Fret all you want about concussions, players kneeling, nobody knowing what a catch is, and any other controversial topic that some will claim is chipping away at the NFL’s audience. The reality is that football is still king in America, and it isn’t close. Anyone who works at a sports betting window can tell you that.
We’re just ten days from the first NFL preseason game, and the national pastimes that are fantasy football mock drafts and analyzing the futures odds are well underway. NFL season isn’t quite here, but NFL gambling season definitely is.
We got our hands on the futures lines from both Westgate Las Vegas Superbook and Meadowlands Racetrack’s FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey, and there’s plenty to take note of already.
Lines getting shorter
At Westgate, six teams have seen their odds to win the Super Bowl close substantially since the opening lines were released on January 7:
- Los Angeles Rams: from 20/1 to 10/1
- Los Angeles Chargers: from 30/1 to 16/1
- Kansas City Chiefs: from 30/1 to 20/1
- Oakland Raiders: from 30/1 to 18/1
- Tennessee Titans: from 40/1 to 25/1
- New York Giants: from 60/1 to 30/1
Coming off a three-win season, the Giants bets clearly owe a lot to the Saquon Barkley effect. Deem it a reach to take a running back second overall in the draft if you like, but the public is easily swayed by the addition of a high-upside skill-position player.
The Rams movement is more likely fueled by smart money as, coming off an 11-win campaign and their first NFC West title in 14 years, L.A. added cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and wideout Brandin Cooks. If anything, Westgate’s opening line of 20/1 is the surprise here.
Meanwhile, bettors are high on the entire AFC West, and it doesn’t seem folks are worried about Patrick Mahomes taking over as QB of the Chiefs. In fact, the whole wagering world seems to be anti Alex Smith, as evidenced by …
Lines getting longer
The championship odds for quite a few teams have widened in the last six months, most notably:
- Green Bay Packers: from 10/1 to 14/1
- Dallas Cowboys: from 20/1 to 30/1
- Seattle Seahawks: from 20/1 to 40/1
- Carolina Panthers: from 20/1 to 40/1
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: from 40/1 to 80/1
- Arizona Cardinals: from 40/1 to 100/1
- Washington Redskins: from 60/1 to 100/1
Smith takes over as the signal caller in D.C., and it sure looks like people don’t believe he’s an upgrade over Kirk Cousins. The same goes from the combination of well-traveled Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen in Arizona.
What do all of the above teams have in common? Every single one of them is in the NFC. So the bettors are saying they think the Super Bowl champ is more likely to come out of the AFC, while the three favorites in the NFC — the Eagles, Vikings, and Rams — are each listed at 10/1 to win the Super Bowl in Atlanta on February 3, 2019, and 5/1 to get there.
Greetings from East Rutherford, New Jersey
A little comparison shopping goes a long way, and there are some intriguing price discrepancies to pounce on if you have the option of placing a bet at either Westgate or Meadowlands.
Many of the differences are minor. For example, the New England Patriots are +600 in Jersey and +650 in Vegas, while the Philadelphia Eagles are +900 near home and +1000 out west. (For what it’s worth, Mark Wahlberg has already placed bets on both of those teams, plus the Cleveland Browns. We’re not entirely sure the star of The Gambler knows what he’s doing when it comes to sports betting. But with an estimated net worth of $225 million, he can afford to be wrong.)
There are some teams, however, that you’d be foolish to bet on at Westgate over Meadowlands, or vice versa. Here are some of the widest gaps:
- The Raiders are 18/1 at Westgate and 40/1 at Meadowlands, so you David-Carr-to-Jordy-Nelson believers might want to consider a trip to Jersey.
- The Steelers and Vikings are both 10/1 in Vegas and a tastier 12/1 in NJ.
- While the Rams have crept all the way to 10/1 at Westgate, you can still get them at +1400 at Meadowlands.
- Panthers fans will get a better deal at Westgate, +4000 instead of +3300.
- Think a healthy Deshaun Watson makes the Texans a threat to win it all? You can get 22/1 in Jersey instead of 16/1 in Vegas.
- Oddly, the local teams are more attractive to bet on right near their home stadium. The Giants are 30/1 at Westgate and 50/1 at Meadowlands, while the Jets are 80/1 in Vegas and a whopping 200/1 in New Jersey. Fair warning, though: Wherever you bet, they’re still the Jets, so the return on investment is purely theoretical.
New Jersey bettors will be pleased to know that by the time the NFL season rolls around, there’s a strong likelihood that a FanDuel branded online sports betting site will be operational, enabling at-home and on-the-go futures wagering.
Westgate has also posted win totals for all 32 teams. A few notable figures:
- The Patriots are the high team on the board with 11. (They’ve managed 11 or more wins 14 out of 17 times in the Tom Brady era, including the last eight years in a row, but it has to end sometime, right?)
- The Cardinals and Mark Wahlberg’s Browns are tied for the lowest team with an over/under of 5.5 wins.
- That 5.5 line for the Browns still represents 5.5 more wins than the team scored in 2017.
- Even though money has been coming in on the Chiefs to win it all, their win total is down from 10 last year to 8.5 this year with a new QB.
- Out of 32 teams, 22 have a win total between 6.5 and 9.5. That doesn’t mean sportsbook operators are predicting parity. What it means is that in the wildly unpredictable world of the NFL, the house likes to play it safe.