AFC East Division Winner
AFC East Division Odds and Futures Preview
The likelihood of a changing of the guard in the AFC East is higher than it has been in quite some time. From 2001-19, the New England Patriots won the division in all but two seasons. The 2002 season, which was Tom Brady’s second season, and the 2008 season. Brady tore his ACL that year and Matt Cassel still led the Patriots to an 11-5 record.
With Brady now in “Tompa Bay” with the Buccaneers, the Patriots are a smaller favorite than they have been in a very long time to win the division. The key thing to remember here is that the Patriots are still favored to win the AFC East at DraftKings Sportsbook, even though it looks like Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham will share reps unless the Patriots acquire Cam Newton.
What does that say about the Buffalo Bills? The Bills are the second choice to win the division. Of course, that could change as the offseason goes along, since many people are operating under the pretense that the Patriots do some sort of upgrade at the QB position. If they don’t, you have to like the Bills’ chances with Josh Allen’s weapons and one of the league’s top defenses.
Chaos could rule the roost in the AFC East. Even though there are not a lot of believers out there in either the Miami Dolphins or the New York Jets, their odds are still among the shortest for teams projected to finish well outside of the playoffs.
When looking at the odds, you want to evaluate the prices and what they mean to you. Odds such as this for the AFC East, where the Patriots are still favored, even though New England and Buffalo have similar season win totals, do suggest that some people may have prematurely written off the Patriots.
They also, perhaps most importantly, suggest some hesitance to believe in what the Bills have done and what they are building. If they can’t win the AFC East now, when can they do it? Everything seems to be falling in place for Buffalo. Those lingering questions about Allen appear to be a lot to overlook, which is why New England is still considered the most likely team to secure that automatic berth into the playoffs.
Also, the relatively short prices for potential doormats in the Dolphins and Jets speak to the lack of confidence in both the Patriots and the Bills. Let’s be honest, it would be tough to find a price point that would force your hand into betting the Dolphins or Jets, no matter how much you worry about the New England offense or the Buffalo passing game, but those odds are hardly outlandish.
Stay plugged in with us here at ATS because these division odds are going to move around. The NFL schedule will shed some more light on situational spots and other factors that could decide the division. Further player movement or more clarity regarding the dates and times for the schedule will also contribute to some odds movement.
For now, it still looks like New England’s division, but the plus money price as opposed to the usual -400 or -500 speaks volumes about where Bill Belichick’s team currently stands.
AFC South Division Winner
AFC South Division Odds and Futures Preview
Some divisions in the NFL project to be more interesting than others for the 2020 season. The South Division could very well be at the top of that list for the AFC. In the AFC South, the back-to-back reigning champion Houston Texans have fallen out of favor in the court of public opinion and actually find themselves listed as the third choice at DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Tennessee Titans, who bested the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, are also not the favorites, but that could very well change. It is the Indianapolis Colts that find themselves favorites with new quarterback Philip Rivers and a much improved offensive line.
Realistically speaking, the Texans hate has been around for a while, as opinions of Bill O’Brien are about as sour as it gets. Maybe the loss of DeAndre Hopkins and the natural regression that has been building for the last two seasons is enough to take the Texans down a peg or two in the AFC South. Bettors seem to feel that way and bookmakers agree with that sentiment.
The Jacksonville Jaguars opted not to trade up and address the quarterback position in the NFL Draft and many believe that they have a great shot to be in Tank for Trevor mode to take Clemson’s quarterback with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
That leaves us with the Colts and the Titans and you can make an extremely strong case for both. Neither case is airtight, but the two teams have high floors and high upsides going into the upcoming campaign.
If Rivers is the difference maker for the Colts, he joins an offense that had a 1,000-yard rusher in Marlon Mack and has some dynamic skill players when healthy. He also joins a team that has all of the ingredients for a great defense, but injuries have capped the ceiling on that side of the ball.
There is a strong connection between offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and Rivers, as the two were together with the Chargers. Frank Reich’s offense pairs well with Rivers’s skill set, so long as the offensive line holds up.
If Ryan Tannehill was the difference maker for the Titans last season, he’ll be the starter for the entire season this time around. Tennessee does have to overcome some losses on the offensive line, but Tannehill was the right captain for the SS Derrick Henry and the development of First Mate AJ Brown. We would also expect the defense to take another step forward with a defensive-minded guy like Mike Vrabel at the helm.
You never want to flip a coin to decide a bet, but the futures for the Colts and the Titans may simply be decided by the injury bug. Houston has to finally fall off after two years of spitting in the face of the devil and two years of abuse for Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars are a non-factor.
