The nice thing about Super Bowl futures is because the markets run faithfully year-round, and because action is always high, there’s only so much bookmakers can do to handicap the odds. Inmates, or at least NFL gamblers, run the asylum when it comes to sending teams up and down the Super Bowl futures ledger.
But at least in early 2022, those “crazies” are onto something interesting. Teams with the best odds to win a Lombardi Trophy are not necessarily the best teams, but rather lineups with a multitude of advantages working in their favor, be they “bye” weeks, returning players, or favorable likely match-ups in the Divisional Round.
The Green Bay Packers co-own a league-best W/L record, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player, and an extended winning streak (with the 1st string on the field, anyway) that clinched a #1 conference playoff seed before anyone could remember it was 2022. Most importantly, the Packers have the best practical chances to reach February, thanks to a foreboding venue known as Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers’ well-rested team is a (+380) odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl 56 according to the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Meanwhile, the betting public has sided with WagerBop on the Kansas City Chiefs’ dangerous bid for playoff supremacy. It was unorthodox to rank Kansas City up to #2 following a disappointing road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but head coach Andy Reid clearly pulled back from the gas pedal to finish 12-5. Reid knows the difference between approaching a Super Bowl with healthy players and trying to win a title with wounded athletes, underscored by QB Pat Mahomes’ wonderful Super Bowl 54 outing against San Francisco. The Chiefs lost 31-9 behind an injured Mahomes in Super Bowl 55.
Kansas City’s (+450) odds to win another Super Bowl have handily surpassed Tampa Bay’s (+750) betting line in January. There’s nothing wrong with Tom Brady’s right arm, which led the Buccaneers to an astounding comeback win yet again in Week 17, then threw for 326 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 41-17 win over Carolina. But the defending NFL champs have been hit with late-season controversy.
Buffalo’s 7-to-1 odds are a product of bettors overlooking the woes of autumn. Buffalo’s mid-season slump included a dreadful TD-less loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact, superstar QB Josh Allen’s team is ignominiously in the record books among former Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer’s very few victims in NFL games. Nevertheless, gamblers love the Bills’ momentum headed into the AFC playoffs, and understand that Allen has transformed from a spunky dual-threat signal-caller into a number-production powerhouse who leads NFL Daily Fantasy scoring charts.
Tennessee (+850) has been the season’s most popular dark-horse pick, soaring up the Super Bowl futures ledger following markets of 20-to-1 or longer odds on the Titans. While the return of tailback Derrick Henry may only help Nashville’s betting odds grow shorter, speculators can expect the L.A. Rams’ line to win a “hosted” Super Bowl to fatten with a lack of bets-taken in short order. Los Angeles backed into the NFC West crown thanks to a late-season slump from the Arizona Cardinals (+2100). Long-shot seekers shouldn’t overlook 20/1 odds on teams like the Cards, who could regain their October form if WR DeAndre Hopkins returns.
The Dallas Cowboys fell victim to Arizona’s pass rush in Week 17, but a resounding 51-26 victory in Philadelphia to cap a 12-5 season has helped the ‘Boys maintain bright Super Bowl odds at (+1100).
Futures odds are fun to mull over, but don’t be consumed by each club’s Lombardi Trophy chances while placing bets on the Wild Card Round and Divisional Round. Thanks to a litany of NFC teams (who share similar geography) potentially pulverizing one another into injury and fatigue (and postseason oblivion), the likelihood that Wild Card and Divisional playoff outcomes will appear to contradict each other wildly is high. NFL clubs could win their opening round games by 21 points and then lose with 5+ turnovers the next weekend, given the disparity of injury reports, rivalry match-ups vs random meetings, and comfort-levels as a long, long season winds down.
