NFL Futures: AFC East Win Totals Betting Picks (2021)

The road to the AFC East runs through… Buffalo? That’s how it broke down in 2020 as the Josh Allen-led contingent took advantage of the lull in the success of the New England Patriots to snatch the throne during a topsy-turvy year for the division. It was the Bills’ first AFC East title since 1995 and was the first time anyone other than the Patriots won the division since 2008.

Like, read that sentence again. That’s a ridiculous stretch of dominance for the Pats. But the Bills emerged as the new team-to-beat in the wake of Tom Brady’s departure from New England. Will 2021 continue in that direction, with Buffalo establishing itself for a run atop the East? Bill Belichick might have something to say about that. So, too, might a certain southpaw quarterback who makes his hay under the Florida sun. As the fallout of an unlikely 2020 will leave each club scrambling for supremacy in a new season, let’s dive into the outlook for the AFC East.

For this article, we scoured DraftKings and FanDuel to find our favorite win total odds at the respective sportsbooks for each of the AFC East teams.

Here are my picks for the AFC East’s win totals.

Compare odds from all major sportsbooks for the AFC East Champion >>

Buffalo Bills

Over 11.0 wins: -110 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Under 11.0 wins: -110 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Welcome to the grown-up table, Josh Allen.

The Buffalo Bills made one of the most notable leaps into the category of true championship contenders last season. The progression of their quarterback was the primary reason for the jump. In 2020, Allen showed he could be more than just a scrambler. He nearly doubled his passing touchdown output from 20 to 37 while clearing the plateau of 4,500 passing yards. Allen lowered his interception rate and maintained an effective use of his legs, rushing for eight scores. He was electric. He was a winner. And in 2021, he’s looking to clear that next hurdle for the Bills: a return to the Super Bowl. 

Offensively, the Bills should pick up right where they left off a year ago. The offense still runs through the connection between Allen and Stefon Diggs. Cole Beasley should chip in out of the slot. Emmanuel Sanders joins the offense but will probably serve as more of a role player in John Brown’s vacated spot. Expect a second-year leap out of Gabriel Davis, too. The running game hasn’t changed much, with Zack Moss and Devin Singletary still likely to split carries. With all due respect, though, nobody cares. Josh Allen can be the running game. He can be the passing game. He’s the whole game for the Bills offense. I’m not sure they’d have it any other way.

Buffalo landed pretty squarely in the middle of the league in scoring defense but were exposed against legitimate offenses like the Cardinals, Titans, and Chiefs. The Bills didn’t necessarily mind engaging in shootouts, not with Allen running all over creation making things happen. Still, shoring up on defense is the best way to take the next step when it comes to January and February. To that end, the Bills took a defensive end, Gregory Rousseau, with the 30th pick in the NFL Draft. They also didn’t lose many major pieces, returning the core of the defense.

The Bills can win in 2021 with a similar style of football to the one that propelled them so notably a year ago. How much more of a load can be reasonably placed onto the shoulders of Josh Allen? Buffalo probably intends to find out.

Honestly, 11 feels like the perfect total for this team. Though their strength of schedule isn’t particularly daunting relative to the 2020 records of their opponents, the Bills have to open the new season against the Steelers, Dolphins, and Washington Football Team. That’s three dangerous defenses out of the gate. All will be eager to test the legitimacy of Allen’s ascension to the league’s elite at the quarterback position. Road games at Kansas City, Tennessee, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay strike me as wonderfully compelling from a general NFL fan perspective, but dangerous if you’re seeking a route to 12 wins for the Bills as an over bettor on this line. 

With nine scheduled home games, I’d be surprised if the Bills finish anything less than 7-2 in front of their rowdy Buffalo crowd this season. Looking at the gauntlet they’ll face on the road, though, I’m not comfortable betting on much more than a .500 finish in those contests. And wouldn’t you know it? That plants the Bills right at 11 wins. It’s almost like the oddsmakers know what they’re doing here.

