A new year brings new opportunities, and the betting market looks ripe and ready to be picked, beginning with a boatload of major sports events taking place in January 2021.
Following its winter break, the UFC returns this month and will see superstar Conor McGregor make his long-awaited comeback, while the NFL playoffs are also set to get underway.
Not only that, but the 2020-21 NHL season will also finally get its start, while the golf season resumes with some of the biggest names ready to take part in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Read on to find out which value bets and picks hold the best chance for big returns in January.
January 2021 Bet Breakdown: NFL Playoffs, NHL Season Start and McGregor UFC Comeback
Conor McGregor will make his return to the UFC octagon this month, one of many sports events likely to attract huge betting attention in January 2021.
The year may have only just begun, but there’s no rest for those bettors targeting major profit, with a selection of key wagers offering significant value between now and February.
The NFL playoffs are one such venture now that the 2020 regular season has reached its climax, while the long-awaited beginning of the NHL season offers sports gamblers a new avenue to explore.
Europe’s soccer season also trundles on with certain contenders in better shape than others, while golf returns at the elite level as the Sentry Tournament of Champions gets underway.
Read our picks for the best-value bets on the table throughout the month of January 2021, containing odds from safe, respected sportsbooks offered in legal gambling states.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win NFC Championship (+400) – Odds via Sugarhouse NJ
- Buffalo Bills Win AFC Championship (+350) – Odds via Sugarhouse NJ
- Conor McGregor Beats Dustin Poirier by Decision (+600) – Odds via William Hill NJ
- Max Holloway Beats Calvin Kattar on Fight Island (-170) – Odds via William Hill NJ
- NHL 2021 Opening Night Parlay (+515) – Odds via Borgata NJ
- Dustin Johnson Wins Sentry Tournament of Champions (+600) – Odds via Borgata NJ
- Atletico Madrid Win La Liga, Liverpool Retain Premier League (+352) – Odds via Unibet NJ
- AC Milan Win Serie A, Lille Take Top 4 in Ligue 1 (+620) – Odds via Unibet NJ
- India Take 3rd Test in Australia Tour (+275) – Odds via Borgata NJ
- Ronnie O’Sullivan Clinches 8th Snooker Masters Crown (+450) – Odds via Betrivers PA
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win NFC Championship (+400)
The NFL bracket is set ahead of the post-season kick-off this Saturday (Jan. 9), and there’s a very real chance we’ll see Tom Brady contest the NFC Championship for the first time in his career.
To do so, the fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers must make their way past No. 4 Washington and the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, but bigger surprises have happened than a Brady-led offense reaching the conference decider.
Someone should tell Sugarhouse, who have the Bucs listed at +400 to be crowned NFC champions behind Green Bay (+165) and the New Orleans Saints (+275). The issue for both those teams is that Brady is still gathering momentum, having just amassed the fifth-highest regular-season passing yardage total of his 20-year career:
"Tom Brady just finished a season where his team won 11 games, he threw for 4,633 yds & 40 TDs. In most NFL seasons he'd be the MVP. Guess what? He's playing better now, entering the playoffs, than he has all year."-@PSchrags on @TomBrady's great first season with the @Buccaneers pic.twitter.com/C3lKiGfw0M— GMFB (@gmfb) January 4, 2021
Washington only just squeaked into the playoffs by topping a largely weak NFC East, and Tampa Bay were the first team this season to beat the Packers when they clashed in Week 6.
If they can do the double over Aaron Rodgers & Co., there’s little reason to believe Brady’s Bucs can’t get the better of whomever makes the NFC Championship game. The Saints present arguably the biggest threat considering they confounded Tampa Bay twice this season, but time to learn and integrate with his new team will have paid dividends for Brady in the interim.
Odds via Sugarhouse NJ
Buffalo Bills Win AFC Championship (+350)
There’s no more dominant force in football right now than the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished this regular season with a league-high 14 wins to take home advantage in the division playoff. But the Buffalo Bills are a sleeping giant even the reigning Super Bowl champions must be wary of.
Support is still fully behind Kansas City to defend the AFC Championship as -115 favorites with Sugarhouse, but right behind them is a more appealing pick in the +350 Bills.
Coming off the back of six straight wins and having capped the regular season with a monstrous 56-26 slaying of the Miami Dolphins, Sean McDermott’s side look like one of the form teams in the league at present:
Stefon Diggs somehow failed to score any of those 56 points against Miami, but Buffalo’s star receiver nonetheless leads the NFL this year in multiple fields:
The seventh-seeded Indianapolis Colts are appetising enough as a wild card opponent. Things will naturally get tougher against either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Cleveland Browns, but neither should be considered outside the Bills’s range.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs should make it back to defend the conference crown, but Josh Allen’s Buffalo can topple the reigning champions with a little luck and a lot of what they’ve shown over the past month.
Odds via Sugarhouse NJ
Conor McGregor Beats Dustin Poirier by Decision (+600)
Certainly the biggest combat sports event of January 2021 will be UFC 257 (Jan. 23), where Conor McGregor for just the second time since November 2018 in a rematch opposite Dustin Poirier.
