For the second straight season, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves will meet in the National League Championship Series. One year after L.A. needed seven games to eliminate Atlanta, the defending champs are expected to have an easier time in making it back to the World Series.

The Dodgers are heavy betting favorites over the Braves in the 2021 NLCS. Los Angeles has -225 odds to win the series at FanDuel Sportsbook. Atlanta is a +186 underdog one day before the series begins.

At +340, a Dodgers’ series victory in five games is considered the most likely scenario, according to the latest odds. Los Angeles in six comes in at +360, followed by the Dodgers in seven at +500.

The Braves have +550 odds to win the series in seven games and +700 odds to beat L.A. in six games.

It’s easy to see why the odds are titled so much in Los Angeles’ favor. The Dodgers weren’t simply the better team in the regular season; it wasn’t even close.

With a 106-56 record, the Dodgers finished 17.5 games ahead of the Braves in the overall NL standings. Los Angeles led the NL in both ERA and runs scored. Atlanta ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the two categories.

The NLCS starts less than 48 hours after the Dodgers held off the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in Game 5 of their NLDS matchup. San Francisco was one game better than Los Angeles for the best record in all of baseball.

Atlanta upset the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS, winning the series in four games. The Braves’ pitching staff led the way with a 1.54 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. Atlanta’s .697 OPS is better than that of any NL team in this year’s postseason.

There are reasons for the Braves to feel good about their chances of pulling off an upset. Atlanta nearly did it last year when Los Angeles won an even higher percentage of its games during its World Series run. The Braves took a 3-1 series lead before losing three straight games, including Game 6 and Game 7 by a total of three runs.

The 2020 NLCS was played at a neutral site because of the pandemic. This time around, Atlanta has home-field advantage over Los Angeles. Including the playoffs, the Braves are 48-35 at home. In the regular season, the Dodgers were 10 games worse on the road compared to their games at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers were 4-2 against the Braves in the regular season. Both of Atlanta's wins came at home.

Atlanta has won 14 of its last 17 games. The Braves were below .500 in early August and have since turned their season around. 

If Atlanta reaches the Fall Classic, most of the credit will likely go to the team’s starting rotation, which pitched to a 1.77 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 20.1 innings against Milwaukee. Charlie Morton has earned the reputation as a big-game pitcher, while Ian Anderson has allowed just two runs in 23.2 career playoff innings. Max Fried was the Braves’ top starter in the regular season with a 3.04 ERA, one season after finishing fifth in the NL Cy Young race.

The Dodgers’ lineup presents a much more difficult challenge than the Brewers’ hitters. Former MVP Cody Bellinger seems to have found his swing following a brutal regular season. Mookie Betts is scorching hot with a .458 average in six playoff games. 

Despite getting the save in Thursday’s NLCS clincher, Max Scherzer is still on track to start Game 1 Saturday in Atlanta. The three-time Cy Young winner pitched six shutout innings against the Braves on Sept. 1. Scherzer has surrendered two runs in 12.1 playoff innings on the heels of another Cy Young-caliber campaign.

The Braves only scored one run off Walker Buehler in 11 innings during the 2020 NLCS. Buehler has a 1.60 ERA in his last 60 playoff innings, holding opponents to no more than one run in nine of his last 11 postseason starts. 

Julio Urias has a 2.00 ERA in nine playoff innings this October. The 20-game winner has surrendered three total runs in his last four outings. Urias went 2-0 against the Braves in the regular season, giving up eight hits and three runs in 11 innings.

As the MLB favorites all season long, Los Angeles has met expectations. The Dodgers exceeded their projected win total, and they’ve already defeated their biggest challenger in the NL.

Atlanta won’t be an easy out, but Los Angeles should take care of business and make a fourth trip to the World Series in the last five years.

Series Prediction: Los Angeles in six 

NLCS Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 16, Dodgers at Braves, 8:07 p.m. EDT (TBS)

Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 17, Dodgers at Braves, 7:37 p.m. EDT (TBS)

Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 19, Braves at Dodgers, TBA (TBS)

Game 4: Wednesday, Oct. 20, Braves at Dodgers, TBA (TBS)

Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 21, Braves at Dodgers, TBA* (TBS)

Game 6: Saturday, Oct. 23, Dodgers at Braves, TBA* (TBS)

Game 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Dodgers at Braves, TBA* (TBS)

*If necessary

Max Scherzer Los Angeles Dodgers Max Scherzer #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as he receives the visit from Mark Prior #99, Trea Turner #6 and Will Smith #16 after an error from Corey Seager #5, allowing Wil Myers #5 of the San Diego Padres to score to tie the game 5-5, during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images