With only two weeks left to go before the 2019 NFL season kicks off, bettors nationwide are hard at work studying to prepare for 17 weeks’ worth of betting action with their favorite sportsbook.
And while the centerpiece of NFL futures betting will always be on the “Big Game,” winning a division title first is a crucial stepping stone. The defending champion New England Patriots are currently the preseason betting favorites to prevail in Super Bowl 54.
Since the NFL Playoffs expanded in the 1978-79 season, only six Wild Card teams went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy when it was all said and done. The last Wild Card entrant to win a Super Bowl title were the 2010-11 Green Bay Packers, so divisional winners have won it all in the last eight seasons.
As the historical data bears out, flying a division champion banner by regular season’s end is a significant predictor of postseason success. With that in mind, check out the tables below to see how the AFC’s contenders and pretenders stack up, courtesy of the opening betting odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada:
The NFL’s AFC East is by far the most lopsided division in all of football. The Patriots are the unbeatable juggernauts in the division with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady not slowing down for more than a decade and a half. In an astounding run of annihilation by the best head coach/quarterback tandem in NFL history, New England has won this division in 15 of the last 16 seasons. The Patriots only misfire came way back in 2008, when Brady was forced to miss the entire season due to injury.
Remarkably, Brady will be approaching unheard of territory as a 42-year old starter in a league increasingly dominated by 20-something phenoms. Having Brady back in the fold – and at a salary cap friendly discount no less – immediately makes the Pats a huge betting odds (-500) favorite. For comparison’s sake, no other favorite across the seven other divisions offers odds better than (-180).
In the ultimate “also ran” division, the new-look New York Jets hold the dubious honor of oddsmakers’ favorite to dethrone the Pats divisional dynasty. After a productive offseason, “Gang Green” added new head coach Adam Gase to take second-year quarterback Sam Darnold to the next level, while signing sensational running back Le’Veon Bell. The Jets could be a steal at (+600) should age finally come calling for Brady.
Odds to Win AFC East in the NFL
|Team||Odds to Win AFC East (on 8/19/19)|
|New England Patriots||-500|
|New York Jets||+600|
This time last year, the Cleveland Browns were pegged at dead last in the NFL’s AFC North with (+1200) divisional odds.
And at the halfway point, the perpetually putrid Browns played down to that prediction, compiling a dreadful 2-5-1 record. Overwhelmed head coach Hue Jackson was mercifully fired, and with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield unleashed to play a more creative college-style offense, Cleveland went 5-3 thereafter to salvage an encouraging season.
The Browns went all-in over the offseason, trading for Odell Beckham Jr. to give Mayfield a true #1 wideout, signing veteran defensive stalwarts like Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon, and stacking their roster with talent in the draft. As a result, the Browns are the AFC North’s new favorites at (+120) betting odds.
Given the level of improvement in Cleveland, and a curious offseason of decline which saw wide receiver Antonio Brown join Bell in departing for greener pastures, the Pittsburgh Steelers slid to (+190) betting odds.
As for the division’s defending champion Baltimore Ravens (+295) betting odds, betting oddsmakers seem to expect defensive coordinators around the league to have an answer for electrically mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson in his second year in the pros.
Odds to Win AFC North in the NFL
|Team||Odds to Win AFC North (on 8/19/19)|
When healthy, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is among the very best in the business. However, when the Colts leader is unable to play due to injury – Luck missed seven games in 2015 with a lacerated kidney, and all of 2017 following shoulder surgery – the Colts are rendered largely irrelevant. A healthy Luck keyed a 10-6 season and a playoff victory last year, leading to Indianapolis’ status as big (-110) betting favorites to take the NFL’s AFC South.
Unfortunately for Colts fans and bettors alike, the injury bug has bitten once again, leaving Luck’s ability to start by Week 1 in serious doubt. That leaves a potential opening for the entire division, as the Houston Texans (+285) betting odds, Jacksonville Jaguars (+400) betting odds, and Tennessee Titans (+650) betting odds have all reached the postseason in recent years.
Odds to Win AFC South in the NFL
|Team||Odds to Win AFC South (on 8/19/19)|
It’s a two-horse race in the NFL’s AFC West, where defending divisional champs the Kansas City Chiefs (-150) betting odds should only be seriously challenged by the Los Angeles Chargers (+190) betting odds.
Powered by record-setting second-year quarterback Pat Mahomes last year, the Chiefs revolutionized offensive football in the NFL. By harnessing Mahomes’ uncanny accuracy and creativity to score 565 points, en route to a 12-4 record, head coach Andy Reid proved he’s the best coach in the non-Belichick bracket.
Of course, it was Belichick and the Patriots who ended the dream run for Reid and Mahomes, prevailing in a 37-31 overtime instant classic to win the AFC Championship.
Avenging that loss and finishing the Super Bowl chase off in style will no doubt be a motivating factor, but a veteran leader like Reid knows winning the division must come first.
Odds to Win AFC West in the NFL
|Team||Odds to Win AFC West (on 8/19/19)|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-150|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+190|