- As the NFL playoffs begin, the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl favorites.
- The Chicago Bears are the only team without a bye generating a lot of support.
- Seven teams are at least 14/1, providing significant value on underdogs.
The bracket for the NFL payoffs is set, and the adage says that if you are in the bracket, you have a chance. However, the futures prices indicate only the four teams with byes (New Orleans, LA Rams, Kansas City, New England) and Chicago are being bet on with any vigor. Everyone else is a square price.
The numbers crowd agrees with the five teams getting the most action, but thinks the field has more than a 25-percent shot of winning it all. That said, picking out which squad among that group is being undervalued is difficult.
Let’s examine the updated odds and consider where an investment could be worthwhile. The odds below are from BetOnline.
Odds to Win Super Bowl 53
|Team||Odds to Win Super Bowl 53 from BetOnline (Jan. 2)|
|New Orleans Saints||+250|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+450|
|Los Angeles Rams||+550|
|New England Patriots||+600|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+1600|
For most of the year, the NFC has looked like the stronger conference, and it is no shock that they are -150 against the AFC to win the Super Bowl.
The NFC goes through New Orleans. Beating the Saints – a rare team this year that has shown an ability to win games on either side of the ball – at the Superdome will be a challenge.
There is no easy game in the NFC. The Eagles snagged the final playoff berth, and we remember well the ride they went on last year. Quarterback Nick Foles feels strongly that history can repeat itself.
With six capable teams, it’s difficult to pick a squad that has to play three games to win the Super Bowl, and particularly a team that will need to win three road games. That means the value option is Los Angeles. The Rams have a bye, followed by a home game, and then the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans or in LA again.
Sure they would be underdogs against the Saints, but not by a huge number, and then LA would be a favorite if they advanced in the Super Bowl. Getting 11/2 on a team that went 13-3 and led the conference in scoring seems pretty fair.
It feels like the popular narrative has shifted on the AFC throughout the year. There was the stage in the season that Kansas City was untouchable. Then we had the Chargers popularity. Recently Baltimore is hot. Interestingly, it might be New England that has the best path.
If Houston takes care of business at home against Indianapolis in Saturday’s Wild Card game, the Texans will travel to Foxborough and the Chiefs will host either the Chargers or Ravens. While the Texans are the no. 3 seed, the Ravens and Chargers are considered stronger. The analytics don’t think it is particularly close.
Of course, if the Colts pull the mild upset, then KC gets the seemingly easier path, but it is fairly likely New England hosts a mediocre Houston team and then either goes to Kansas City or welcomes Baltimore or Los Angeles for the AFC Championship Game.
This has not been Tom Brady’s best year, though it may be better than you actually think. It is hard to pick the Chargers or Baltimore since they have a toss-up Wild Card Game just to advance to a road game in one of the toughest environments in the NFL.
While Kansas City is probably the best team, with the top offense and QB, taking 9/2 on a squad that would be a ‘dog in the Super Bowl and probably has a tougher path is hard to swallow.
If you are going to bet an AFC team, it should be New England. You can’t bet them based on the way they have looked most of the year – it has been very average by Pats standards. However, the path is good, 6/1 is fair, and Bill Belichick is a good spot to have your cash.
It is nearly impossible to pick the Chargers, Ravens, Seahawks or Cowboys since they all play 50/50 games in the first round. The Eagles and Colts would need to win three road games to reach the Super Bowl, which is possible but pretty unlikely. That leaves Houston. The Texans are at home, would then play at a flawed New England team that they were competitive with to open the year, and then could even host the AFC Championship game. If you are looking for a price, they are the pick.
Now have fun rooting for Bill O’Brien to make your dreams come true.