Because I do believe in Allen, I’ll err on the side of positivity for this team, but this isn’t a line I’m very eager to bet. I’d rather monitor the lines as the summer months unfold to see which way the wind blows for value on the line before locking in my bet. 

PICK: Over 11.0 wins (-110 at DraftKings Sportsbook)

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: Low

Miami Dolphins

Over 9.5 wins: +115 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Under 9.5 wins: -125 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

It might be now or never for Tua time.

The Dolphins made significant strides in 2020 under second-year head coach Brian Flores, going 10-6 for a second-place finish in the AFC East. Their successful season included a midseason quarterback change as Miami opted to usher in the Tua era following the team’s bye week. Ryan Fitzpatrick was famously disappointed in the team’s decision. Due to struggles from Tagovailoa, the veteran saw sporadic game action down the stretch of the season. Ultimately, though, this was a Dolphins team whose success was predicated upon its defense.

The job of the Miami offense in 2020 was to do its best to stay out of the way. The strategy was viable enough, given the Dolphins’ ranked among the league’s best in turnover differential. But in today’s NFL, playing scared with the ball in your hands is only going to get you so far. So the Dolphins parted ways with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, promoting a pair of co-coordinators to oversee a potential overhaul in philosophy for the offense in 2021.

Though Tua endured an underwhelming debut season in the NFL, the bar has been raised on expectations for his sophomore campaign as a result of the way the Dolphins have invested in the offense around him. Whereas his weapons in the passing game last year consisted primarily of DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins have added free-agent field-stretcher Will Fuller and Alabama speedster Jaylen Waddle to give Tua some dynamic playmakers in the offense. The enhanced talent around him should spell the end to the excuses for Tua’s disjointed play.

After adding to the unit through the draft, free agency, and in the trade market, the Dolphins should be loaded again on the defensive side of the ball. They spent a first-round pick on pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips. They traded for Pro Bowl linebacker Benardrick McKinney. Miami also signed Justin Coleman to aid an intriguing secondary.

Miami employing an offense that takes more chances downfield because of its upgraded receiving corps would be an intriguing prospect to complement a defense that already had the team knocking on the doorstep of the postseason without much help from its offense in 2020. After winning 10 games last year, improving the roster around their young QB, and getting the benefit of the 17-game schedule in 2021, the 9.5 win total would seem to be an easy hurdle to clear for the Dolphins. That mindset assumes stagnation for the rest of the AFC East, though.

The Dolphins enjoyed a 3-1 record against the Patriots and Jets last season; it’s unlikely that either divisional foe will struggle this year to the extent that each did in 2020. New England returns several players who opted out of the previous season due to COVID-19. And they still have Bill Belichick. Need I say more? As for New York, the Jets finally fired Adam Gase and intend to begin anew at quarterback with the No. 2 pick Zach Wilson leading the charge. If he pans out for the Jets, the Dolphins can’t chalk up Gang Green as two auto-wins anymore.

The Dolphins have plenty of reason for optimism heading into the 2021 season. Great defense notwithstanding, their aspirations of elevating into the NFL’s upper echelon hinge on the left arm of Tua Tagovailoa.

My take: It wasn’t all that long ago that Tua was tearing up the best college football conference in America. Remember when he was touted as the next big thing? This year, he’ll have another degree of experience under his belt to go along with legitimate weapons to support his development at the NFL level. I think Tua can stick in this league. 2021 is the season he begins to prove it for a Miami squad that has a legitimate shot at a playoff berth.

PICK: Over 9.5 wins (+115 at FanDuel Sportsbook)

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: Medium

New England Patriots

Over 9.5 wins: +110 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Under 9.5 wins: -130 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Here’s my rule: Don’t be the one caught holding the bag when it comes to betting against Bill Belichick.

