Betting market focus has shifted to the future, with most books posting enticing odds for a wide assortment of NFL bets. So now that NFL free agency is all but wrapped up, we have set our sights on the much-changed landscape of division championships.
Utilizing our ELO projections and the assortment of PFF data and research tools, we will take a close look at each division to see if we can unearth some betting value. All odds are taken from Fanduel Sportsbook.
No division has seen its odds shaken up more after free agency than the AFC East. The Tom Brady departure from New England is obviously significant, as it has shifted the Patriots' odds from an implied win probability of over 70% to 45.5%, making them co-favorites with the Bills. This is the first time in the PFF era that the Patriots have not been runaway favorites to win this division.
The conundrum as to who the favorite should be has more questions than answers at this stage, with most assuming that Bill Belichick won’t be rolling into 2020 with Jarrett Stidham as his starting quarterback (if the team seriously intends to compete, that is).
Our feelings toward Bills QB Josh Allen have been made clear previously, and with the Bills likely regression candidates, this division could be even more wide open than currently expected.
Elsewhere in the division, the Dolphins still feel like a year or two away despite some splashy free agent signings, and I'm not looking to back an Adam Gase-led team anytime soon, no matter how playable they look at their current price. Even backing Belichick, in a season where nobody is quite sure what the Pats' goals or plans are, feels like a losing proposition.
The AFC East looks like a good spot to avoid in 2020.
PFF's Pick: None
We go from the least intriguing division in the NFL to one of the most top-heavy. The Ravens are heavy favorites to repeat in the North, with a 66% implied win probability, so the question is now centered around just how much farther ahead they are than the rest of the division.
The Bengals are sitting with the No. 1 overall pick, and despite the ability to select their future franchise quarterback, they are still at least a year or two away from realistically competing. And while Big Ben is set for a return to the Steelers, questions continue to abound about how much he has left in the tank after he emerged from quarantine looking like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
The sneaky play in this division is the post-hype Cleveland Browns, who now have the coach and front office in place to properly buy into the analytics revolution. Their wide receiver tandem should still be considered one of the best units in the NFL, and Baker Mayfield is someone who PFF has always been high on.
If Kevin Stefanski is truly the offensive coaching guru that the Browns believe he is, then their window to compete for the AFC North could be approaching quicker than expected. They have winnable road games outside of their division against the Jaguars and both teams from New York, and if they take two from the Bengals and handle home matchups against the Redskins and Raiders, they just need to split with the Steelers and Ravens and sneak out one more victory to get to 10-6.
Going against the Lamar Jackson–led Ravens is scary, but at the current price, the Browns offer just enough value where they could sneak out a division win roughly 20% of simulations.
PFF's Pick: Browns +460 (.25 units)