Tom Gable, Director of Race & Sports at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, provides our readers with insider tips and strategies for making the most of their sports betting ventures. This week, Tom is taking a look at the upcoming NFL regular season and what football fans alike can expect!
The NFL preseason has started and the regular season will be here before you know it! Week 1 of the regular season officially kicks off Thursday, September 9 with a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Currently, the Buccaneers are 6 ½ point favorites at home for the opening game. Before we get to September 9, there is a lot to review and analyze. Let’s take a look at the way the divisions are shaping up along with some current odds on the future boards for the NFL.
We will start with the defending champions, Tampa Bay, who are once again lead by the ageless Tom Brady. The vaunted defense is back, along with the skill position players and Tampa finds themselves as the betting favorite to come out of the NFC (+310) and are currently 7/1 to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Their division, the NFC South, should not give them much trouble at all and they are currently -190 to win the division. The New Orleans Saints (+325 to win the division) will be without the steady hand of quarterback Drew Brees this season after he retired, so they turn to Jameis Winston at quarterback along with Taysom Hill, who will get his fair share of snaps, much like he did when Brees was playing. However, Winston didn’t get much playing time at all last year. The last time he found himself in a starting role (in Tampa Bay prior to Brady getting there), he was a turnover machine. The Saints will also start the year without their star wide receiver, Michael Thomas, after he delayed having offseason surgery which is one less target Winston and Hill can throw to. The Saints still have a good defense and Alvin Kamara at running back but a lack of offensive options will probably keep them out of the hunt. The Atlanta Falcons (+800 to win the division) and the Carolina Panthers (10/1 to win the division) won’t put up much fight in the division, though the Panthers should be improved from last season.
The NFC East, which had the distinction of placing a team with a losing record in the playoffs last year, won’t be much better unfortunately. The Dallas Cowboys are the favorite to win the division at +120 with the Washington Football Team at +225, the New York Giants at +450 and the Philadelphia Eagles at +500. The Cowboys still have a lot to improve defensively and while Washington features one of the best defenses in all of football, they still haven’t truly solved their lack of quarterback(s) issue. They have brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the starter. Fitzpatrick should be serviceable but he won’t be taking them to the Super Bowl anytime soon.
This brings us to the NFC North, where after much publicity, Aaron Rodgers has decided to return to the Green Bay Packers, which leaves them as the favorite to win the division at -165. The Minnesota Vikings were briefly favored to win the division when it looked like Rodgers was going to sit out or retire but now that Rodgers is definitely back, the Vikings are at +250 to win the North. The Chicago Bears drafted quarterback Justin Fields and he is expected to back up Andy Dalton to start the season. The Bears are at +550 but I personally don’t have much faith in Matt Nagy as a head coach. The Detroit Lions round out the division at 25/1 odds with Jared Goff now at quarterback.
The last division in the NFC is the West and this will be the most competitive division in the NFL. The LA Rams, now with Matthew Stafford at quarterback are the co-favorites at +190 with the San Francisco 49ers, who dealt with a huge amount of injuries last season and should resemble more closely the Super Bowl team they were two years ago, than the injury-plagued one they were last season. The Seattle Seahawks should also challenge in the NFC West (currently at +275) as long as they balance out an explosive offense by controlling the clock and trying to keep their weak defense off the field as much as possible. The Arizona Cardinals will be the sleeper pick in the West at 6/1 odds.
Let’s move to the AFC, where the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in a familiar role as favorites to win not only their division (the AFC West at -275) but also the betting favorite to once again win the AFC (2/1 odds) and the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl at +450. The Chiefs are lead by Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and have some of the best offensive weapons in the NFL. Injuries to their offensive line certainly didn’t do them any favors in the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay last season but the Chiefs are the rightful favorites to win it all. Their division opponents probably don’t stand too much of a chance to overtake them this year, which is reflected in their odds. The LA Chargers are 5/1 to win the division and they should certainly turn out a better record than last year as Anthony Lynn is out as head coach and Brandon Staley is in and quarterback Justin Herbert looks to improve on his very impressive rookie season. If something should happen to Patrick Mahomes, the Chargers could sneak in there and challenge for the division. The Denver Broncos are currently at 6/1 and the Raiders are at 18/1 to win the division. The Broncos have a bright future in front of them if they can get a decent quarterback and the Raiders still have too many holes.
In the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans are the favorite to win the division at -130, with the Colts at +190 after the news broke that starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, will have to miss a few weeks to start the season due to injury. Their back-ups to Wentz: Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger, were draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and their lack of NFL experience will cost the Colts some games until Wentz is healthy. The Jacksonville Jaguars, with their top draft pick of Trevor Lawrence at quarterback and new head coach Urban Meyer (who is making the jump to the pros after a legendary college coaching career), will be an interesting team to watch but are more than likely not going to contend at 6/1 and the Houston Texans, who will be missing quarterback Deshaun Watson due to a myriad of civil and potential criminal issues, are the long shots at 25/1 to win the division.
Over in the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens are the short favorite at +115 but will be in a race with the Cleveland Browns (currently +150) all season. The Pittsburgh Steelers (currently +425) will still be looking to contend but the overall health of aging quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who looked hesitant to throw the ball down field last season, will be a big factor for the team this season. The Cincinnati Bengals are still a few years away from contending and are currently at 25/1 to win the division.
That brings us to our final division in the AFC, the East. The Buffalo Bills are the betting favorites at -150 to win the division and are at +650 to win the AFC and 12/1 to win the Super Bowl. The Bills took a major step forward last season when starting quarterback Josh Allen emerged as a potential MVP candidate, greatly improving his throwing accuracy. They will certainly be in contention again in the AFC. Their division should be competitive with the Miami Dolphins at +325 and the New England Patriots at +350. The Patriots should bounce back this year, even with them starting Cam Newton at quarterback. They drafted Alabama product Mac Jones in the first round and there is little reason to doubt that head coach Bill Belichick will make sure that Jones is ready to step in at some point in the starting role if Newton falters. That leaves the NY Jets at 25/1 with a new head coach and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson under center. The Jets should improve somewhat but don’t look for any major steps forward this season for the team.
Now is the time to make your NFL future wagers. You can place all your wagers on division, conference and Super Bowl futures along with season win totals, MVP and many other awards and categories now at Borgata’s Race and Sportsbook, the BetMGM Sportsbook and Bar or online at Borgatasports.com. Good luck to everyone this season!