That leaves a toss-up situation in a lot of ways with the Colts and Titans. Stay tuned right here at ATS to see how the odds move around over the next several months.
AFC North Division Winner
AFC North Division Odds and Futures Preview
Most of the divisions in the NFL look to be filled with drama during the 2020 season. The AFC North is not among that group. Crazier things have happened and we could see a pretty big upset, but the Baltimore Ravens are one of two division odds-on favorites per DraftKings Sportsbook to be a regular season champion.
The early playoff exit for Baltimore last season has done very little to temper expectations coming into the new campaign. There is also something of a perfect storm element to this whole situation for the Ravens. The Pittsburgh Steelers are welcoming back Ben Roethlisberger after a serious injury and the Cleveland Browns have another new head coach.
For the sake of argument, the Cincinnati Bengals will get a token mention here, but they are in full rebuild mode with first overall pick Joe Burrow at the helm. It’s hard to say anything crazier has happened than a team with the first overall pick going from worst to a division champion, particularly over a team with a pretty high probability to appear in the Super Bowl.
Divisions like this one can be tricky for bettors. They see a minus price, like a -200 or so, and want to try and do the mental gymnastics to pick against that team. Nobody wants to bet chalk in the futures market. However, -200 implies that the Ravens win the division about two out of every three times.
If you were to similar the 2020 season 100 times, would the Ravens win it more than 67 times? If your answer is yes, then you’d have to take a look at their favorite price. If your answer is no, then you can start looking at the Steelers and/or the Browns.
We know that the Ravens have a great shot to win the division and probably should with Lamar Jackson, a remarkably efficient offense, and an excellent defense. For argument’s sake, let’s decide between the Browns and the Steelers. The Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger last season and still played pretty well for the most part. The Browns had most of their pieces and parts in place last season, though Freddie Kitchens didn’t seem to know how to use them.
Enter Kevin Stefanski, who was extremely successful as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. Is he the missing piece for a wildly-talented Browns offense? Baker Mayfield now has Austin Hooper to go along with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and an improved offensive line with Jack Conklin and Tristan Wills.
Can we definitively say that the Steelers are better outside of Roethlisberger’s return? On the other hand, the Steelers seemed to be in a better place than the Browns last season, so Cleveland is playing catch-up with Pittsburgh, which is what the odds suggest.
We’ll just have to see. You can keep it right here at ATS and see how these odds update as we get closer to the season and then throughout the season. Those looking for a higher-risk, higher-reward bet in the AFC North have a decision to make. Those not as worried about the odds may not have a big decision to make.
AFC West Division Winner
AFC West Division Odds and Futures Preview
Long shot bettors have to be intrigued by the AFC West Division. The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are the odds-on favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook to repeat in the division and some believe they can even use that distinction to springboard back into the big game at Raymond James Stadium in February.
The fact of the matter in the AFC West is that the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and Las Vegas Raiders are all getting better. They’re all trying to add weaponry to compete in the arms race that it takes to best the Chiefs. They’re making moves to add speed and skill. They’re making moves to add talent and tenacity.
They just aren’t there yet.
Not a single one of them.
As a result, we’ve got Kansas City lined as a huge favorite. A price in the -400 range for the Chiefs implies that they win the division 80% of the time. Barring a Patrick Mahomes injury, is it really that difficult to make a case for them to win it more often than that? Think about it. If you simmed the season 100 times, do the Chiefs fail to win it at least 80 times?
What does that take? How does that season look? We even saw the Chiefs look pretty confident with Matt Moore at the controls last season and the Kansas City defense peaked late in the year and played some of the best football we’ve seen from that unit in years.
How do the Broncos compete with that? The Broncos, with Drew Lock at quarterback. How do the Chargers compete with that? The Chargers, with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. How do the Raiders compete with that? The Raiders, with Derek Carr at quarterback.
It isn’t just the gap between Mahomes and those three players. The Chiefs are just deeper and more structurally sound across the field. After all, they won the division by five games last season.
All of this is factored into the pricing equation with the odds. We see the Chiefs as a huge favorite, but we also see some very interesting, high-dollar prices on the other three teams. If the Chiefs falter or Mahomes gets hurt, which team is best equipped to make a move and be a surprise?
It is hard for a lot of bettors to take a big-money position like a -400 or something on a division future. Tying up your money to win $1 for every $4 that you bet is a hard thing to do. If you want to bet the AFC West, you either have to bite the bullet or take a big long shot.
Maybe the odds will get more favorable for what you want to bet. The only way to know is to keep it right here at ATS and watch how they move and adjust in the lead-up to the season.
