The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves on Saturday begin the 2021 National League Championship Series. In this rematch of the 2020 NLCS, which the Dodgers won in seven games, the winner will advance to the World Series to face either the Astros or Red Sox.
The Dodgers made it to this point by edging the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game and then eking out a win over the arch-rival Giants in the best-of-five NLDS. The Braves, meantime, topped the Brewers in four games in their NLDS.
L.A. comes into this one as the heavy favorites. After all, they won 106 games during the regular season, while the Braves managed just 88 while playing in a substantially weaker division. True, the Dodgers will be without Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw for the NLCS, but their impressive roster depth papers over those losses better than you might think. You won't be surprised to learn that our MLB staff agrees with that consensus expectation.
Speaking of which, below you can find picks for this series from CBS Sports' four MLB scribes. Do note that accuracy is not guaranteed.
2021 NLCS staff picks
R.J. Anderson: No disrespect to the Braves -- who have to feel good about reaching this point considering the injuries to Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuña Jr. -- but the Dodgers are just the better team on paper. Weird stuff can happen in the playoffs, so maybe the Braves find a way to overcome the odds. Probabilistically, though, I'll go with L.A. to reach its fourth World Series in five tries. PICK: Dodgers in six; NLCS MVP: Trea Turner.
Mike Axisa: The Braves are better than I gave them credit for, though the middle of their pitching staff worries me, and there are a few more soft landing spots in their lineup than I would like. The Dodgers are just a great all-around team, even without Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw, and I think their overall advantage in star power and pitching depth decides the series. It's too bad Ronald Acuna Jr. won't be available this series. He would've tipped the scales more toward Atlanta. PICK: Dodgers in four; NLCS MVP: Corey Seager.
Dayn Perry: I see no reason to complicate this. The Dodgers are the superior team by a significant margin -- even without Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw. PICK: Dodgers in six; NLCS MVP: Mookie Betts.
Matt Snyder: The Dodgers are leaps and bounds better. While the athletic world narrative loves to talk about stuff like a hangover effect from the Dodgers just outlasting the Giants in an epic NLDS between two of the best regular-season teams baseball has ever seen, the Dodgers are immune from such effects. They are the defending champions who just went through seven years of disappointment before that title. That plus the superior talent means this won't be much of a series. PICK: Dodgers in five; NLCS MVP: Cody Bellinger.