When I place major offseason NFL bets, I always try to keep you guys informed.
Earlier this week, after a month of post-draft studying and deliberation, I pulled the trigger on a series of divisional championship bets in the football odds market.
Today, I’m sharing those with you. Tail or fade as you see fit.
NFC South: Falcons +220
Last offseason, I wrote a little bit about my feelings on the Saints as a dog with some down-the-board value in the NFC South odds market.
This year, the Saints are now the favorite, with the market for the Buccaneers’ odds to win the NFC South completely collapsing in the wake of Tom Brady’s retirement.
Under no circumstances am I interested in buying the unproven Saints at the very top of the market. Dennis Allen has never had a winning season as a head coach. In fact, he’s carrying a miserable 15-38 overall record as a head coach.
The Buccaneers are a non-starter at basically any price.
That leaves the Falcons and Panthers as the two potential betting targets for me in a division that someone has to win. And while rookie quarterback Bryce Young certainly has the talent to immediately conquer a putrid division, I actually think it’s the Falcons that are the better bet in this spot.
I wrote recently about how bullish I am on Bijan Robinson odds for 2023, since PFF actually graded the Falcons run-blocking unit as No. 1 in the NFL in 2022. An excellent offensive line and a super-talented running back is a pretty good formula to win a crappy division.
The financial flexibility that Atlanta has thanks to the Desmond Ridder contracts isn’t too bad, either.
AFC South: Titans +375
Count me among those who think the Jacksonville hype has gotten way too out of control.
Mike Vrabel coached a winning team in each of his first four years in Tennessee. He was well on his way to a third straight divisional title last year when the injuries started to pile up for the Titans.
At the same time, the Jaguars started getting hot down the stretch – probably since they’d had a few good months of coaching for the first time in several seasons.
All that led to Jacksonville stealing the AFC South in the final weeks of the season. Then, thanks to a wildly aberrational Wild Card game, the Jaguars outlasted the Chargers and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs.
All of that drama has totally blown up the market for Jacksonville, with a majority of bettors convinced that Trevor Lawrence is the next big thing.
I’m a bit more skeptical. Doug Pederson is a good coach to be sure, but I do think the market is just a little too quick to move on from a top-five coach and a serviceable NFL quarterback on a middle-class contract.
Keen NFL observers have mountains of evidence that great coaches and (relatively) cheap quarterbacks are a powerful combination in this league. The Titans odds to win the AFC South have become far too underpriced at +375.
NFC North: Lions +140
The hype over the Lions’ Super Bowl odds is very real. But if you’re looking for a more conservative betting approach, might I recommend a divisional bet, rather than an NFC Championship or Super Bowl bet? After all, let’s acknowledge that an out-of-nowhere Super Bowl odds win for Dan Campbell and the boys would be kind of nuts.
Instead, the safer bet is that the Lions division title drought is finally snapped. There’s a pretty clear path to it, since the NFC North has become a massive power vacuum in the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ departure to New York.
At +140, you’re betting at the top of the market… but it also seems like perennial loser Detroit is the favorite for a very clear reason. Ben Johnson is still running the offense, so I’m all the way in.
AFC North: Steelers +500
I get why the Steelers are in longshot territory here, but I just think there’s too much value in the AFC North to ignore it.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals have become the clear power brokers in this division, but don’t ignore what Pittsburgh did last season. The Steelers were breaking in a rookie quarterback who ultimately missed four games himself. They also were missing defensive centerpiece T.J. Watt for much of the first half of the season.
But Pittsburgh finished 9-8 anyway, because its excellent coaching, institutional advantages, and deep, balanced rosters of playmakers all provide an incredibly high floor for performance.
The Bengals are a rightful favorite, but I was interested in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ futures odds because I see it as an outcome that’s far more possible than its 14% implied probability.
When I bought this ticket, it was +600. Since then, the odds at the BetMGM online sportsbook have moved down to +500.
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