Does it feel to anyone else like the longtime guru at the helm in New England almost expected 2020 to be a rebuilding sort of season for the Pats? And that he was pretty much okay with it? Belichick is allergic to losing, so I’m not suggesting it was necessarily easy for him to endure the 7-9 campaign, the Patriots’ first losing season since 2000. But the deck was stacked against him in the first year post-Tom Brady. And I think Belichick knew that. He probably didn’t mind using the season as a way to build the foundation for a new era in New England, one which is set to begin in 2021.

The Patriots had a league-high eight players opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns. Several from that group, including motivated linebacker Dont’a Hightower, will return for the upcoming campaign. Even without some of those key names last year, the Patriots ranked in the top 10 in NFL scoring defense. That was an impressive and necessary feat for New England’s respectable near-.500 finish, considering the stark decline in the offense under Cam Newton.

The one-time NFL MVP straight-up couldn’t throw the football last year. It was ugly, and the Patriots’ season suffered as a result of the one-dimensional offense it forced them to employ. Newton enters the 2021 season in self-professed ‘put up or shut up’ territory after the Patriots spent a first-round pick on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Regardless of which QB sees the majority of the snaps throughout the season, the Patriots will need to round out a more consistent offense than they produced in 2020.

Aside from the quarterback position, the Patriots are poised to display vast improvements throughout the rest of the roster. They certainly spent money with such an expectation this off-season. Belichick opened up Robert Kraft’s purse strings. New England led the NFL in free agency spending by a considerable margin—an unusual approach compared to the one the Patriots have historically employed.

But that brings me back to the beginning. This approach to 2021 further colors the 2020 season as a mere bump in the road rather than a fullscale rebuild for Belichick and Co. If Belichick expects to contend—and the Patriots’ spending this off-season indicates that he does—then that’s pretty much good enough for me. New England’s season wasn’t entirely abysmal in 2020, even though its quarterback play was. Mac Jones is a capable fallback option under the possibility that Cam Newton is, in fact, cooked. I have confidence Belichick can fill in the gaps to return the Patriots to respectability in 2021.

At FanDuel, the win total is set at 9.0 for New England. We’ll take the shot at an extra profit on DraftKings rather than giving up the extra juice on FanDuel.

PICK: Over 9.5 wins (+110 DraftKings Sportsbook)

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: Medium

New York Jets

Over 6.0 wins: +100 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Under 6.0 wins: -105 (FanDuel Sportsbook)

Individually, I’ve just recommended double-digit win totals for each of the top three teams in the AFC East. Though forecasting all three teams to hit their mark would be quite the bold parlay, I guess that’s technically an option that I’ve outlined with my above picks. So that leaves the question: Where are the losses coming from in this division? 

Sorry, Jets fans.

I believe Gang Green evolves its competitive nature beyond the pathetic and uninspiring efforts of the Adam Gase era. I don’t believe an instantaneous turnaround is in store for the new regime. Taking their shot on their quarterback of the future rather than dragging out the Sam Darnold era for another year was the right move for the Jets. Still, asking Zach Wilson to take the NFL by storm in Year One would ask a lot of the BYU standout.

What can Wilson and Co. accomplish? They can set a new foundation and direction for the Jets. Defensive-oriented head coach Robert Saleh can take the year to install his system while the offense finds its footing. Wilson’s ability to scramble and make plays on the fly tags him with tremendous upside. While revolving your franchise’s strategy around trying to unearth the next Patrick Mahomes could be a dangerous way to approach roster-building, chasing the allure of an exciting long-term solution at the most important position in professional sports is understandable.

If Wilson hits, we could be talking about his connection with fellow rookie Elijah Moore for years to come in the AFC East. Ole Miss certainly has a track record for churning out talent at the wide receiver position. After the Jets took Moore in April’s draft, Titans stud WR A.J. Brown told his former Rebels teammate that he’s actually better than him at the position.

The new foundation of the New York Jets might be a solid one. It feels unlikely for that fledgling foundation to return immediate dividends in 2021 while sharing a division with three other organizations much further along in their development.

PICK: Under 6.0 wins (-105 at FanDuel)

CONFIDENCE LEVEL: High

AFC North Win Totals Betting Picks
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