NFL Playoff Picture - Best Bets Following Week 2
The first two weeks of the strangest NFL season in recent memory are now in the books, and we’re starting to get a better sense of which teams look the most poised to make a run into and through the playoffs. The NFL playoffs begin in just over three months, and with an eighth of the season already complete we’ll give our best bets as to who we’ll be watching in the month of January.
The coronavirus pandemic and entire or partial lack of fans aren’t the only bizarre aspects of this season. The 2020-21 campaign will be the first season of expanded playoffs, meaning that each conference will send three wild cards to the postseason instead of the traditional two. Only the top seed will get a bye to the divisional round; all other playoff teams will have to go through wild-card weekend.
Since there are two additional berths around the league, this early in the season it’s easier to focus (and bet) on division winners. Winning the division is still extremely crucial: the three division winners in each conference that don’t finish first will host wild-card games, hopefully with fans in attendance. We’ve seen some interesting odds movement with regards to division winners since last week, and these are our best suggestions based on what value you can get.
Last Week’s Pick: Buffalo at +100
The Buffalo Bills now occupy sole possession of first place in the division. They came from behind in the second half to beat the Dolphins on Sunday, and while Miami has played better than the Jets so far, both teams look to be non-factors, effectively making the division a race between Buffalo and New England. The Patriots suffered a shocking loss on Sunday Night Football – they weren’t favored coming in, but Josh McDaniels’ questionable play calling on the last play of the game cost them a win in Seattle. New England has one of the toughest schedules in all of football through the next two months, with the Jets seeming like their only lock to win in that stretch. The Bills are now odds-on favorites, but they’re still your best bet at -125.
Last Week’s Pick: Baltimore at -250
When the Ravens are at their best, there’s not a better team in football. They followed up their convincing Week 1 win against the Browns with another statement victory, 33-16 at Houston, who won their division last season. Lamar Jackson and co. have heard enough talk about the Chiefs as AFC favorites and are out to prove a point that Baltimore is the best team in the league, as many believed for much of last season. The Steelers are the only team that could challenge them for the division–Pittsburgh is also 2-0 and Ben Roethlisberger looks like his old self, but Baltimore is a more complete team and is less prone to collapse against weaker opponents. After another win, the Ravens’ odds are now -278; still worth a bet.
Last Week’s Pick: Houston at +400
The Texans have one of the most difficult opening schedules in the league, starting out against Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. While they’re 0-2 now, if they sneak out a win in one of their next two games they’ll go into their divisional battles without a goose egg in the win column. Tennessee is 2-0, but have not looked convincing in either win against bad teams. Indianapolis handled the Vikings easily, and have an easier schedule coming up in the next few weeks. But with Houston’s odds down to +700 with an easier schedule ahead, that’s still the best value you can find in this division.
Last Week’s Pick: Kansas City at -500
The Chiefs were pushed further in Week 2, tying the game with a field goal in the final seconds and hanging on to beat the Chargers in overtime. But nobody expects them or any other team to finish 16-0, and the true mark of a champion is a team that’s able to win while not playing at its best. Kansas City demonstrated that on Sunday against a tough Chargers team. The Raiders have looked good so far, but with two tough AFC East games coming up against the Patriots and Bills before their first clash with Kansas City, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep up this pace and outlast the Chiefs over the course of a season. Lock in your Chiefs bets at -590 while there’s still a market.
Last Week’s Pick: Philadelphia at +160
This is the only division we’re changing our minds about this week. Philadelphia did not look like a playoff team in a 37-19 loss to the Rams, dropping to 0-2 following its collapse to Washington in the first week. Carson Wentz threw two picks, and while the Eagles should win next week against the Bengals it’s the Cowboys who have looked the strongest so far. Dallas played a much tighter game against the Rams in Week 1 before storming back from a 19-point halftime deficit to beat the Falcons on Sunday. Their offense looks playoff-caliber, more so than any other team in the division, and at -200 Dallas is a good bet for the NFC East.
Last Week’s Pick: Green Bay at +110
The Packers were the only team to score more than 40 points in Week 1, and they did it again this past Sunday in a 42-21 win over the Lions. Aaron Jones ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns and also caught one of the two scores thrown by Aaron Rodgers. Not only did Green Bay look dominant over a division rival this week, but the rest of the division also disappointed. The Vikings suffered an embarrassing 28-11 loss in Indianapolis, while the Bears managed to win by just four against an awful Giants team playing without Saquon Barkley for most of the game. Chicago is also 2-0, but it is nowhere near as good of a team as the Packers. Even with odds of -167, the Packers are still a good bet to win the North.
Last Week’s Pick: New Orleans at -200
The Saints lost to Las Vegas this week while the Buccaneers beat Carolina, but don’t forget about the two teams’ first head-to-head meeting in Week 1-which the Saints won by 11. As long as Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara continue to lead the Saints down the field, they’re the best team in this division. Carolina looks to be a non-factor and Atlanta is 0-2 after a crushing loss to the Cowboys. New Orleans has a tough upcoming game against the Packers, but the rest of their first-half schedule is fairly straightforward and shouldn’t have more than two losses at the end of Week 8 going into the next meeting with Tampa Bay. At better odds than last week, take the Saints at -150.
Last Week’s Pick: Seattle at +195
The West continues to be the most wide-open division in football this season, with no clear favorite and just one loss combined among its four teams. Surprisingly, that one loss was by the 49ers–last year’s NFC champions. San Francisco bounced back with a convincing win over the Jets, and Arizona is also 2-0 with a favorable schedule in the immediate future. But the Seahawks and Rams have looked like two of the strongest teams in the league. Los Angeles put up 37 in a win over Philadelphia, and Seattle survived on the last play of the game to beat New England. Either one would be a good bet to win the division, but the Seahawks gave us no reason to change our minds after going with them last week. Go with Seattle at +175.Last updated: Wed 23rd September 2020