Musburger: The 2021 NFL storylines I'm watching


Only once in NFL history have the same teams met in back-to-back Super Bowls. In 1993 and ’94, the Dallas Cowboys whipped the Buffalo Bills 52-17 and 30-13. But bettors are pounding away on last year’s finalists, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

DraftKings lists Kansas City as the + 500 favorite to win the Super Bowl, and reigning champ Tampa Bay is the strong second choice at + 600. Folks, history tells us one of these two will not be playing in Los Angeles, and if you can identify which team won’t return and which one might replace it, you can win a lot of money.

Let’s start with Tampa Bay. Yes, every significant member of its championship team is back, and the Bucs have no glaring weakness anywhere. But the GOAT, quarterback Tom Brady, is now 44 years old. 44! Father Time is a patient sort, as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees can attest, but he always wins in the end. Maybe this is Brady’s year. Maybe not.

As for other options to win the Super Bowl, two NFC teams are worth considering: Green Bay (+ 1300) and the Los Angeles Rams (+ 1400). Aaron Rodgers is apparently peeved at the Packers’ front office, but it says here that will not affect his performance on the field. He has lost the last two NFC championships, and this Packers team has enough talent to make a third consecutive run.

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The Rams made the biggest quarterback trade of the offseason when they went all in on Matthew Stafford. Defensively, the Rams led the NFL last year, allowing only 18.5 points a game. Let that sink in. They held five teams to 10 or fewer points. If defense wins championships, as Tampa Bay’s did, then don’t overlook the Rams at a far more favorable price than the Bucs.

The AFC has two obvious candidates to take down the Chiefs -- the Buffalo Bills (+ 1000) and the Baltimore Ravens (+ 1400). I prefer the Bills because Ravens QB Lamar Jackson hasn’t proven he can orchestrate a long playoff run. The Ravens ranked dead last in passing (171.2 YPG) last year, and that spells doom when a team is trailing in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. Besides, I won’t recommend that anybody invest their hard-earned money on a QB who has twice tested positive for COVID-19 and still won’t take the vaccine. Lamar, what more evidence do you need?

Taking down the Chiefs won’t be easy. Their front office reacted to the Super Bowl debacle at the hands of Tampa’s defensive front by reworking the entire offensive line. And Andy Reid’s coaching staff remains largely intact and among the very best in the league.

One final piece of advice on betting the Super Bowl winner: Patience. No need to rush. You could have gotten a very good price on Tampa Bay last fall after the season started.

Most Valuable Player

Last year’s MVP, Rodgers, remains a solid choice at + 1000, trailing only the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (+ 500). But if you believe the Rams can win the NFC, put a few bucks on Stafford at + 1800.

Offensive Rookie of the Year 

Start with the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round. I’d recommend bypassing the favorite, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, because the price is too short (+ 330). And skip San Francisco’s Trey Lance (+ 800) because he simply hasn’t played enough football. The NFL is a hard place to learn on the job.

Take a shot with one of the other three: Chicago’s Justin Fields (+ 650), the Jets’ Zach Wilson (+ 1000) or New England’s Mac Jones (+ 1000).

Cashin’ tickets

When betting MVP and rookie of the year, stick with the quarterbacks. You’ll have a far better percentage of winning. And if you still think it’ll be the Bucs and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, remember the words of George Santayana in 1905: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!”

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