The 2020 NFL season will be the first with 14 teams in the playoffs after the owners approved a rule change this offseason. The expansion of the postseason field gives more teams reason for optimism heading into the year, and that's no more apparent than in the two teams that just missed last year: the Steelers and Rams. Had 2020's rules been in place last year, both those teams would have earned wild cards, and both offer plenty of value on this year's odds to win their divisions and make the playoffs.
We've asked our staff to dive into the 2020 odds for each team to win their division and the odds for each team to make or miss the playoffs, as set by William Hill Sportsbook, and make one best bet for each. Six different people made the Steelers one of their picks, with three pegging them as the best division value and three taking them to make the playoffs at -125. Four took the Rams to make the playoffs as a best bet, while one more -- myself -- took them to win the NFC West at +450. You can find all of our division best bets below, followed by our best bets to make or miss the playoffs.
Here's the rundown on the staff members making these picks: NFL insider Jason La Canfora; senior writer Pete Prisco; Pick Six Podcast host Will Brinson; staff writers Cody Benjamin, John Breech, Jordan Dajani, Bryan DeArdo, Jared Dubin, Josh Edwards, Jeff Kerr, Tyler Sullivan, Chris Trapasso, Patrik Walker and Ryan Wilson; and editors Brett Anderson, Dan Schneier and R.J. White.
DeArdo: Jets +800. For the first time since 2000, Tom Brady will not play a role in who wins the AFC East. And while the Patriots and Bills should be considered the favorites to win the division, don't sleep on the Jets, who won six of their final seven games during Adam Gase's first season in New York. The Jets revamped their offensive line this offseason while also giving Sam Darnold two new targets in rookie Denzel Mims and veteran Breshad Perriman. New York's defense is welcoming back linebacker Avery Williamson, who missed the entire 2019 season with an injury. The Jets have a better shot to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 than the odds imply.
SportsLine's Larry Hartstein and Pick Six Podcast host Will Brinson break down all the best and worst picks for division winners, playoffs and more; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Prisco: Bills +125. I said last spring that the Bills would win the division this year, even if Tom Brady had come back. This Bills team has talent in a lot of spots, and I am more of a believer in quarterback Josh Allen than most. I am bucking the Bill Belichick trend with this pick, but I think he has too much work to do this year with the Patriots.
Schneier: Patriots +125. If you're like me, you bought Patriots stock the day Tom Brady left because there was only one clear-cut option for Cam Newton. If you're also like me, you took notice of how Newton was arguably his most efficient as a passer during the first half of the 2018 season, when the Panthers switched over to Norv Turner's offense. Josh McDaniels has had an entire offseason to craft an offense to fit Newton's skill set, and I can't wait to see how it looks.
Dubin: Steelers +380. The Steelers went 8-8 last year with the worst quarterback play we've seen this century. Their defense is likely to regress in the turnover department, but that should be more than offset by an improvement on offense. If they can get to 11 wins and Baltimore slides back even a little, the Steelers can win that division.
Sullivan: Steelers +380. The NFL is sleeping on the Pittsburgh Steelers a bit. If Ben Roethlisberger is able to return to his typical form -- and every indication points to that being the case -- the Steelers will have a potent offense that they can now pair with a defense that was the third most efficient unit last year in terms of DVOA, only falling behind the Patriots and 49ers. Edging out Baltimore won't be easy, but it's not impossible at all, and +380 is great value here.
Trapasso: Steelers +380. The Steelers at +380 to win the division is too tempting to pass up. Justifiably, no one is quite sure how Ben Roethlisberger will look coming off his elbow injury, but he's had nearly a full year to recover. Pittsburgh's defense is a top unit, the offensive line is still solid, and there's a nice collection of young receivers and backs at Big Ben's disposal. Plus, the Ravens very well could regress from their 13-3 campaign a season ago after the departures of Marshal Yanda and Earl Thomas, and after opposing defensive coordinators getting an entire offseason to gameplan for the MVP version of Lamar Jackson.
Brinson: Colts +120. Philip Rivers will give the Colts enough of an improvement on offense -- and the same could be said for DeForest Buckner on defense -- for Indianapolis to triumph in what is a division with significant regression due (Titans), questionable GM work (Houston) and an awful team (Jacksonville). Getting plus money is just a bonus.
Dajani: Titans +160. The Titans haven't won the AFC South since 2008, but they should be the favorite this year. The fate of the division rests on either the arm of Philip Rivers, or the legs of Derrick Henry. Which one would you choose?
