A big part of successfully betting on the NFL has to do with perspective. Though it is very easy to react to what you just saw, those observations need context. Does winning big against the Dolphins portend more success, or is it merely a reflection of how bad the Fins are? Does getting wiped out by the Patriots mean anything more than you’re not as good as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (just like the rest of the league)? When it comes to fourth-quarter comebacks, yes they’re exciting, but building a big deficit isn’t a great sign for the weeks ahead.
The moral of the story is that records can be deceiving. Let’s look at the teams currently over or undervalued in the 2017 NFL season in order to find value for futures bets.
Kansas City Chiefs
A month ago, nobody was hotter than rookie running back Kareem Hunt and early MVP candidate Alex Smith. The Chiefs were the only unbeaten team in the league after five weeks, and they had impressive wins over New England (road) and Philadelphia (home). Since then, KC has lost three of four, with a win against the lowly Broncos sandwiched between one-score setbacks to the Steelers (19-13, home) and Raiders (31-30, road), and a closer-than-it-sounds 28-17 loss to the Cowboys.
The now 6-3 Chiefs come off their bye to face the Giants in New York in Week 11. Head coach Andy Reid is 16-2 all-time after the bye and, looking at their schedule, KC has a decent chance to win out. Their offense is elite, ranking sixth in total offense, fifth in points scored, and third in efficiency per FootballOutsiders. Whether it be game-by-game or in the futures market, the Chiefs are well positioned to host a playoff game, and their schedule suggests a bye is fairly likely.
The Play: One bet I particularly like right now is KC at +1200 in the Super Bowl 52 futures.
The Steelers are 7-2, but haven’t been impressive getting there. Four of their wins have come in tight games, and those include squeakers against the Browns and Colts. That said, they are the only team in the NFL to have played six road games, and they are 5-1 straight up away from home. To quote Bill Parcells: eventually, “you are what your record says you are.”
With a three-game lead in the AFC North, Pittsburgh is basically preparing for the playoffs already. Their remaining slate is not difficult, meaning that like the Chiefs, the Steelers have a great chance at a bye. Pittsburgh is allowing the second fewest points in the NFL, and it is hard to imagine their running game is going to remain below average the rest of the way. The Steelers may not be worth betting every week, but will be a factor down the stretch, and like the Chiefs are worth looking at future odds.
The Play: As with KC, Pittsburgh (+700) is decent value in the Super Bowl 52 futures. One of Pittsburgh, New England, and Kansas City is almost certainly going to win the AFC, and the Patriots’ +333 odds overestimate the discrepancy between the teams. If you aren’t keen to bet on Alex Smith and Andy Reid’s playoff track-record, the Steelers are the next-best option in the AFC.
Los Angeles Rams
Coming into the season, the storylines around the Rams revolved around rebounding from a four-win season, a 31-year-old head coach, and whether quarterback Jared Goff was a bust after a mediocre rookie campaign. Nine games into this year, the 7-2 Rams have the look of a Super Bowl contender.
Sean McVay’s squad has been undeniably terrific, but there is reason for caution. Though they have the best point differential in the NFL, blowout wins against the Colts, Cardinals, and Texans (without DeShaun Watson) are nothing more than workmanlike efforts. Their only really good win came at Dallas, and their most important game of the year to date (at home against division rival Seattle) ended in a 16-10 loss.
The defense will be hard pressed to continue turning teams over at a league-leading rate of more than twice a game, and the Rams’ remaining schedule features five games against playoff contenders. Expect some regression.
The Play: Now is not the time to jump on the Rams’ (+1000) to win it all. Their odds will get longer if they stumble in the next few weeks, and that’s a likely outcome.