What’s the best NFL betting tactic in such circumstances? Don’t worry about who’s good enough to go all the way in 2022. Try to figure out what sort of game will take place, not what kind of victory. If we successfully forecast the atmosphere, vibe, and key factors of each kickoff, the ultimate success of playoff teams becomes less crucial – not to rabid fans mind you, but at least to those speculators who’d like to finish January in the black.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, January 15)
At 90/1 odds to win Super Bowl 56, the Pittsburgh Steelers might well be the unlikeliest of AFC Wild Card bids. That being said, the Las Vegas Raiders aren’t far behind, on the betting board or in the headlines. The ’21-22 Silver & Black has lived through tragedy, coaching upheaval, and finally a do-or-die OT battle against the L.A. Chargers. Still, the Raiders have emerged as a playoff team with a stubborn defense and veteran QB at the helm.
Las Vegas (+225) still won’t be a point-spread favorite by Saturday. Joe Burrow proved his mettle as Cincinnati’s up-and-coming franchise QB by out-dueling Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17. The Bengals did lose to the Cleveland Browns with backup quarterback Brandon Allen taking snaps last weekend, but a fresh 1st-string combined with Burrow’s magic is helping to cast Cincy as a (-6) point spread option for Saturday.
A weather forecast of snow and freezing cold may drive down the Wild Card Weekend debut’s O/U line (Over/Under (49) total points), but only calm days are predicted for southwestern Ohio until next week. Keep in mind that freezing conditions are to NFL passing games what sand bunkers are to PGA Tour golfers — a hazard that looks worse than it is. Blustery winds, just as on the golf links, are what prevent QBs like Burrow and Las Vegas starter Derek Carr from earning a high completion %.
We can expect a hot youngster and a grizzled gun-slinger to lead offenses to the end zone quickly on this snow-sprinkled Saturday. The best “pick” is to wait patiently for the threat of a weekend blizzard to draw extra betting action on the “Under” then bet confidently on O(47) or O(48) total points.
Recommended bet: Over (Pending Late Line-Movement)
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, January 15)
Bettors in different gambling markets are sometimes seen to disagree with one another about the game’s forecast, right in the numbers themselves. For example, a debated basketball team may be a (-1.5) point-spread favorite and also a (+101) moneyline “underdog” pick to win outright in the same contest.
There are few better examples of the phenomenon than the NFL’s 2021-2022 postseason odds on Buffalo and New England.
Will the Patriots be able to hang close to the Bills this weekend? According to Super Bowl gamblers, the answer is no. Futures odds on the Bills to lift the Lombardi Trophy in February are offered at optimistic prices like (+800), while New England’s lines are languishing way down the “totem pole” of Super Bowl 56 odds. Bettors have seen Bill Belichick’s team lose to every opponent not called “the Jacksonville Jaguars” over the last anxious month of regular-season games. Meanwhile, Buffalo has returned to prominence as an AFC championship contender after overcoming a significant fall slump.
However, the thoughts of Super Bowl gamblers and point spread sharks do not align this time. New England is only taking (+4.5) points from Buffalo as a solid (+180) moneyline underdog. There’s no comparison between the teams’ levels of productivity in December and January; rather the tight point spread is inspired by Belichick’s coaching acumen and his record as an unstoppable force in the NFL playoffs. The Pats also held Allen to 50% completions and punished the Bills’ run defense mercilessly during a December win.
Regretfully for The Hoodie, there is only so much QB coaching you can do. Mac Jones is a question mark in the postseason, and New England’s neophyte must travel to face a Pro-Bowl quarterback. Buffalo’s superior spread-offense and the blessings of home-field advantage should combine to be worth more than 4.5 points on the Sin City spread. Buffalo took almost immediate revenge for the defeat on Boxing Day with a 33-21 win of its own.
Recommended bet: Bills (-4.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, January 16)
Fans of old rivalries should be excited to see the resurgent San Francisco 49ers take on the champs of the NFC East at Jerry World this Sunday. However, the Cowboys-49ers match-up won’t look quite the same from a passing-game POV as the legendary battles between Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and Jeff Garcia. In fact, the 49ers are having issues fielding a healthy quarterback at all.
Jimmy Garoppolo produced a brave performance in Week 18, as San Francisco took down the L.A. Rams in overtime to earn a Wild Card berth. Dallas is cast as only a (-3) point spread favorite over the visiting 49ers.