Edwards: Texans +350. Bill O'Brien the general manager made some suspect decisions this offseason but Bill O'Brien the head coach has been able to overcome some of his general manager's issues over the years. The AFC South is still relatively open with the Colts and Titans looking competitive, but not dominant. The offensive line is finally starting to come together and Deshaun Watson has been one of the league's most promising players when healthy.
Kerr: Texans +350. The AFC South is better and Bill O'Brien has his faults as general manager and coach, but the Texans offense will have a different look this year. Their wide receiver group is based on speed, which allows Deshaun Watson to spread the ball more and take more shots down the field. David Johnson can't be as poor this year as he has been the last two years, especially running behind a better offensive line in Houston. Tennessee has the best chance to dethrone Houston here, but Watson and this team at +350 is very hard to pass up.
Breech: Chiefs -450. Betting on the Chiefs to win the division feels like free money, so I'm going to take it, even though there isn't really any value in their odds. Although I won't make a huge profit when I hit my bet on Kansas City, I'm going to make up for that with the odds on my other playoff pick.
Walker: Cowboys -120. Neither Washington nor the New York Giants will give the Cowboys fits in the NFC East this year -- although Big Blue has a much better chance of rocking the table -- but Dallas will have its hands full with the Eagles. That said, a secondary that still has questions outside of Darius Slay is going to be tasked with stopping a Cowboys offense that's set to light up a scoreboard, and to make a playoff run.
Anderson: Bears +400. The Packers went an unsustainable 9-1 in one-score games last season, while the Vikings lost Stefon Diggs and seemingly half their D. Enter the Bears, who went 8-8 last year despite Mitchell Trubisky stinking it up.
Benjamin: Bears +400. No one wants to bet on the Bears, but how can you ignore this value in a division that hasn't had a repeat winner in a half-decade? Chicago's defense is still legitimate, the Packers and Vikings are due for regression, and if Nick Foles gets hot at the right time, who's to say they won't make a sneaky run?
No best bets, but Saints -120 offer best value as one of the most complete teams in the league, while Falcons at +700 are a strong lottery ticket after a 6-2 finish last season that included road wins against the Saints and 49ers.
La Canfora: Seahawks +225. It was a coin flip between San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West a year ago. I like both teams a lot, but I see a far bigger return on the Seahawks, who have finally given Russ a real cast around him on offense (if the O-line can hold up). They still may add a receiver or pass rusher, too.
White: Rams +450. I expect the 49ers to take a step back this season like most Super Bowl teams do the following year, and that will open the door for the previous Super Bowl runner-up to leapfrog last year's upstart. The Rams still have an excellent offensive mind at head coach and stars on the defensive side of the ball, and +450 is unbelievable value in this competitive division.
Wilson: Seahawks +225. Russell Wilson is one of the best players in the league, and he routinely dragged the team to wins last season. If OC Brian Schottenheimer is willing to open things up even a little bit (and he hasn't indicated he will but we remain hopeful), it's not that hard to envision the Seahawks back as division champs.
Patriots: Make -200, Miss +170
Bills: Make -190, Miss +160
Dolphins: Make +450, Miss -600
Jets: Make +480, Miss -650
No best bets, but one of the two long shots sneaking into the playoffs in an expanded field wouldn't be crazy.
Ravens: Make -900, Miss +600
Steelers: Make -125, Miss +105
Browns: Make +135, Miss -155
Bengals: Make +650, Miss -1000
Anderson: Steelers Make -125. The Steelers at only -125 to reach the playoffs is a great price with Big Ben returning and an extra postseason spot available.
Schneier: Steelers Make -125. The Steelers nearly made the playoffs behind a breakout defense in 2019 following the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick and will only be getting better. Trade Duck Hodges and Mason Rudolph for Ben Roethlisberger in the best shape of his career -- at almost even odds to make an expanded playoffs -- and we've got ourselves a value play.
White: Steelers Make -125. The Steelers with a healthy Big Ben seem like a lock to me to make the playoffs in a seven-team field on the AFC side, especially since I think they have an argument to be the third-best team in the conference.
Colts: Make -160, Miss +140
Titans: Make -140, Miss +120
Texans: Make +155, Miss -180
Jaguars: Make +800, Miss -1400
Sullivan: Texans Make +155. With Houston, it's all about Deshaun Watson. I expect big things from him this season, and he should be able to will his club to the postseason.
