AFC Conference Winner
AFC Conference Odds and Futures Preview
Anything can happen in the AFC playoffs, but it sure looks like one half of the Super Bowl LV matchup is already somewhat set in stone. The Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens seem to be destined for an AFC Championship Game for the right to go to Tampa for the Big Game next February. At least that’s what the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook are telling us.
The Chiefs and Ravens are the only teams lined in single digits, as the New England Patriots lost Tom Brady and the rest of the teams in the AFC range from good to potentially great to probably awful. Teams like the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, and Jacksonville Jaguars face long odds to have a winning record, let alone make the playoffs and get past the AFC’s elites.
There will be an extra team in the playoffs in each conference this season with the expansion to 14 playoff teams. That only means one bye week to go around, but the bye week didn’t seem to help the Ravens last season when they fell to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. We’ll see if the Ravens or the Chiefs enjoy an idle Wild Card Weekend, but the odds tell us that it will probably be one of those two teams.
There is a lot of offseason left to go, but most of the parts are already in place for these teams. The Patriots are likely to upgrade their quarterback situation at some point and that could help move their line down a little bit, but the Patriots and the Buffalo Bills have similar win totals, so it stands to reason that those two teams would be lined in the same area.
A pessimistic outlook for the Houston Texans has turned the AFC South into what appears to be a two-horse race with the Indianapolis Colts and the Titans lined in the same range as well. So, too, are the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, who could be neck-and-neck in the race to play second fiddle to the Ravens in the AFC North.
Likewise, the teams from the AFC West that do not reside in Kansas City are all hoping to make it in as Wild Cards and make a little noise. The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers are being given a higher chance than the Las Vegas Raiders, who will open up brand new Allegiant Stadium just west of the Las Vegas Strip once the season gets underway.
A top-heavy AFC is nothing new, as the Patriots have often been the team with really short odds year in and year out, but it does look as though the Chiefs and the Ravens have far fewer questions than the rest of the teams in the conference. The additional playoff spot has depressed some of the mid-range prices a little bit, but there are still some values to be had.
Keep in mind that picking the AFC winner is the jackpot. The goal of any futures bet is to have the opportunity to lock in some profit. Even though the Ravens and Chiefs look like they will duke it out for the right to go to Super Bowl LV, a +1400 or a +1800 ticket can be really valuable if that team simply makes it into the playoffs. You can hedge out and guarantee yourself a few units of profit as long as you pick a playoff team.
With the extra playoff spot, you essentially have five teams out of 14 to pick from, excluding the Ravens and Chiefs, whose prices are pretty low for locking up your money for several months. Really, when you think about it, you can, in all likelihood, exclude the Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, and Jaguars.
That leaves five teams out of 10 with legitimate chances to either win their division or secure a Wild Card berth. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to hedge against those futures prices in the playoffs and lock in some profit.
Let’s say that you take the Browns at +1800. With the #1 seed receiving a bye, the Wild Card Round will be #2 vs. #7, #3 vs. #6, and #4 vs. #5. If the Browns are the #5 seed, they’ll be on the road, but against the “weakest” of the division winners. That means that the home team might only be -3 or -3.5. Holding +1800, if you don’t like the matchup for the Browns, you can bet something like $540 to win $300 on the Titans or the Colts or whichever team the Browns are facing.
This is just one example. Things will vary as we get to the playoffs. But, you could have $50 on the Browns at +1800 to win $900 and decide to bet $360 to win $200 on the Colts or Titans and make a $150 profit.
That is the goal of a futures bet. To have a decision to hedge or let it ride because your bet made the playoffs. If you want to take a favorite and hope that they win, that is another approach that you can take.
Keep an eye on the futures odds in the lead-up to the season because the odds are always changing and you want to try to get the best odds that you can.
NFC Conference Winner
NFC Conference Odds and Futures Preview
What a difference a year makes. Now that they have a Hall of Fame quarterback, the “Tompa” Bay Buccaneers find themselves lined among the NFC’s best with the chance at hosting the Super Bowl. The coincidental nature of Tom Brady signing with the Buccaneers just before Raymond James Stadium hosts the Super Bowl is not really lost on anybody as we look ahead to the 2020 season.
The Buccaneers could still have quite an uphill climb, as the New Orleans Saints still reside in the NFC South and are also listed among the short prices. The reigning NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers also look strong again per the odds and per common sense.
The NFC East is also lined with a heavy helping of respect with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles both sitting on single-digit prices to win the conference crown. That is more of a byproduct of the strength of the division. With seven playoff berths available, an extra Wild Card team will be added to the mix. Given that the Cowboys and Eagles have two games each against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, the expectation is that the two top dogs in the division will use those games as a springboard to the postseason.
We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out, but the NFC East and the NFC West look like the only divisions set in stone at this point, in the sense that we know the 49ers will grab one of the seven playoff berths and the better team between the Cowboys and the Eagles will grab another.
That kind of thought process has to be applied to the betting odds. Even though the Cowboys and Eagles could be considered longer shots to win the NFC than they are actually lined, the fact that the playoffs are so likely means that the risk managers and bookmakers need to protect against that. After all, the winner of the NFC East will be guaranteed a home playoff game.
We can all agree that the love for the Buccaneers has gone too far. Even with Brady, the return of Rob Gronkowski, and some of their other personnel, the Saints should probably still be considered the class of the NFC South. However, putting too much opinion into bookmaking is irresponsible. The fact of the matter is that Buccaneers money has been hot and heavy and prices have had to be adjusted to account for that.
There are five teams with odds in single digits in the NFC and only two in the AFC, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens very clearly the two lowest prices. That makes value hunting a little bit more difficult in the NFC. Remember, seven teams will make the playoffs this season, so four division winners and three Wild Card teams.
With the Carolina Panthers and then the Redskins and Giants extremely unlikely to make the playoffs, we can start whittling down the list a little bit to find some good betting opportunities. The value is also gone on Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers could very well go on a run and win the NFC, but you are getting the worst of it at this point because the odds were so much higher previously.
Realistically, the 49ers have some value at their price point because they are such an overwhelming favorite to win the division. The biggest step with any futures bet is getting your team to the playoffs. The higher the probability of winning the division, the more enticing that futures bet looks. As far as NFC teams, the 49ers are the only ones all but assured of winning the division.
In the NFC North, either the Green Bay Packers or the Minnesota Vikings could win. We’ve already considered the NFC South and the NFC East, which also appear to be two-team races, though the Atlanta Falcons could be a surprise contender in the South.
With two teams likely to be in the race over the course of the season in those three divisions and three Wild Card spots, you may not have to worry about the extra layer of picking the division winner. A team like the Vikings could finish second to the Packers and still be plenty good enough to go on the road and knock off a division winner in the Wild Card Round, much like what we saw last season.
A creative approach to futures betting can really enhance your bottom line. The primary goal for a futures bet is to pick a team that will go to the playoffs. At that point, you have options to hedge or let your bet ride and see how it goes. The bigger the odds, the more hedging opportunity you will have. The smaller the odds, the deeper you need that team to go before you start thinking about a hedging opportunity.
Keep checking back with us here at ATS to see how the odds are moving because every dollar matters with futures, especially when you start to plot out a hedging strategy come playoff time.