So normally today would be the day I do my regular Sharps and Squares column, but to be honest, this week was the rare week (might be the first to be honest) in which there weren’t really any true Sharp/Square dichotomies. There wasn’t a single game that drew even 70% of the bets. So in this rare instance, instead of looking at the past, I decided to look towards the future, specifically NFL Futures, to determine if there’s any value as we head into the final weeks of the season.
Futures are difficult because of the uncertainty that can happen over the course of a 16-week NFL season. For example, I bet on the 49ers O8.5 wins last year, and then Jimmy G was injured relatively early in the season, and it went to trash. Furthermore, the variance in NFL seasons is so drastic, it’s difficult to determine just how good or bad a particular team might be. Going beyond win totals and division titles, betting on conference championships and Super Bowls is less about the quality of the teams playing and more about opportunity more than anything.
What I mean by opportunity is essentially the ability for a team to find themselves in a place to make a push towards winning. The best example is the Patriots; the Patriots will not only always win their division, but there’s a high chance they’ll end up as the 1-seed at best or 2-seed at worst, which means home field advantage in the playoffs. On the other hand, betting on the Seahawks or the Eagles to win the NFC Championship or the Super Bowl is a worse option not necessarily because they are bad teams (although the Eagles definitely ended up being trash), but because they’re in such tough divisions, they could very well end up having to win three road playoff games or find themselves out of the playoffs all together.
However, with so little time left, this might be a good time to jump on a handful of Future bets as the playoff picture is starting to settle. So here are some good Future bets to look into:
Kansas City Chiefs – AFC Championship – 3/1 Odds
This isn’t a great return, but the Chiefs just showed they can walk into New England and beat them, and that makes me feel confident. The other thing about this play is they’re guaranteed a home game in the playoffs as they’ve already clinched their division. That gives them a great shot to make it to the next round, and put them in a position to put themselves in the AFC Championship. At that stage, all they have to do is win. All the hype is on Lamar Jackson, but Patrick Mahomes is still a great quarterback, and even though Andy Reid still needs some help managing the clock, they’re still a quality team who can put themselves in a position to win.
New Orleans Saints – Super Bowl Champions – 5/1 Odds
We just saw one of the best games of the season with the Saints eventually losing to the 49ers so why would I suggest this pick? Because of opportunity.
The Saints are currently third place in the NFC playoff race with the 49ers in first and the Packers in second. However, the Saints have a chance to win out with a 13-3 record as they face the Colts, Titans, and Panthers. On the other hand, the 49ers have to face the Rams at home and the Seahawks on the road; furthermore, the Packers have to face the Bears and visit the Vikings. While it’s very possible the 49ers could win out and the Saints could fall to the Titans, I see the Saints most likely ending up as the 2-seed. The Packers are not a good team and I suspect will lose at least one game between now and the end of the season. That means the Saints have home field in the playoffs with a potential rematch in San Francisco. They’d have to beat two very tough teams in the 49ers and most likely the Ravens, but they can compete with both of them. At 5/1 odds, this is a good mix between opportunity and quality team.
New England Patriots – Super Bowl Champions – 6/1 Odds
Who would have thought you could get these kind of odds on the Patriots this late into the season? Look, the Patriots seem very off, which makes me incredibly happy because I very much dislike that team and all of their fans. However, that doesn’t mean I dislike making money. I’ll bet on the Patriots whenever I can with their cover rate. I might have mentioned the concept of “buy low/sell high” in sports betting. This is one of those moments you can buy the Patriots very low while you still have the chance. At the end of the day, the Patriots are most likely going to win out (I love Bills Mafia, but this game is in Foxborough), which means they’re going to win the AFC East again and most likely end up with home field advantage unless they have a rematch with the Ravens again. Bill Belichick is still the best coach in the league and Tom Brady can step up if he needs to in the playoffs. Lamar Jackson may be electric, but he’s still young and you never know how these things might turn out. That means the Patriots have a high chance of returning back to the Super Bowl, and once they’re there, Darth Hoodie only has to win one more game. Not a bad play.
Seattle Seahawks – NFC Championship – 7/1 Odds
The Seahawks are a troublesome team in that their stats say they should have a much worse record than they do, which isn’t a good sign when betting on a team to go deep in the playoffs. However, they’re still only one game behind the 49ers, and they have a final week showdown potentially for the division title, and even if they didn’t win, they could still end up as the fifth seed, which would put them in position to play against whoever wins the NFC East. While that might still put them on the road, whoever wins the NFC East will be a weak division winner, and in a place to get smoked by Russell Wilson who is no short of a phenom. The man just knows how to win games, and he and Pete Carroll have enough playoff experience to put together a nice run that might find them in the championship game.
Tennessee Titans – AFC Championship – 25/1 Odds
This is my official long shot play. If you’re looking to make a true gamble, do it on the Titans as they’re the hottest team on the planet right now. Ryan Tannehill can play quarterback all of a sudden and Derrick Henry is looking like a reincarnation of Beast Mode. Will they probably win the AFC Championship? No. Is it possible they actually don’t even win their division and out of the playoffs all together? Very possible. But the Titans play the Texans twice in the last three weeks of the season, which puts them in a great position to steal the division title right under the Texans’ noses. Running the ball is key to winning any playoff game, and Henry is a nothing short of a bowling ball right now. That could at least put them in the running to make the championship game. Again, it’s a long shot, but if you had to take any, I’d put it on them.
As a final note: Some of you may be wondering why I wouldn’t suggest taking the better odds for winning the Super Bowl if some teams could win their respective conference championships. The reason being is the likelihood of them winning those championships is low enough that you’re taking extra unnecessary risk. Instead, go for a more reasonable outcome, and if you are in a position to win a conference championship future, you can always hedge.