From a theoretical standpoint, wildcard teams are not something fans should get too excited about. Yes, they make the postseason. But on paper (and according to their records), they aren’t as good as the other playoff teams—all division winners.
Theoretically, they are unlikely to advance to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. But since the wildcard format began in 1970, ten wildcard teams have made it to the Super Bowl, and six have won it. Betting on wildcard teams may not be a bad idea.
The last two to make it were from the NFC and both went on to win the Super Bowl. So, who are the wildcard teams going to be from the NFC this season?
With three wildcard teams from each conference this season, the odds are not going to be too long for most teams (odds via FoxBets.com):
- Seattle Seahawks +175
- San Francisco 49ers +210
- New Orleans Saints +225
- Minnesota Vikings +320
- Dallas Cowboys +333
- Arizona Cardinals +350
- Detroit Lions +750
- Carolina Panthers +1200
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers +200
- Los Angeles Rams +220
- Philadelphia Eagles +300
- Atlanta Falcons +333
- Green Bay Packers +340
- Chicago Bears +400
- New York Giants +900
- Washington Redskins +1600
It is probably safe to go ahead and eliminate the Redskins, Panther, Giants, and Lions. There is a chance all four are better this season than last. But barring a miraculous turnaround and a few other teams imploding, it is hard to imagine any of those four even sniffing the postseason this year.
If the sportsbooks are right and the favorites win each division, then the Cowboys, Packers, Buccaneers, and 49ers should also be eliminated.
However, it is worth noting that the Seahawks have pretty good odds in the West (+220; 49ers– +110). The Vikings odds (+160) are not much longer than the Packers (+150) in the North. The Saints, who have won the last three in the South, are right on the tail of the Buccaneers (+175 to +137).
The Cowboys, strangely enough, have the best odds (-118; Eagles come in at +140).
So, sticking with the theoretical theme, three of those eight teams will probably be the NFC’s wildcards. But who?
With Jason Garrett no longer in charge, the Cowboys are probably going to win the East. Even though the Buccaneers are favored, look for the Saints to win the South for a fourth consecutive year. While the odds are close, look for the Packer to come out on top in the North once again.
However, in the West, it is too close to call. The 49ers are favored to win the division, but they were 1-1 against the Seahawks last season and were dangerously close to going 0-2 against them.
So—who should you bet on?
Even though the 49ers are favored in the West, pick them as one of the wildcards. Seattle has improved on the offensive side of the ball more than the 49ers, so look for them to win the West.
The Vikings offense looks good, but the defense isn’t nearly as impressive. While the Packers didn’t really get better in the offseason, they are still good enough to win the South again. So, take Minnesota as one of the other two.
As for the final wildcard, it depends on who you believe in more—Drew Brees and the Saints or Tom Brady and the Bucs. One will win the division; the other will be a wildcard team.