Odds to be last undefeated NFL team: Don't sleep on Panthers, Raiders behind easy schedules
Unlike betting most NFL futures markets, wagering on the last undefeated team is about more than just a club's roster and upside - it's about the schedule. A franchise like the Ravens may seem like a good bet on the surface, but a matchup with the Chiefs in Week 2 makes them a riskier play than, say, a middling squad with the NFC East on the docket.
It doesn't take a miracle run to cash in this market, either. While the Steelers managed an 11-0 start a year ago, two 8-0 teams and two 5-0 teams highlighted the four years before that. In 2014, three teams started 3-0 before losses piled up across the league.
With that said, here are the odds on which NFL team will be the last undefeated and a few of our favorite value plays:
|San Francisco 49ers||+600|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+600|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+800|
|Green Bay Packers||+1100|
|Los Angeles Rams||+1400|
|New England Patriots||+2000|
|New Orleans Saints||+2000|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+3500|
|Washington Football Team||+3500|
|New York Giants||+6500|
|New York Jets||+8000|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+10000|
San Francisco 49ers (+600)
The 49ers were one of two teams to start 8-0 in 2019 and could very well win their first eight contests in 2021, too. San Francisco was the most injured team in the league a year ago but is still loaded on both sides of the ball - especially if coach Kyle Shanahan gives Trey Lance a chance to open up the offense.
The schedule affords a few lucky breaks, too. The Niners open with the lowly Lions and Eagles and face their toughest opponents at home within their first nine weeks. San Fran also has the NFL's earliest bye week in Week 6, which is as good as a free win for this market. It's no cakewalk, but this team has done it before and is talented enough to do it again.
Carolina Panthers (+2500)
The Panthers might not jump out as an obvious bet here - especially with Sam Darnold entering his first year with the club. But Carolina is poised for a big leap in 2021 behind a defense littered with former first-rounders and emerging stars and with Darnold surrounded by a bevy of explosive skill-position players.
The schedule lines up for an early-season run, too. Just two of the Panthers' first eight opponents - the Saints (Week 2) and Cowboys (Week 4) - are projected to finish above .500, and both face quarterback questions early in the year related to health or just general job competence. If Darnold is the answer at QB for Matt Rhule's squad, it should surprise early in the campaign.
Las Vegas Raiders (+10000)
On talent alone, the Raiders are the biggest outliers on the board given their bottom-three price. Las Vegas finished 8-8 a year ago and could improve in 2021 after a defensive overhaul in the offseason that included welcoming 13 new players and a new defensive coordinator in Gus Bradley.
A Week 1 date with the Ravens is daunting, but the Raiders face just two teams with a win total above 8.5 between Weeks 2-9 before a Week 10 matchup with the Chiefs. Will this club enter that game undefeated? Probably not. Is it worth betting as a 100-1 long shot? Absolutely.
C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at email@example.com.