NFL playoff odds: Who’s overrated and underrated?

NFL Odds

A look at the 2018 playoff odds for all 32 teams and which lines look like intriguing bets this early in the year.

It’s been a long offseason. Thankfully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

The closer we get to NFL kickoff, the more signs there are that football is just around the corner. Over the next several weeks we’ll see the start of training camp, the first episode of Hard Knocks, fantasy football rankings start to come out, the Hall of Fame Game, etc.

Another of the signs that the wait is almost over came last week as Vegas released the first playoff odds on all 32 teams. OddShark shared the opening lines  on Twitter and as usual, there are a handful of obvious long shots, a couple lines that are too low to even touch and a bunch that fall somewhere in the middle but sound about right. And then there are also a few that raise an eyebrow.

Some, if not most teams have major question marks heading into training camp. Seven teams have different head coaches than they did this time last year, including five first-time head coaches. There’s absolutely no way to predict who or when but inevitably, we’ll see an injury or a couple that shift the entire outlook of a team’s season.

Betting this early is a dangerous game. But high risk, high reward. If you have a hunch or you know something Vegas doesn’t, you may never get a better value than you can now.

I’m still licking my wounds from the NBA playoffs and the two World Cup bets I made (Germany and Spain, turns out, aren’t sure things). So I don’t plan on laying anything on the NFL this early, but that will more than likely change. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that I’ll have talked myself into a couple of these lines by the time I finish writing this article.

For now, here’s a look at each team’s odds, which ones I’d be running from, which I’m shrugging my shoulders at, and which teams I see as at least a little intriguing given their opening odds.

Absolute stay-aways

Long shots (probably for good reason) or obvious playoff teams who aren’t worth the minimal payouts for picking them correctly

New England -1500 – With that line, you’d have to bet $100 to win $6. I’ll pass, but in case there are any takers, here’s a list of offerings available for under $10 on Amazon.

Pittsburgh -550 – The Steelers haven’t missed the playoffs since 2013. Le’Veon Bell holdout talks aside, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and a terrible division should keep the streak of postseason births going. But at -550, a $100 bet wins $16. Just not worth it.

New York Jets +600 – The Jets are in year six of a rebuild and are probably still two to three years from being competitive.

Cleveland +600 – Yeah, let’s just move on …

Miami +600 – The Dolphins went 6-10 in 2017. They had a fire sale during free agency and getting Ryan Tannehill back from injury isn’t going to help the situation enough for Miami to make a run at the postseason.

Chicago +450 – Thankfully John Fox is in the Bears’ rearview mirror. But even with the addition of a few weapons on offense, quarterback Mitch Trubisky is unproven, as is new head coach Matt Nagy, and the NFC North is going to be a tough division.

Tampa +425 – Jameis Winston is suspended for two games which should start the Bucs off on the wrong foot. Since they play in the NFC South with the Saints, Panthers and Falcons, it doesn’t really matter how many games he plays. Tampa isn’t making the playoffs regardless.

Washington +375 – The Redskins didn’t make the playoffs with Kirk Cousins at quarterback in 2017 and will be trying to in 2018 with Alex Smith under center. For every piece they added this offseason, they lost a key player or two. With the Cowboys and Giants likely improved from a season ago, don’t expect to be watching the Redskins play much in January 2019.

New York Giants +325 – The Giants have a new general manager and new head coach in 2018. They went 3-13 last year during a season in which Eli Manning lost his top four receivers so things can’t possibly go worse. They probably won’t go six to eight wins better though.

Sound about right

Seem pretty close to what they should be, at least close enough that I don’t see a reason to jump on them this early

Minnesota -260 – The Vikings were one of the best four teams in the NFL last season and added Kirk Cousins at quarterback. They’re making the playoffs but at -260, you’d be betting $100 to win $38. This early, that doesn’t seem worth it.

Los Angeles Rams -170 – The Rams were 11-5 last season and made some big improvements on defense in the offseason. As long as Todd Gurley and key players on defense stay healthy, they’re a playoff team and a threat to make a deep run.

Green Bay -170 – Aaron Rodgers missed nine games in 2017 and the Packers were still in the playoff race. As long as he stays healthy in 2018, they should make the postseason.

Los Angeles Chargers -145 – The Chargers would have been a playoff team last year had it not been for a couple missed field goals. I’d lean towards them making the playoffs this season even if the Chiefs and/or Broncos are significantly better than expected.

Jacksonville -140 – The AFC South will be more of a challenge assuming DeShaun Watson and Andrew Luck are healthy. The Jags should have another top five defense but I still don’t trust Blake Bortles enough to bet on them, especially at -140.

Houston -135 – If DeShaun Watson plays at a level close to what we saw during his rookie season before he went down with a torn ACL, the Texans should be a playoff team. Again, though, the AFC South is going to be a more competitive division than last year so I’m not itching to jump on Houston.

