NFL Division winner odds are being hammered into place, with sports betting power rankings set as we head toward training camp. There are only a couple fluid situations remaining that will change a team's sentiment, meaning we are all but locked into current futures prices until Week 1 and forced to line shop alternate markets.
Two of the best futures markets that rarely get mentioned but have been around for some time are the Division Finishing Position and Division Straight Forecast offerings. Mispriced opportunities can often be found, especially on correlated long-shot plays.
Let’s start by calculating the difference in probability between PFF’s season-long simulation and the current odds offered by DraftKings for each team’s division finishing position. (*Note: AFC North odds are from offshore.)
DIVISION FINISHING POSITION BEST BETS
The macro takeaway is when DraftKings becomes overly aggressive to the downside outlook, value exists at any other finishing positions. Few are betting on the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants or Detroit Lions to finish anywhere but last, which creates some value if you can stomach a contrarian take. Let's touch on the best bets for specific division finishing positions before going into the straight forecast best bets.
DETROIT LIONS 2nd NFC North +500
#RestoreTheRoar gains popularity by the day and seems to be the only bottom-dwelling pick bettors can stomach. Their odds to win the division and to make the playoffs jumped dramatically this offseason, but their division finishing position prices are still lagging based on PFF’s simulation.
Green Bay is the runaway favorite to win the division, with the Lions' path to the playoffs coming as the second-best team in the North. Even if that isn’t quite enough for their first playoff berth since 2016, it does pay out five to one odds. Chicago is embracing another rebuild year, which leaves Minnesota as the one team Detroit needs to overcome.
The Lions sit as 6.5 point underdogs on the road in Minnesota for Week 3, but are only slight underdogs at +2 in their home December matchup. An upset in either one of those opportunities will have them well on their way to the second-best record in a surprisingly weak division.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 2nd NFC South +130
The NFC South continues to turn over, with Tom Brady’s unretirement providing some semblance of a contender at the top. Atlanta is multiple years away from relevancy, and the Panthers are trying their second band-aid approach to the quarterback position in two years.
New Orleans stockpiled defensive talent this offseason and also provided exciting skill position players to pair with Jameis Winston. They are expected to rely heavily on their defense but do have some unrealized offensive upside if Winston performs close to his ceiling. It’s a relatively short price for an exact finish bet, but patience could be rewarded by allowing the market time to adjust to the Baker Mayfield news. If the Saints sweep both the Panthers and Falcons, they should be locked into second place in the NFC South.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 1st AFC North +190
Deshaun Watson’s situation is the one outstanding question still to be answered. For this reason, books pulled down almost all of the related AFC North props. Some offshores still have straight division position offerings, but the most aggressive legal sportsbooks only offer division winner bets.
Cincinnati has been discounted all offseason but saw their implied probability increase in recent weeks as Watson’s situation seems headed for a yearlong suspension. The Bengals offer plenty of value already for a team that fixed their one pressing issue and is poised to return an even stronger roster than the one that played for the Lombardi Trophy in 2021.
Betting on Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase to continue improving is a relatively safe bet, with these odds still reflecting sentiment of a Super Bowl hangover that doesn’t seem relevant in this particular case. Take this price now, as it’s only going to drop further as we head closer to regular season kickoff.
DIVISION STRAIGHT FORECAST BEST BETS
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 1st & LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 2nd AFC West +550
Two trades and some key free agent signings turned the AFC West into the best division we have seen in quite some time. It also helps to have two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL playing in the division.
Kansas City still sits as the favorite to win the division, despite being the one team that got worse this offseason, but their odds moved dramatically with an implied probability now at 36.4%. This is right in line with PFF’s simulation, but using the straight forecast market we can fold in some conditional probability to find a worthwhile bet.
Kansas City wins the division in 36% of our simulations, with the Chargers finishing second in almost half of those outcomes. Combined we see the Chiefs finish 1st and the Chargers finishing 2nd in 17.8% of simulations for an odds price of +465. The +550 price offers enough value and the opportunity to bet on two of the best young quarterbacks to continue exceeding expectations. An opportunity like that doesn’t come along very often.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 1st & LOS ANGELES RAMS 2nd NFC West +750
The NFC West experienced the opposite player movement compared to its AFC counterpart, with Russell WIlson’s departure from the Seahawks opening opportunities for others in the division. The reigning Super Bowl champions aren’t quite odds-on favorites but are the biggest favorite this division has seen in a number of years.
The inflection point for this bet is the San Francisco 49ers, who still haven’t strongly signaled their 2022 intent at the quarterback position. If they do separate from Jimmy Garoppolo, there is a downside expectation that isn’t currently baked into their division finishing numbers. That scenario seems more likely based on our simulation than what the current betting market projects. This could mean the Rams run away with the division, but there is at least a path to the Cardinals also exceeding expectations. Their futures odds took a hit post DeAndre Hopkins suspension and aren’t pricing in any impact from the Marquise Brown trade.
PFF’s simulation highlights some upside that isn’t priced into the Cardinals current range of outcomes. Right now both their odds to finish 1st and 2nd offer over 5% of value, and we see the exact order of the Cardinals 1st and the Rams 2nd happen in 14.3% of simulations. Their current implied probability based on DraftKings odds is 11.8%, offering 2.5% value on this long-shot bet. It’s definitely not the most likely way the NFC West finishes, but there are more than enough potential outcomes down this path to make this a worthwhile investment.