NFL teams and players may only take the field in the fall and winter months, but the sport has truly become year-round entertainment. From draft speculation to trades and free agency and everything in between, there is more than enough to entertain and engage fans—like quarterback battles.
Football is a team sport, but it is tough to be a good football team without a capable quarterback. So, when the time comes for a team to find a new one (or better one), the ensuing quarterback battles tend to garner quite a bit of attention from fans, the media, and bettors alike.
New is not always better, of course. But when a star retires, or your team has been notoriously underperforming, you have no choice. You have to try.
Previewing The 2021 Quarterback Battles
This offseason, there are quite a few quarterback battles taking place throughout the league. Some battles look like they are going to be more intense than others. But there is a betting favorite according to the NFL betting odds for the five-team looking for new leadership on offense.
However, being the betting favorite during the offseason means little when it comes to quarterback battles. If the favorite cannot stay healthy, he is not going to start in Week One. Should a team pull off a miracle trade for a disgruntled superstar on another team, again—being the favorite means little.
|Denver Broncos Starting Quarterback In Week 1||FanDuel|
|New England Patriots Starting Quarterback In Week 1||FanDuel|
When Drew Lock took over behind center in the latter part of the 2019 season, he looked promising. The Broncos improved the roster around him heading into the 2020 season. But while he did better according to his PFF grade (2019- 58.1; 2020- 63.5), the improvement was marginal—which is why the Broncos brought in Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater graded out better as the starter for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 (66.0). But with such a minimal difference between him and Lock, it might be better to stick with the guy who is more familiar with the offense (Lock).
But then again, Lock has struggled to make decisions and limit his mistakes. Bridgewater was not exactly great in that regard last year either, but he was better than Lock. However, since his overall performance was only slightly better than Lock’s last season, it is not hard to see Lock win the battle simply because he is more familiar with the offense.
That does not mean he will keep it, of course…especially if the Broncos pull off a miracle trade for Aaron Rodgers…
New England Patriots
Cam Newton is the presumed starter and with good reason. As a former NFL MVP, he has a track record of performance and leadership that any team would value. However, he is not getting any younger, he has never been a great passer, and his value in the run game is diminishing.
Yes, his value as a runner is diminishing despite recording 12 rushing touchdowns last season.
Winning in today’s NFL requires a quarterback that can throw the ball well. Passing has never been Newton’s strong suit. But, in college, rookie Mac Jones was an excellent thrower. According to reports, he has a good grasp of the offense. But is he ready to play the game at an NFL level?
During a recent OTA practice, Newton went down with an injury giving Jones a chance to show he can. But instead, he struggled and it was Jarrett Stidham that shined. While Brian Hoyer is on the roster, that is unlikely to last.
|New Orleans Saints Starting Quarterback In Week 1|
|San Francisco 49ers Starting Quarterback In Week 1|
|Chicago Bears Starting Quarterback In Week 1|
New Orleans Saints
It will be a strange feeling for Saints fans when they do not see Drew Brees trot onto the field in Week One. But the longtime veteran called it quits after last season, leaving the offense in the hands of either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill (probably).
Hill has been with the team longer than Winston and is more familiar with the offense, but he has been primarily used as a jack-of-all-trades type of player. When he has lined up at quarterback, it has often been for a designed run. But to win in today’s NFL, a QB must be able to pass? Can Hill do that?
While he did look good last season when he had to step in as the starter, it was only a four-game sample. Can he do it for an entire season? If Sean Payton does not think so, that leaves Jameis Winston.
Winston has the talent in his arm and the ability to make all of the throws an NFL quarterback needs to make. But his decision-making has been suspect throughout his career. Yes, he threw for 5000+ yards and 33 touchdowns in his last year with the Buccaneers—but he also threw 33 interceptions (for a total of 88 in five seasons).
Will a year as an understudy to Drew Brees be enough to turn that around? Brees was just a decent quarterback with the Chargers, so Winston could turn it around.
San Francisco 49ers
On the surface, this does not appear to be much of a battle. While it has been made clear that Jimmy Garoppolo’s days are numbered, the 49ers seem intent on starting him while Trey Lance sits and learns during his rookie season.
It is a sound theory and one many teams often try to use. But it has become just as common to throw rookie quarterbacks to the wolves and let them start in Week One. With his athleticism and high football IQ, maybe he does fine and can learn as he plays.
But if he struggles, the team could doom their first-round pick before getting a chance to know what he is capable of. Since he only started for a single season at the FCS level, it may be wiser to have him at least start the season on the bench.
With a good quarterback like Garoppolo ready to start, it is not like they need him in Week One.
Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo dropping back and throwing at 49ers practice pic.twitter.com/pEuTpXosRd
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) June 2, 2021
Andy Dalton signed with the Bears, thinking he will be the starter this season. According to reports, the Bears told him that was going to be the case. While he did not look great when the Dallas Cowboys needed him to step in last season, he got a lot better as the season progressed.
That, along with his experience in general, at least makes him an upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky. But then the Bears had to go and draft Justin Fields.
Fields has the intangibles every NFL coach wants his starting quarterback to have. Could he benefit from sitting and watching for a few games or his rookie season? Of course. But he is not as green as Trey Lance is. He has played at a high level against some of the best teams in college football.
It is not hard to imagine him at a point where experience will be his best teacher.
NFL Quarterback Battles Sports Betting Recommendations
The odds are not good enough to choose “any other” for the Broncos. It will be either Bridgewater or Lock. While Lock was unimpressive last season, so was Bridgewater. Since Lock will have a better understanding of the offense heading into the season, he is a better bet to start in Week One.
If he does, the leash is going to be short…
While Cam Newton is the favorite, do not bank on him getting the starting nod. He is not a good enough passer to make the lackluster receivers New England has better than they are. Jones, however, with the accuracy he showed in college, can. But that is a big “if” for now.
In New Orleans, the odds may favor Winston, but there is no reason to believe Sean Payton does. Payton knows Hill and understands what he can do. It may be more likely that we see Hill get the nod as the starter with Winston coming off the bench, much like Hill has for the last few years.
As for San Francisco, there will always be a push to see the flashy new rookie get on the field. But with the success that the Kansas City Chiefs have had with Patrick Mahomes (who sat as a rookie), 49ers fans may find it easier to accept seeing Lance sit for a year.
That is, as long as Jimmy Garoppolo plays well and stays healthy.
With the Bears, it is not hard to see Dalton or Fields as the starter in Week One. If the Bears did indeed promise Dalton he would be the starter, it would be nice if they kept that promise. But if Fields can help them win from the start, the Bears will probably view winning as more important.
That being said, Dalton is more likely to lose the job as the season goes on. Take him to start in Week One.