New Orleans -130 – The Saints should make the playoffs again and should contend for the Super Bowl assuming they stay healthy and avoid sophomore slumps from their pair of 2017 ROY’s, Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore. Since the NFC South looks like the most competitive division in football, they’re going to have another tough schedule in 2018.

Atlanta +115 – Another NFC South team. I expect the Falcons to be a playoff team again in 2018 but I wouldn’t bet on anything until the Julio Jones contract situation in resolved.

Kansas City +120 – Patrick Mahomes is getting a lot of hype. If he lives up to it, the Chiefs are going to be dangerous. The loss of cornerback, Marcus Peters, hurts but Eric Berry is returning at safety after going down in week one of 2017. So they lost a Pro Bowl corner but if Berry comes back healthy, they’re essentially adding the best safety in the NFL.

San Francisco +135 – The 49ers won five straight to end the year after trading for Jimmy Garoppolo but four wins came against the Bears, Texans, Titans and the Rams after they’d locked up their playoff seeding. They’re on the right track, especially with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, but are probably still a season away.

Baltimore +135 – The Ravens have missed out the last three seasons after reaching the playoffs six of Jim Harbaugh’s first seven years and winning a Super Bowl. I don’t understand the Ravens and have no idea what to expect from them this or any season, so I’m staying away.

Dallas +145 – The cloud from the Zeke Elliott suspension festered and derailed the Cowboys’ 2017 season. At this point, he’s all set to play 16 games but Dallas will have to replace both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and have a tough schedule in 2018.

Tennessee +165 – The Titans not only made the playoffs but beat the Chiefs in the first round last season. They still fired head coach, Mike Mularkey, which tells you something about how fluky 2017 was, and they’ll have a much tougher road back in 2018 under first-year head coach, Mike Vrabel.

Oakland +165 – Nothing coming out of Raiders camp since John Gruden was hired gives me the warm and fuzzies. He’s been talking about football for the last eight years. We’ll get to see if he can still coach it and he’ll be re-cutting his teeth in a solid division from top to bottom.

Seattle +220 – Russell Wilson gives you a chance every time you step on the field but the Seahawks don’t have the Legion of Boom on the other side of the ball anymore. I would be pretty surprised if Seattle is a playoff team in 2018 but +220 seems about right.

Detroit +260 – The Lions are another long shot. They’re probably not a playoff team but +260 feels accurate. 2018 should tell us a lot about the future of the team under new head coach Matt Patricia, though.

Indianapolis +325 – Andrew Luck is supposedly throwing and looking healthy but until we see it on the field in a game, I wouldn’t bet on the Colts. Even with him, the Colts don’t have a ton else and have a new and unproven first-year head coach in Frank Reich.

Cincinnati +400 – Are the Bengals a playoff team? No. They probably aren’t bad enough to justify the eighth worst playoff odds, though, so I’m not running the opposite direction. Walking or maybe jogging.

Buffalo +450 – The Bills made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 1999. They were 9-7,  though, barely made it in and didn’t add much during the offseason. +450 seems a little low to me but I still wouldn’t bet on Buffalo to make it back in 2018.

Tempting teams to bet

Philadelphia -260 – In case anyone has forgotten, the Eagles went 16-3 and won Super Bowl LII in February. The fact that Philly’s odds are five-times lower than New England’s and half as high as Pittsburgh’s despite how much better the Eagles got this offseason makes them pretty intriguing. A $100 bet to win $38 seems like free money, and more than you should get betting on the defending champs.

Carolina +130 – Cam Newton took the Panthers to the playoffs in 2018 with almost no supporting cast aside from Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess. With Greg Olsen coming back and the additions of Torrey Smith, C.J. Anderson and D.J. Moore, the Panthers are going to be a juggernaut on offense and solid on defense. I’d bet on Carolina at -130 so I’m all over them at +130.

Denver +275 – Case Keenum is a substantial upgrade at quarterback which has been the Broncos’ biggest problem the last two seasons. They’ll return most of what could still easily be one of the best defenses in the NFL if there’s an offense that can keep them off the field for more than 70 percent of the time. I think the Broncos have a good shot at making it back to the postseason and at +275, they’d be a big payoff if they do.

Arizona +800 – The Cardinals went 8-8 last year. They’re breaking in a first-year head coach in Steve Wilks, have a revamped offensive line and Sam Bradford will be playing quarterback until first-round pick Josh Rosen is ready to take the reins.

I will go to my grave defending Sam Bradford. No quarterback in the last 20 years has been dealt a worse hand than Bradford in terms of situation and injuries. When he has decent protection and someone to throw to, he’s a top 10 quarterback. If you think I’m crazy for saying that, here’s my justification. He’ll have David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and a handful of other weapons on offense who make for a much better supporting cast than anything he ever had in St. Louis or Philadelphia.

The question is whether or not Bradford stays healthy. If he does, for at least most of the season, I’ll take Bradford and Rosen at quarterback in a division with the 49ers and Seahawks, especially with a $25 bet netting $255.

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