Despite his time away from the cage, McGregor (22-4) is clearly fancied to collect his 23rd career victory, valued as -270 moneyline favorite at William Hill NJ. Poirier (26-6-1NC)—the +220 underdog—has improved greatly since he lost to McGregor and fought a lot of the same opponents, even losing via submission to former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, just as McGregor did.
More than six years have passed since the pair first met at UFC 178 when McGregor cut “The Diamond” down to size with a first-round knockout:
There’s at least a shot at the vacant lightweight belt for whomever wins this matchup, but it seems unlikely Poirier has made the necessary improvements to turn the tide altogether. That being said, it can’t be denied that the Louisiana native is a better, less naive fighter than the first time these two fought, and +600 odds for “The Notorious” to win by decision could be made to look well overpriced.
McGregor devastated Donald Cerrone in the first round when he last fought in January 2020, but Poirier is in his prime at 31 and has the advantage of being able to learn from that experience. The frontrunner is one of only two people to knock Poirier out (the other being Michael Johnson), and it’s highly likely this bout stays standing almost throughout.
Decision wins are far from a McGregor’s specialty considering Nate Diaz and Max Holloway—two notoriously tough names—are the only fighters to make it to a final bell against him. Poirier has the potential to join that list and will be motivated to give a better account of his abilities this time, though coming up with the win seems a stretch too far.
Odds via William Hill NJ
Max Holloway Beats Calvin Kattar on Fight Island (-165)
One week before Conor McGregor makes his UFC comeback, former opponent Max Holloway will look to end a most uncharacteristic two-loss skid when he faces Calvin Kattar on January 16.
The UFC has not done Hollloway (21-6) any favors attempting to lift the star back onto winning ground, handing him one of the most exciting forces rising up their ranks in Kattar (22-4).
New Jersey customers can back “Blessed” as the -165 favorite with William Hill, though odds have trickled down in favor of his opponent, Kattar, edging closer to the fight. That suggests growing support that “The Boston Finisher” is capable of beating the former featherweight champion, who lost two close decisions to Alexander Volkanovski over the past 13 months:
Kattar has built a head of steam by winning six of his first eight UFC fights, but the step up to facing Holloway looks a step too far based on his past competition. His knockout potential is the main advantage over Holloway, but this won’t be the first time a power puncher has attempted to batter their way past “Blessed” to no avail.
Odds via William Hill NJ
NHL 2021 Opening Night Parlay (+515)
Better late than never, the 2020-21 National Hockey League season starts on Wednesday, January 13, and we’ve compiled a moneyline treble to tickle the tastebuds and celebrate the date.
Three games will take place on opening night when the Toronto Maple Leafs hosts the Montreal Canadiens, the Edmonton Oilers face the Vancouver Canucks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Each home team is the slight favorite in their respective fixture—the Maple Leafs, Oilers and the Flyers—but combining those odds with Borgata NJ yields a much more encouraging +515 return.
None of the aforementioned trio figured in the first 13 picks of the 2020 NHL Draft. Thankfully, neither did any of their respective their opponents, although there was a lot of business that took place this off-season through transactions.
The importance of home advantage has been diluted in the post-COVID world, but squad talent alone looks like it could be enough for a winning (and lucrative) start to the new NHL campaign.
Odds via Borgata NJ
Dustin Johnson Wins Sentry Tournament of Champions (+600)
The PGA Tour resumes on January 6 when the Sentry Tournament of Champions will bring together a world-class field for the first competition of 2021.
Almost 50 PGA Tour players have committed to featuring at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii, this week, but it’s no surprise Dustin Johnson returns as +600 favorite, according to Borgata.
“DJ” is already the 2020-21 PGA Tour leader in both ranking and winnings, with all eyes on the American this year as he looks to go back-to-back. Johnson wrapped up the last PGA Tour as champion after he won the 2020 Tour Championship in September, following that up with triumph at the 2020 Masters Tournament in November:
In short, there are few on the circuit who can contend with Johnson when at his best, and Tiger Woods (82 wins) is the only under-50 player who has won more PGA Tour events. The likes of Justin Thomas (+700) and Jon Rahm (+750) come close in the odds, but no candidate holds the same reliability as Johnson looks to join an elite club by winning a third Tournament of Champions.
Odds via Borgata NJ
Atletico Madrid Win La Liga, Liverpool Retain Premier League (+352)
Most major European domestic seasons won’t conclude until May, but January may be the last time Atletico Madrid and Liverpool present such stark value as title-winners.
Both teams lead their respective leagues at the time of writing, with Atletico in particular superbly placed to end the Spanish duopoly of rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. Diego Simeone’s side sit two points clear at the top of La Liga despite having at least two games in hand over most of the competition, most recently displaying their title credentials in a dramatic 2-1 win at Alaves:
HIGHLIGHTS | @LuisSuarez9 and @joaofelix70 combine as @atletienglish win late on… 💯— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) January 3, 2021
📺 #AlavesAtleti pic.twitter.com/vGr5XKYpe2
They’re -139 moneyline favorites with Unibet NJ to go on and win just their third top-flight trophy in 25 years, having last shocked the world by clinching the 2013-14 crown, again under Simeone.
