Are you one of those bettors who takes a flyer on a team who finished last in their division the previous season?
If so, then today’s post is for you.
You have eight teams who are looking to go from worst to first and shock the NFL universe. And of course, if you place a bet on them, then you’ll look like a genius.
But how do you know which teams are the best bets?
Let’s look at all eight of the teams who finished last in their respective division, what they must do, and how far they are from contending for a division championship and a deep playoff run.
1 – New York Jets
- What They Must Do: Decide on a Direction
New coach Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded coach who you should figure to rebuild the defense in his image—or in the image of his old team, the San Francisco 49ers.
But with their offensive woes and uncertainty at quarterback, perhaps Saleh will venture off the beaten path and look to rebuild the offense?
The Jets must decide on which direction they want to go regarding the franchise.
They have several options. They can either keep or get rid of Sam Darnold. They can keep Darnold and the offense as is, fill holes, and hone in on the defense—ultimately becoming a defensive-oriented team.
Or they could even just scrap Darnold and start fresh. There’s always the possibility they trade for Deshaun Watson if the Houston Texans are interested. THe Jets have been a team on the radar because of the attractive New York market.
Before you bet on the New York Jets, make sure you know where they’re going. Whether they stick to Darnold and build the defense, or if they look to make do with a new quarterback along with a plethora of free agent signings and draftees, there’s no wrong answer.
The only wrong answer is this: Trying to do too much on both units will nix the identity this team wants to build.
2 – Cincinnati Bengals
- What They Must Do: Protect Joe Burrow
Quarterback Joe Burrow pulled off his best impression of Tim Couch and David Carr, meaning he was hit—a lot… And sacked—a lot. Behind an abysmal offensive line, watching Burrow play brought back memories of former number one picks Tim Couch (1999) and David Carr (2002).
Neither Couch nor Carr lasted. And you can attribute it to getting hit and injured far too often because of a poor offensive line.
Burrow posted better numbers than the former top picks until a season-ending knee injury occurred against the WFT. Burrow showed enough to make you believe the Cincinnati Bengals finally have a legitimate franchise quarterback for the first time in forever.
If they put a few maulers in front of him, don’t be surprised if the Bengals reward a few faithful bettors in 2021, especially if the Pittsburgh Steelers decline and teams continue to figure out the Baltimore Ravens. So, if they fix the offensive line, look into placing a small wager that might go a long way.
3 – Jacksonville Jaguars
- What They Must Do: Draft Trevor Lawrence
Thank you, Captain Obvious!
But seriously, the Jaguars are foolish to pass on perhaps the greatest NFL prospect since Peyton Manning, if not since John Elway. Lawrence is the type of quarterback you plug in and play from day one and watch him at least take your team to a 6-10 record.
Plus, the Jacksonville Jaguars were arguably the most talented 1-15 team in NFL history. No, it’s not a joke.
How many 1-15 teams have a plethora of young defenders, two legitimate starting wide receivers, and a featured running back?
The defense was young, and they had hardly any time to prepare. Now, they have experience. And the offense lacked a decent quarterback. It’s hard to believe, but Lawrence may be the missing puzzle piece for the long-dormant franchise.
4 – Denver Broncos
- What They Must Do: Understand Drew Lock’s Limitations
This isn’t rocket science.
Coach Vic Fangio’s on the hot seat. John Elway already shifted his position in the organization. So, both are probably done if they don’t realize Drew Lock isn’t a quarterback who will take them places.
For the Broncos to become a solid bet, they need to follow the blueprint of the Cleveland Browns, who understood Baker Mayfield’s limitations.
They need to become a run-oriented football team and win the game via ball control, especially since the defense had a hard time stopping opposing offenses.
The good news regarding the Denver Broncos is the fact that they’re already a decent futures bet since they have the personnel in place. They just need to realize it. And the success of the running game back in 2020 proved it.
If the Broncos show any indication that their offense will follow the Browns, or better yet, that of the old Mike Shanahan era, their stock will rise. Sure, it’s never easy to claim a team in the AFC West is a better futures bet than the Chiefs. But remember, the Chiefs lack a solid run defense.
This means that the Broncos can easily stun the world if they put Lock into a game manager role.
5 – Philadelphia Eagles
- What They Must Do: Decide on a Quarterback
If you’re looking into betting on the Eagles to rebound and make another run, hold onto your money unless they decide whether the QB1 will be Jalen Hurts or someone else after the Carson Wentz trade.
And make sure that whoever Sirianni doesn’t choose is long gone from Philadelphia. If not, it’ll lead to a quarterback controversy and such controversies rarely end well.
6 – Detroit Lions
- What They Must Do: Refrain From Blowing the Opportunity
In case you haven’t heard, the Los Angeles Rams just traded a few high draft picks and Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford.
Meaning the long-dormant Detroit Lions, who have won just one playoff game since 1957, finally have a chance to permanently climb out of the doldrums. For decades, they have served as the NFC Central’s and NFC North’s punching bag.
Now, they have a solid quarterback in Jared Goff and plenty of awesome puzzle pieces on offense. Plus, they have enough draft capital to fix a defense who were every bit as bad as the team that went 0-16 back in 2008.
So, if you’re looking for a high-risk and potentially high-reward option in Year 1 of this rebuild, the Lions are a solid dark horse. Just hope that they don’t pull the classic Detroit Lions mantra and blow this opportunity.
7 – Atlanta Falcons
- What They Must Do: Realize They Have a Solid Football Team
The Atlanta Falcons were one of those good teams that posted a bad record in 2020. Better yet, with Drew Brees likely retiring the Panthers still rebuilding, the Falcons have a golden opportunity.
But they can’t tear this team to the bare bones. Instead, they must realize that quarterback Matt Ryan can still play. Ditto for Julio Jones. Realize that they have another solid receiver in Calvin Ridley and a good tight end in Hayden Hurst.
They’re really just a decent defense away from really making noise in the NFC South reminiscent of the mid-2010s decade. But before they do any of that, they must refrain from tearing it down and building it back up.
If Brees retires in New Orleans, it means the Atlanta Falcons are easily the second-best team in the NFC South. And given the stagnation during the regular season we saw from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a simple fix on defense may take this team a long way.
They’re a better bet than you think.
8 – San Francisco 49ers
- What They Must Do: Avoid the Injury Bug
It’s so much easier said than done. But the 49ers finished 7-9 because it was a year where it seemed like just about everyone landed on injured reserve.
In 2021, they need to find a way—some way to avoid this happening again. This team still has the talent to once again sit atop the NFC West and make it to the Super Bowl. But to do so, they must remain healthy.
Of all the last place teams in 2020, the San Francisco 49ers look like the safest bet given their talent. So, if you’re considering placing a bet on a last-place team from the previous season, the 49ers carry the least amount of risk.
Any team can go from worst to first in their division. While the 49ers finished third in the NFC West in 2018, they were the second-worst team in football behind their division rival, the Arizona Cardinals.
So, it shows you that regardless of where a team finishes the previous season, they may still be a solid bet for the next season—even if it takes a few solid roster moves to get there.
What do you think each team must do to become a better NFL futures bet?
Let us know your opinion in the comments.
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