* As the 2021 NFL season inches closer, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux takes a look at a handful of betting props surrounding the Washington Football Team. Next up: will Washington go over/under 8.5 wins?
The Bet: Washington Football Team 2021 win total: over/under 8.5 (-115 each, odds via PointsBet USA)
With the Washington Football Team coming off an unlikely NFC East title in 2020, optimism is high both in the organization and with its fans for the future of this team.
And after an offseason full of roster upgrades on both sides of the football, the hope is that Washington will be even better in 2021.
But, just how many wins will Washington total this fall? That's a constant topic of conversation, one few can seem to agree on. Those on the more optimistic side view Washington as a double-digit win team, while those more pessimistic think the club could finish with fewer victories than it had a season ago.
Washington's over/under win total is set at 8.5, courtesy of NBC Sports partner PointsBet Sportsbook. Will the team hit that mark? Let's take a look...
The case for Washington going OVER 8.5 wins
One of the most impressive parts about Washington's division title in 2020 was the fact that it was able to accomplish such with a revolving door at quarterback. The Burgundy and Gold started four different signal-callers in 2020, and while Alex Smith did lead the club to a 5-1 record in his starts, none of the quartet of passers put up impressive numbers.
Knowing that quarterback was in need of a significant upgrade this offseason, Washington signed veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the first day of free agency. While he's no superstar, the 38-year-old has arguably played the best football of his career the past two seasons in Miami.
If Fitzpatrick plays the way he has the past two years, Washington's offense will be light years ahead of where it was a season ago. Couple that with the team's dominant defense and this team should easily eclipse the 8.5 win mark.
Speaking of the defense, last year's elite unit returns almost all of its starters but has also received multiple upgrades. Washington signed standout cornerback William Jackson III in free agency and invested a first-round pick in Jamin Davis, who has the athleticism and speed to play all three linebacker positions. A few other draft picks -- Benjamin St-Juste and Darrick Forrest -- have shown flashes in minicamp, too.
Additionally, none of the three other NFC East teams have a significantly better roster than Washington, if at all. Yes, Dallas does return star quarterback Dak Prescott, but that team still has multiple issues on the defensive side of the football. The Giants have unstable quarterback play in Daniel Jones, while the Eagles are expected to be in the basement of the division once again.
Washington went 4-2 in the NFC East last fall, a record that is certainly attainable again with its six divisional games this season. Its last five games of the 2021 season are all against divisional opponents as well.
In 2020, Washington built the foundation under head coach Ron Rivera. If this team continues to trend in the same direction, eclipsing the 8.5 win mark shouldn't be difficult, especially with a now 17-game schedule.
The case for Washington going UNDER 8.5 wins
While Washington significantly upgraded its roster this offseason, both the Cowboys and Giants did too.
Dallas, of course, gets Prescott back after he missed 11 games in 2020. Prescott, who missed both games against Washington last year, has a 7-1 record in his career against the Football Team. Washington certainly didn't miss him last fall.
For New York, the team also swung big in free agency by adding wideout Kenny Golladay, who was the best receiver to hit the open market. Star running back Saquon Barkley is fully recovered from a torn ACL, too. With first-round pick Florida WR Kadarious Toney in the mix, too, this Giants offense should be as explosive as ever. Plus, the Giants defense was quietly one of the NFL's better units last season.
Winning the NFC East won't be a cakewalk for Washington in 2021 -- a division that no club has won two consecutive years since 2003-2004.
Additionally, by winning the division last year, Washington is tasked with playing the first-place schedule this fall. That means games against the Bills, Packers and Seahawks, three teams that finished a combined 38-10 in 2020.
Washington's schedule was already going to be challenging in 2021, considering the team plays the NFC South and AFC West divisions. Now, with those three matchups listed above, it's even harder.
Washington is the only club in the NFL that faces all four teams from the Conference Championships last season. Talk about drawing a tough hand.
Ultimately, the reality is that Washington could be a better football team in 2021 than it was in 2020, yet still struggle to reach that 8.5 win mark. If the team doesn't take care of some of the weaker opponents on its schedule, it could be a long year for Rivera's club.
The verdict: Go with your gut
I know that's the easy, cop-out answer. Sorry. But both scenarios are so realistic, that this might be worth a bet staying away from.
If you think Washington will be successful in 2021, throw on the over. If you think the 2021 schedule is just too tough, the under might be the safer play.
Odds provided by our partner, PointsBet
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