When New England hosts Kansas City or Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game, how much are you going to like Patriots? If the answer is a lot, perhaps you should be making a futures bet on New England now. The Pats ended the regular season on a seven game winning streak, and did it all without Rob Gronkowski. However, only one of those wins was against a playoff team. Still, they managed to accomplish what they couldn’t last season.
Around this time last year, New England was positioned for the top seed in the AFC as the regular season came down the home stretch. The Pats faltered, losing to the Jets in overtime, and Dolphins in Week 17. Those two setbacks handed the Broncos the top seed in the playoffs. After the Pats beat the Chiefs at home in the Divisional Playoff, New England traveled to the Mile High City for the AFC Title Game, where the Broncos won 20-18. That proved to be a clear wake up call for the Pats.
For much of this year New England has not only seemed determined to put its best foot forward, but have been awfully focused on what sometimes can seem like meaningless regular season games. Because of that, they are now heading into the postseason on that seven game win streak, where most of those games were won by an average 16 points of more. With the top seed on the line in the last two weeks, this time around, the Pats beat both the Jets and Dolphins handily. As the playoff bracket unfolded, it turned out to be a particularly good year to be the top seed.
Most seasons, being the number one seed earns you the advantage of home games in the Divisional Round and AFC Championship Game. This year, you essentially get a second bye, and an automatic berth to the championship tilt. A possible opponent for the Patriots is Oakland, but with the injury to quarterback Derek Carr, the Pats would be facing a second or third string Raiders QB, and a vulnerable defense. Another opponent could be Houston, who has no idea who to play under center because neither Tom Savage or Brock Osweiler are NFL caliber starting QB’s. And finally, there’s the Dolphins, who may or may not have signal caller Ryan Tannehill back from a knee injury.
If the Steelers beat Miami, and Pittsburgh is a 10 point favorite, the Patriots will face Houston or Oakland in the Divisional Round. New England will be a double-digit favorite coming off of a bye. After they win that game, perhaps while resting starters in the second half, they will be 60 minutes from the Super Bowl. Both the Chiefs and Pittsburgh can win in New England, but both will be in the neighborhood of seven point dogs. However, right now you can grab the Pats to win the AFC at just better than 2/3 odds.
Even if you think the Pats will be significantly challenged in the AFC Championship Game, betting on New England to capture the conference and locking in your odds now makes sense. If they get by a weaker opponent in their first postseason game, you can buy back as much as you want, using either the money line, or trying to middle the bet with the Pats winning and Chiefs or Steelers covering. Wagering on chalk doesn’t make for a good story, but it does make a lot of financial sense in this instance.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/]