Walker: Colts Miss +140. As much as the Colts would love to believe Philip Rivers is the answer for 2020, the veteran QB has become a turnover machine as of late; that's going to cost them when they face the Titans and Texans.
Chiefs: Make -1400, Miss +800
Broncos: Make +175, Miss -210
Chargers: Make +180, Miss -220
Raiders: Make +260, Miss -330
Wilson: Raiders Make +260. We said in the spring that we thought Marcus Mariota could find his way under center in Las Vegas and lead the Raiders to the postseason. This offense is stacked, but the biggest concern is Mariota's health, which he struggled with in Tennessee.
Cowboys: Make -220, Miss +180
Eagles: Make -190, Miss +160
Giants: Make +350, Miss -450
Washington: Make +650, Miss -1000
No best bets, but it's possible the strength of the NFC South and NFC West could make it tougher for the NFC East to get two teams into the playoffs, which would mean there's at least some value going against the Cowboys or Eagles.
Vikings: Make -140, Miss +120
Packers: Make -140, Miss +120
Bears: Make +155, Miss -180
Lions: Make +250, Miss -300
Dajani: Vikings Miss +120. Let's assume that the Packers win the NFC North. That means the Vikings will have to earn one of the wild-card slots. As of now, I have the Seahawks, Eagles and Buccaneers taking those spots -- which leaves the Vikings on the outside looking in.
Dubin: Vikings Miss +120/Packers Miss +120. There's just no way I can see both the Vikings and the Packers making the playoffs. Between the Cowboys, Eagles, Saints, Bucs, 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals, I feel like there are six playoff teams. If you bet both Minnesota and Green Bay and only one of them gets in, as I expect, you're guaranteed to win a little bit of money. If they both miss out, you can profit even more.
Trapasso: Vikings Miss +120. Minnesota won't be brutal this year, but the Vikings are looking to replace a plethora of established veteran talent -- particularly on defense -- and won't have Kevin Stefanski on the sidelines getting the most out of Kirk Cousins.
Saints: Make -330, Miss +260
Buccaneers: Make -220, Miss +180
Falcons: Make +240, Miss -300
Panthers: Make +500, Miss -700
Benjamin: Falcons Make +240. The Falcons are stuck in a really competitive division, but take a look at their lineup; they've got playoff-caliber units on both sides of the ball. That extra NFC playoff spot should help.
La Canfora: Panthers Make +500. With an expanded playoff field, and with what I believe will be a legit offense, could Carolina sneak into the final spot? With these odds, I'd take a shot. Teddy Bridgewater is a winner and so is Matt Rhule. If they get anything out of their defense, who knows.
Prisco: Falcons Make +240. The Falcons will push the Bucs and Saints in the division and I think they could be a wild-card team at the very least. The improvement of the offensive line will be key.
49ers: Make -360, Miss +280
Seahawks: Make -135, Miss +115
Rams: Make +150, Miss -175
Cardinals: Make +240, Miss -300
Breech: Rams Make +150. Sure, half of Twitter thinks that Sean McVay is overrated, but I'm not buying that. I'm taking the Rams, because McVay has been nothing but reliable since being hired in 2017. During his three seasons in Los Angeles, all he's done is compile a 33-15 record with four playoff wins and a Super Bowl appearance. Even in his worst season, he still managed to go 9-7, and that would have been good enough to make the playoffs if the 14-team format had been in place in 2019.
Brinson: Rams Make +150. I contemplated the Browns here but the division is really difficult and Cleveland has a new coach and plenty of new parts. The Rams don't! They have a bunch of carryover from last year, when they won nine games. If Sean McVay can tweak the offense and the offensive line can play better, Los Angeles should be able to get back into the postseason with the expanded playoffs. It's too nice a price for a team that hasn't won less than nine games since he arrived.
DeArdo: 49ers Miss +280. The 49ers are trying to avoid joining the list of Super Bowl runner-ups who failed to make the playoffs the following season. It doesn't help that the 49ers play in arguably the NFL's toughest division.
Edwards: Rams Make +150. With an expanded playoff format, the wise strategy is to take a calculated risk on a team making the playoffs. The Rams, despite overhauling their coordinators this offseason, have a talented roster and stand out as the plus-odds team with the best chance to advance.
Kerr: Rams Make +150. The Rams' success hinges on Sean McVay and his ability to adjust after their offense wasn't as dynamic in the second half of last season. The offensive line is aging, but the return of Cooper Kupp will pay huge dividends for Jared Goff. In a tough NFC West with four teams good enough to make the postseason, why not take a shot on Los Angeles?