- Sportsbooks have started to post futures odds for the 2021 NFL season.
- Futures odds to win the Super Bowl are the most popular though markets are available for conference and divisional winners as well.
- Futures bets can be difficult to handicap due to unknown factors like injuries and potential trades.
With a slew of NFL futures odds and proposition wagers hitting the betting boards we’ve started to focus on finding good value positions. We’ve already looked at the divisional winner futures in both the NFC and AFC and we’ll now move to the conference level and see what we can find there. Futures odds for the NFC and AFC champion have been posted at BetOnline.ag and to no surprise last year’s Super Bowl combatants are the top choice in each conference:
AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP FUTURES
Kansas City Chiefs +280 Buffalo Bills +700 Baltimore Ravens +900 Cleveland Browns +900 New England Patriots +1100 Indianapolis Colts +1200 Tennessee Titans +1200 Denver Broncos +1400 Los Angeles Chargers +1400 Miami Dolphins +1800 Pittsburgh Steelers +2200 Las Vegas Raiders +2800 Cincinnati Bengals +4500 Jacksonville Jaguars +5000 New York Jets +5500 Houston Texans +10000
NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP FUTURES
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +300 Los Angeles Rams +700 San Francisco 49ers +700 Green Bay Packers +800 Seattle Seahawks +1100 Dallas Cowboys +1400 New Orleans Saints +1400 Arizona Cardinals +1600 Washington Football Team +2000 Minnesota Vikings +2200 Chicago Bears +2500 New York Giants +2800 Atlanta Falcons +3300 Carolina Panthers +3300 Philadelphia Eagles +3300 Detroit Lions +6600
Everyone who follows the NFL understands that winning back to back Super Bowl championships is extremely difficult. The reality is that it’s extremely difficult just to make the Super Bowl in back to back years. That premise is where we’ll start handicapping this prop. Not surprisingly, last year’s AFC Champion (Kansas City) and last year’s NFC Champion (Tampa Bay) are favorites to repeat. If both favorites won their respective conferences we’d have a rematch from last year’s Super Bowl matchup. Want to guess how many times there has been a rematch of the previous year’s Super Bowl? Try once. In 1993 and 1994 Dallas and Buffalo played each other in the Super Bowl.
Repeat winners in the AFC and NFL are more common but still the exception rather than the rule. In the Super Bowl era it’s happened nine times in the AFC and eight times in the NFC. Miami won the AFC in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Buffalo won the AFC in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 while New England won it in 2016, 2017 and 2018. With those exceptions, no team has managed to win more than twice in a row. In the NFC, there hasn’t been a team to win more than two consecutive conference championships in the Super Bowl era.
We all know that ‘past results don’t determine future outcomes’ but even with a 51 game sample size you can see that it isn’t easy to win back to back conference championships. This means that neither conference favorite offers enough value to make them ‘bettable’. In the AFC, the theoretical breakeven price would be somewhere around +468 and in the NFC somewhere around +541. This means that our first course of action is to draw a line through Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
From this point, there are any number of viable handicapping strategies. To make things simple, however, we’ll just refer back to our divisional futures positions:
Is it possible that a team might not have been a good value to win their division but do offer a decent value for winning the conference? Definitely–just doing a quick review of the conference championship prices I see a couple that I’d at least circle for ‘further consideration’ despite not backing them to win the division. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, didn’t look attractive at +380 to win the AFC North. At +2200 to win the AFC Championship it might be worth taking a flyer on them. For the most part, however, the teams I passed on at the divisional level offer no more interest at the conference level.
So let’s run down the teams we talked about in the divisional futures previews and look at their prices to win their respective conferences:
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM +2000 TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+14)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS +2200 TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+16)
CHICAGO BEARS +2500 TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+19)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +1400 TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+8)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS +700 TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP *2 UNITS* (+9)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS +1100 TO WIN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+5)
The number in parenthesis by each position is the unit profit should it win. For example, the Washington Football Team would net a +14 unit profit should they win the NFC. Note that the 2 unit play on the San Francisco 49ers is not indicative of them being a ‘best bet’ or having a qualitative edge over the other five plays. It’s simply a money management move–the payback on the other teams are such that I can afford to throw 2 units on SF to give me a decent return on investment should they win.
BUFFALO BILLS +700 TO WIN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+4)
BALTIMORE RAVENS +900 TO WIN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+6)
CLEVELAND BROWNS +900 TO WIN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+6)
TENNESSEE TITANS +1200 TO WIN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP (+9)
We had a play on KC to win their division but as noted above don’t have any interest at the conference level due to the price. The AFC doesn’t offer as attractive of a risk/reward dynamic as the NFC but outside of the top 7 teams in the betting market there’s just not much to be interested in.