The NFL season is drawing closer. We know this because all of the season-long odds and props are starting to emerge for your betting pleasure. On a recent edition of the Pick Six Podcast -- our daily NFL pod that lands in your app inbox by 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, subscribe right here: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play -- we looked at some best bets, briefly touching on the playoff odds for various teams to make the playoffs.
Those full odds hit the Internet this week, popping up on both BetOnline.ag and Sportsbook.ag. It should be obvious how it works, but just in case it's not, if the Jaguars are -140 to make the playoffs, and you think they will make the postseason, you can wager $140 to win $100 that the Jags will make the postseason. (If they don't, you lose $140, if they do, you win $100.) Conversely, if the Cowboys are +145 to make the playoffs, you can bet $100 to win $145 (if they miss the playoffs you lose $100, if they make it, you win $145).
Here are the full NFL playoffs odds courtesy of our friends at Oddsshark:
NYJ +600— OddsShark (@OddsShark) July 5, 2018
So which of these teams offer the best bets for the NFL season? Let's run through a couple of the top options, utilizing some key rules to avoid getting burnt too badly.
One, wipe off any of the big favorites. The Patriots are probably going to the postseason because the AFC East is bad and they're good, but risking $1500 to win $100 is just too dangerous in a volatile sport like the NFL. Same for the Steelers, who likely win the AFC North but don't have to win nine or 10 games this year. Pretty much anyone *favored* to make the postseason can be taken off the board as a strong pick, including the Eagles (-260) and Rams (-170). The Chargers (-145) favored to make the postseason is preposterous. The Texans (-135) price is also outrageous. They won four games last year.
Two, don't be a hero. I like the Browns this year, but they've won one game the last two seasons. 6-1 odds aren't quite enough to warrant betting on a magical playoff berth. Don't bet on the Dolphins/Bills/Jets either, if only because logic says they have only one route -- the wild card -- to making the postseason.
So we've basically got a middle ground of teams who aren't favored to deal with. Let's pick five best bets and break them down.
5. Atlanta Falcons (+115)
I'm actually pretty perplexed why the Falcons are dogs here. They're the second-biggest favorite in the division (Carolina is +135) behind the Saints (-135) but this is a team that was in the Super Bowl two years ago. They made the postseason last year despite a crippling Super Bowl hangover and were in a battle to win the NFC South within the last few weeks. This is Matt Ryan's second season with Steve Sarkisian, and he's shown a propensity to really adjust in a positive manner the second time around with a new offensive coordinator. Julio Jones is holding out, but he's going to play. The defense has potential to make a massive leap as a lot of young guys drafted since Dan Quinn arrived are all coming of age. The price doesn't net a home run in terms of a payout but I would have expected the Falcons to be favored here and like them at this cost.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (+400)
You don't have to actually like all these picks! The Bengals aren't a fun team to project success for, primarily because of their lack of success in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis. I don't care if they cough up a 40-point lead in the playoffs, as long as they're there. And if the re-tooled offensive line -- which features Cordy Glenn at left tackle and Billy Price at center, effectively shifting Cedric Ogbuehi/Jake Fisher into right tackle duties -- helps to protect Andy Dalton and pave the way for Joe Mixon, the offense could return to being explosive. A.J. Green is being slept on as an elite wideout. Both sides of the ball are rebooting their approach under Lewis, with longtime defensive coordinator Paul Guenther leaving to join Jon Gruden and Teryl Austin stepping in. Austin did a lot with a little in Detroit and could get this defense going in Cincinnati. They could easily be the second-best team in this division and steal a wild card, but they're being priced as a top-10 draft team.
3. Tennessee Titans (+165)
The AFC is just going to offer more leeway in terms of these bets than the NFC, which appears to be stacked. I'm really surprised the Titans are the third team on the AFC South list, though. I understand the love for the Texans, but it primarily centers around the excitement generated by a quarterback who is coming back from a torn ACL after a brief, albeit impressive, rookie season. I love Deshaun Watson too, folks, but it's no guarantee Houston is great. Meanwhile, I think there's a lot of stability with the Titans, even under a new regime. Mike Vrabel brought in upgrades on his coaching staff, and Matt LaFleur should give the Titans a poor man's version of the juice the Rams got from adding Sean McVay. Dean Pees can craft a nice defense around a group of guys that have quietly been very improved by Jon Robinson the last few years. If Harold Landry/Rashaan Evans can make an immediate impact, this is a sleeper defensive unit.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (+120)
The world hates Alex Smith until he's gone apparently. The Chiefs are no longer the favorite to win the AFC West, despite having never finished lower than second under Andy Reid and winning the division the last two years. If anything, this team might be upgraded: Patrick Mahomes has first-round pedigree and a VERY live arm. Not trusting Reid's ability to develop young quarterbacks is just ignoring history. Mahomes has weapons too, with Sammy Watkins added to a skill position group featuring Kareem Hunt (led the league in rushing last season as a rookie), Travis Kelce (the best non-Gronk tight end in the NFL) and Tyreek Hill (his Twitter handle is literally @Cheetah, should you desire to question his speed). The defense lost some players, but don't underestimate the talent on this side of the ball. There should be more variance with this squad, but the upside is higher and they can absolutely win this division or steal a wild-card spot.
1. Washington Redskins (+350)
When looking for teams who can provide "make the playoffs" value, you want a combination of a high floor, sneaky upside and a winnable division. The Redskins, like the teams before them, check those boxes. And they have balance on both sides of the ball -- the addition of Smith from the Chiefs gives them a higher floor which should benefit them in division battles. But I'm not sure their upside is capped after losing Kirk Cousins either. Smith can do a lot with Jordan Reed, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. His offensive line literally has to be healthier next season after eating up the majority of the Redskins league-leading adjusted games lost. I want every single share of Derrius Guice in fantasy football this year. You aren't getting him if we play in a league together. The Giants, Cowboys and Eagles could all be good ... but they could all be average too. Washington's defense was looking great five games into last year, particularly against the run, before Jonathan Allen went down. Adding Da'Ron Payne to Ryan Kerrigan gives them strength up front. The secondary needs to gel quickly, but this team can be a division winner in 2018 and the price is excellent.