimpse of Brady and the Buccaneers offense were an indication of what’s to come, Brady and the Buccaneers are set to pick up from where they left off. And with another year of experience playing together, the Buccaneers may even be better than they were last season, which is a scary thought. Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the second-best bet to win SBLVI at +600 and Tom Brady is the fourth-best bet to win the MVP at +1400.