NFC East Division Winner
NFC East Division Odds and Futures Preview
The popular opinion in the NFC will be that all four divisions are two-team races. That is especially true of the NFC East Division per the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook. The Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles are the only ones lined with a realistic hope of winning the division. The New York Giants and the Washington Redskins both picked in the top five of the NFL Draft and could very well do so again next year.
Because of what transpired in the first round of the NFL Draft and over the last few months, the gap seems to have widened a little bit in the court of public opinion between the Cowboys and the Eagles. CeeDee Lamb fell to the Cowboys and it almost felt like a sign, as Dallas was able to address one of its biggest needs going into the Mike McCarthy era.
What was doubly tough about it for Eagles fans and backers is that the top spot on their wish list was also at the WR position. Jalen Reagor was considered a fringe first-round pick. Lamb was not.
The games still have to be played and the Eagles bring a lot of talent to the table. The pick of Jalen Hurts may also be the reason for some pause from bookmakers and bettors. Does that pick say something about Carson Wentz? Is he just an insurance policy for the Eagles or are there short-term and long-term fears about Wentz?
The Cowboys seem to have fewer questions, at least on paper, though both teams have some problem areas on defense that have not yet been addressed or remain a question. That is why you see the odds so close together for those two teams. You can make a case for either one and it would be tough to argue against. The fact that you can make a stronger case for one team over another is what will be your basis for a bet.
The harsh reality for the Giants and the Redskins is that they have a lot of work to do. The odds reflect that and, well, common sense kind of reflects that, too. The Giants look more likely to improve with Daniel Jones in Year 2 and some solid signings in free agency. The Redskins still have to find out what Dwayne Haskins is capable of and also have to surround Chase Young with some better personnel on defense.
Winning a division is about consistency. For the most part, you have to win more games than you lose and that takes a certain level of playing well over a long period of time. Maybe 9-7 is good enough again in the NFC East, but six of the other seven division winners won at least 12 games. That is why ceiling is so important when handicapping division races.
If your belief is that the Cowboys have a higher ceiling, then Dallas is your pick. If your belief is that the Eagles have a higher ceiling, Philadelphia is your pick. There really isn’t that much more to it here in the NFC East because 50% of the betting options are eliminated before you even start a deep dive.
Odds will be moving for both the Eagles and the Cowboys as the season approaches, so keep it right here at ATS and follow along with the latest.
NFC South Division Winner
NFC South Division Odds and Futures Preview
We’ll have to see if the sportsbooks are plundering money on the Buccaneers bets or not, but the Tampa Bay and Tom Brady steam has been the swiftest moving current of the NFL offseason betting market. That includes DraftKings Sportsbook.
The New Orleans Saints may have lost during the Wild Card Weekend last postseason, but bettors seem to have forgotten that they finished six games better than the Buccaneers last season and had the second-highest point differential in the NFC. Bettors have been pouring money into the “Tompa” Bay coffers ever since Brady opted to sign with the Buccaneers. Further waves of investment hit when Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from beach parties on Instagram to return to the NFL and when Tristan Wirfs fell into the Bucs’ range for the NFL Draft.
You’d probably have a better chance at finding Jimmy Hoffa than a bet on the Atlanta Falcons or the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South. This is one of many two-team races in the NFC that we’ll be closely following here at ATS.
There are questions about Drew Brees in the Big Easy. There are questions about how he looked late in the season, even though his throwing arm got a multi-week vacation due to a hand injury early in the 2019 campaign. The Saints have replaced Teddy Bridgewater with Jameis Winston and still have most of the core in tact from last season, with the exception of AJ Klein on defense.
Yet bettors are acting like they know something about how the season will play out with all of the Tampa Bay money. Ironically, the Buccaneers were going to be a popular team to bet had they held on to Winston, as he threw the most pick-sixes in the NFL and the Buccaneers still finished with a positive point differential in spite of all the turnovers. They were a positive regression candidate anyway.
With Brady in the mix, the value and equity in betting Tampa Bay is basically gone, but that hasn’t stopped bookmakers from having to adjust the price. Perhaps years of playoff failures have also soured opinions of the Saints.
You have to wonder if the Falcons get some love at any point. Last year’s finish to the season included wins over the Saints and the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers on the road. The Falcons also rallied to save Dan Quinn’s job and Matt Ryan had another fine season. Brees and Brady are the elder statesmen of the division, but Ryan is still entrenched in the prime of his career.