Liverpool are less certain as +163 contenders for the Premier League despite the fact they ended 2020 at the summit. Manchester City are the top pick at +120 despite being several places off the pace, and it’s worth noting the Reds have done this well while having a stack of injuries to contend with.
Jurgen Klopp will in time be able to call upon his full assortment of playing staff, at which point it’s bad news for anyone else eyeing a title challenge. The German coach went back-to-back as Borussia Dortmund boss when he ended their wait for a Bundesliga title, and he’s on the verge of the same feat with the Merseysiders.
Atletico have been fortunate to see Real and Barca each experience considerable bumps this season, though they look only too happy to take advantage, leaning heavily on one of the best defenses in Europe.
Alone their outright winner odds may not amount to much, but those who think their routes can be sustained promise to capitalise on a +352 double price that looks too good to miss.
Odds via Unibet NJ
AC Milan Win Serie A, Lille Take Top 4 in Ligue 1 (+620)
Elsewhere in Europe, Serie A leaders AC Milan continue to appeal as the pick for this season’s Scudetto, aided by a Lille team that could yet challenge for the crown in Ligue 1.
The Rossoneri can afford to look back upon 2020 as a year of improvement at the San Siro, and the +300 odds available with Unibet for them to win Italy’s top flight seem appealing enough on their own.
However, that price can be improved in a double if we also back Lille to finish fourth or higher in Ligue 1—listed at -125—a near-certainty given they ended 2020 joint-first and eight points clear of fifth place.
It would take an almighty collapse on their part to fall short of fourth. Lille lost only one league match during the first half of the season (to Brest in November) and drew 0-0 against Paris Saint-Germain when the two teams met in December.
Milan’s mission to first in Italy is a lot more precarious, though they really underlined their ability after beginning 2021 by beating Benevento 2-0 despite having Sandro Tonali sent off after 33 minutes.
Ten years after last winning Serie A, Milan are a risky bet to end the drought in 2021, but there’s lots to like about the +620 double given Lille look a shoo-in for their side of the bargain.
Odds via Unibet NJ
India Take 3rd Test in Australia Tour (+275)
In the 100th Test match to take place between these two international institutes of cricket, India battled back to level their series at one game apiece over the Christmas period. Now, the tourists travel to Sydney Cricket Ground as +275 underdogs to take the lead, per Borgata NJ, having matched their hosts’ achievement in the opener after winning by a margin of eight wickets.
Australia may have home advantage, but there’s plenty to like about an India squad that runs so deep with talent and is handing valuable experience to those who could be future leaders.
Fast bowler Umesh Yadav is among the injury absences for India, although the team recently received good news after failing to record any new coronavirus cases in the latest batch of tests:
All members of Indian cricket team and support staff in Australia have returned negative in latest COVID-19 tests on Jan 3: BCCI— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) January 4, 2021
India have drawn more Test matches (six) at Sydney Cricket Ground than they’ve lost (five), although it’s been more than 40 years since their only Test victory on this ground (1978). There is no better time to stage a surprise of this magnitude and build on their momentum from Melbourne, with the Third Test action set to get underway January 7.
Odds via Borgata NJ
Ronnie O’Sullivan Clinches 8th Snooker Masters Crown (+450)
One of the most interesting sports personas you may have never heard of, Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to one of the biggest stages in Snooker this month hoping to extend his reign as the most successful British player of all time.
Despite O’Sullivan’s reputation as very arguably the best snooker player of all time, he’s only third-favorite to win the 2021 Masters, which runs from January 10 until January 17. The current world champion should look very appealing to punters at +450 moneyline odds, according to Betrivers Pennsylvania, falling behind +225 favorite Judd Trump and Neil Robertson at +400.
A great portion of O’Sullivan’s allure is his controversial attitude. “The Rocket” chose to miss last year’s Masters—just his second absence in the tournament since 1993—but had made it to four finals in the six years previous (winning three).
Simple as it sounds, O’Sullivan is still capable of winning any competition if he’s motivated enough, and here we back a reinvigorated Ronnie to clinch a record-extending eighth Masters title.
Odds via Betrivers PA
Jan 2021 Best Bets
- January 2021 Bet Breakdown: NFL Playoffs, NHL Season Start and McGregor UFC Comeback
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win NFC Championship (+400)
- Buffalo Bills Win AFC Championship (+350)
- Conor McGregor Beats Dustin Poirier by Decision (+600)
- Max Holloway Beats Calvin Kattar on Fight Island (-165)
- NHL 2021 Opening Night Parlay (+515)
- Dustin Johnson Wins Sentry Tournament of Champions (+600)
- Atletico Madrid Win La Liga, Liverpool Retain Premier League (+352)
- AC Milan Win Serie A, Lille Take Top 4 in Ligue 1 (+620)
- India Take 3rd Test in Australia Tour (+275)
- Ronnie O’Sullivan Clinches 8th Snooker Masters Crown (+450)