Dak Prescott of the Cowboys would have the superior scrambling legs even if Garoppolo were 100% healthy, and the former Mississippi State signal-caller is coming off a huge 5-TD passing performance against the Eagles.
Big D is a wise choice, and that’s not just because of QB disparities or tailback Ezekiel Elliott’s rejuvenated Week 18 form. The San Francisco 49ers had to overcome a poor regular-season start to qualify among a terrific trio of NFC West teams. The Dallas Cowboys, comparatively speaking, have coasted to the finish line with 2 blowout victories in the last 3 games. The 49ers could well be the more tired of 2 opponents, an angle that won’t be lost on head coach Mike McCarthy as he preps his team for a high tempo.
Recommended bet: Cowboys (-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 16)
For those who’ve doubted KC’s chances to mount another run at a Super Bowl, it’s time to concede that Andy Reid has at least as much big-picture football knowledge as NFL fans. Pat Mahomes remains the AFC’s most dangerous QB when at his best, and the head coach has worked to save Mahomes from taking late-season beatings while protecting a majority of the Chiefs’ skill players for use in the playoffs. Reid pulled back from the gas pedal in Cincinnati, and arguably in Denver, even as the Chiefs needed a dramatic defensive TD to score the winning points. KC’s epic 2-month unbeaten streak still speaks volumes headed into the postseason.
Whether Pittsburgh (+520) should be taking (+12.5) points from Arrowhead Stadium’s hosts is still under debate, especially considering that the Steelers have been such a difficult team to beat in general, let alone by 13 or more points in 2021-22.
Pay attention to the NFL’s recent holiday scoreboard. Kansas City destroyed Pittsburgh 36-10 on December 26th, severely limiting the visitors’ passing game despite giving up 93 consolation rush yards to Najee Harris. Little has changed in the match-up of rosters since that Kansas City win. Instead of the spread being inaccurate, a cautious (46.5) O/U line may be the biggest error at sportsbooks.
The fact that a lopsided Wild Card game is expected means that fewer “4th-quarter blitz” points have been factored into the Las Vegas point-total handicap than usual. However, there’s almost no chance for a blow-out win on the Black & Gold’s behalf. If the contest isn’t close, it will likely be because the Steeler defense finally breaks down, and the Chiefs will be sure not to quit scoring until a 4th quarter of garbage-time is secured.
Pick: Over (46.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday Night Football)
The L.A. Rams’ line to win a “hosted” Super Bowl is expected to fatten with a lack of betting action. QB Matt Stafford has been shaky down the stretch, and the Mountain Goats blew a sizable 1st-half lead to allow injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the rival San Francisco 49ers to win at SoFi Stadium.
So why, then, is L.A. still a (-200) MNF favorite? Arizona arguably had an even worse weekend to cap a regular season in the desert, blowing multiple leads and getting blocked off the pigskin in the 2nd half of a surprise loss to the visiting Seattle Seahawks.
Arizona and L.A. can each regain momentum and win 3 playoff games in a row, assuming Monday’s winner isn’t too beaten-up physically to contend to win in the Divisional Round. But sportsbooks have been too generous in offering (50) point Over/Under markets on the Rams-Cardinals contest, even though the NFC West rivals combined for 110 points while splitting the season series 1-1.
Stafford’s latest struggles, combined with the Cardinals’ glaring lack of sturdy run defense in Week 18, should lead to a healthy rush total for Sony Michel. Superstar WR Cooper Kupp will also be important in both blocking the run game and as a “possession” receiver. Kupp’s counterpart DeAndre Hopkins isn’t likely to play for Arizona, and the Cardinals have shown a willingness to respond to patient offense with their own hand-offs and screen passes.
A final battle for supremacy between fierce division foes is to be expected, starting with each team’s defensive front-7. Kyler Murray can’t afford to try over 40 passes any more than Stafford can, and Arizona’s backfield is healthy enough to eke-out 1st downs.
Recommended bet: Under (50)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.