We know that the Panthers, who are among the teams with the longest odds to win their respective division, won’t get any action. Bettors are likely to look at the short prices for the Saints and Buccaneers and want more bang for their buck. The only option at that point is the Falcons, who would have a tall mountain to climb.
Stay plugged in here at ATS to see updated division futures odds for the NFC South and all of the divisions.
NFC North Division Winner
NFC North Division Odds and Futures Preview
As a general rule, the NFL Draft is supposed to help teams. They are supposed to take players that can help this year or in the near future at positions of need or positions that a team wants to bolster.
It is fair to say that we probably prematurely evaluate drafts because we don’t know what these kids are going to become. A can’t-miss prospect could end up being a huge miss. A player passed on 234 times just might be the next superstar at his respective position. We don’t really know.
What we do know about the Green Bay Packers is that they have not helped themselves. The NFC North odds have flipped as far as the division goes, with the Minnesota Vikings now lined as a favorite at a lot of places, including DraftKings Sportsbook because of the Jordan Love pick.
There are concerns about every team in the NFC North. The Vikings have replaced Stefon Diggs with Justin Jefferson, but also experienced a lot of losses on the defensive side of the ball and bid adieu to offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. The Packers have an alienated quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and didn’t address any of their needs as something of a misleading 13-3 team last season.
Even though those two teams are the favorites in the division, the Chicago Bears are still lurking at a reasonable price with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles vying for reps. The Detroit Lions have the lowest odds of any projected last-place team because of the openness of the division and because of some of their transactions. Not to mention, they should get Matthew Stafford back behind center.
While the NFC North race isn’t as exciting as the NFC East or the NFC South, the fact that all four teams are being given a puncher’s chance or better is an upgrade to what we see across the other seven divisions. The ceiling for the eventual division winner seems to be lower than that of the other teams in the conference, but getting into the playoffs is the biggest part of the battle.
As the offseason goes along, we’ll continue to update the odds right here at ATS. The Love pick and the lack of help for Rodgers have had a big impact on the NFC North betting picture, but there are likely to be a lot of people that are cautious about the Vikings with their losses and the general anxiety about Kirk Cousins.
The NFC North is an example of how public perception can alter a betting market. The Packers, who swept the Vikings last season en route to winning the division, went from favorite to second favorite because of something that didn’t even happen on the field and something that may have absolutely no consequence on 2020.
That is something to keep in mind as you further your betting career and also something to keep in mind with any futures market that you sink your teeth into because it happens every single year in every single sport.
NFC West Division Winner
NFC West Division Odds and Futures Preview
The odds would suggest that the NFC West is one of the most balanced divisions in the NFL. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, the San Francisco 49ers are a clear-cut favorite, but there is hope out there for the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, and the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers, of course, are the reigning NFC champs and were also the clear class of the conference last season. The Seahawks won 11 games and went to the playoffs as the top Wild Card team, but a +7 point differential does suggest that regression is coming. Despite that, the presence of Russell Wilson and a reputation for being a solid regular season squad has the Seahawks listed as the second favorites.
The Los Angeles Rams finished with a winning record last season, but the public perception has not been kind to the Rams. Jared Goff is not held in high regard. The Rams have had several losses on defense and also said goodbye to Todd Gurley, though the latter may be addition by subtraction.
Then there are the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray’s rookie season was a success, as he got to go through some on-the-job training and actually played really well for a first-year quarterback all things considered. He developed a rapport with some skill players and then the Cardinals stepped up to the plate and got him a second bona fide superstar wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins to play alongside ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals have the highest odds to win the division, but the respect is clear, given that no other projected last-place team outside of the Detroit Lions has a better chance at some regular season hardware. If the Cardinals were in the NFC North and not stuck going up against the 49ers, the price would be even lower.
The fact of the matter is that the Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals have an uphill climb. It does seem rather interesting that the 49ers are not getting the same respect as the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North or the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. San Francisco is far and away the best team in the West. Maybe, just maybe, they are a gift from the gambling gods?
We’ll have to see how the division odds shift as we go forward. Jimmy Garoppolo’s Super Bowl performance may not have inspired a lot of confidence, but the 49ers are the most complete team in the NFC West and probably the NFC as a whole yet again.
Can you make a case for the Seahawks at their current price? Does Sean McVay have some new magic in the tank with half of the league trying to copy what he’s been doing? Do Kliff Kingsbury and Vance Joseph have what it takes to fix the defense and give the Cardinals a fighting chance?
If the answer to all of those questions is a definitive “No”, then the 49ers are a great value at the current price point. If you have questions about those questions or some uncertainty, then keep it right here at ATS and see if you can get a better price to fade the 49ers.