- 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.
A ton of NFL futures and props have hit the betting boards and we’ve started to look at some over the past few days. We’ve already covered the AFC and NFC Conference Championship futures as well as the Divisional futures. If you missed those posts here are the links:
NFC DIVISIONAL FUTURES ODDS AND ANALYSIS
AFC DIVISIONAL FUTURES ODDS AND ANALYSIS
NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP FUTURES
In this article we’ll try to find some value plays to win Super Bowl LVI which is scheduled to be played on February 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. SoFi Stadium is the home of the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers and is built on the former Hollywood Park racetrack site.
Here’s the rundown of the Super Bowl LVI 2022 futures odds from BetOnline.ag:
TO WIN SUPER BOWL LVI 2022
Kansas City Chiefs +575 Tampa Bay Buccaneers +600 Buffalo Bills +1200 Los Angeles Rams +1200 San Francisco 49ers +1400 Baltimore Ravens +1600 Cleveland Browns +1600 Green Bay Packers +1600 New England Patriots +2200 Seattle Seahawks +2200 Denver Broncos +2500 Indianapolis Colts +2500 Tennessee Titans +2500 Dallas Cowboys +2800 New Orleans Saints +2800 Los Angeles Chargers +3300 Miami Dolphins +3300 Arizona Cardinals +4000 Minnesota Vikings +4000 Pittsburgh Steelers +4000 Chicago Bears +5000 Las Vegas Raiders +5000 Washington Football Team +5000 Atlanta Falcons +6600 Carolina Panthers +6600 New York Giants +6600 Philadelphia Eagles +6600 Cincinnati Bengals +8000 Jacksonville Jaguars +10000 New York Jets +10000 Detroit Lions +15000 Houston Texans +20000
In our handicapping of the Conference Championship Futures we looked in depth at the difficulty of winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships as well as the difficulty of just making the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons. Obviously a team can’t win their conference championship without going to the Super Bowl so this is a very relevant concept. It’s even more relevant to this discussion so we’ll review the main points:
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.
As was the case with the Conference Championship prices there’s another reason to ‘draw a line’ through Tampa Bay and Kansas City–there’s just no value on betting either team. The Chiefs are +575 and the Bucs +600 while every other team in the league is priced at +1200 or higher. The Chiefs and Bucs are definitely capable of winning the Super Bowl but remember that we’re not trying to ‘pick winners’ here–we’re looking for value. Finding value is the ‘buy low/sell high’ of sports betting. If you continually focus on finding value the winning plays will take care of themselves and you’ll be a consistent moneymaker. This is a concept that is lost on most novice bettors but one that is a ‘prime directive’ for ‘sharps’.
That leaves us with 30 teams to work with. So which teams at double digit odds are capable of winning the Super Bowl? Even though we’re not trying to ‘pick the winner’ per se some concept of a team’s viability when it comes to winning ‘the big game’ is necessary so that we’re not wasting money playing teams that have no realistic chance. This is a very important distinction and one that is difficult for neophytes to grasp. Value is not a function of price alone. Value can be found up and down the continuum depending on the specific situation. In other words, there’s no way to justify a play on the Houston Texans as a ‘good value’ even at +20000. Conversely, the Buffalo Bills are a significantly better value at a much lower price point.
At one point, it was trendy for would-be handicappers to try and work out statistical models and ‘formulas’ to determine Super Bowl winners. Once the Super Bowl matchup was set you’d simply plug in the right variables and the outcome of the formula would purportedly give you the winner. While many of the statistical components would make sense–for example, giving points to the team with the best yards per rush average or the best pass completion percentage–the actual predictive ability of these formulas was dubious. Over the past decade, many of the creators behind these formulas either had to revise their models significantly while others just threw in the towel and accepted the reality that you’re not going to create a ‘one size fits all’ mathematical model to predict the outcome of any sporting event including the Super Bowl.
Another common quality that you’d see in these models/formulas was a team’s past experience in the Super Bowl. Depending on the way the model was constructed points would be awarded for playing in and/or winning the Super Bowl. Others would give a team that has previously played in a Super Bowl an advantage over a team that hasn’t. In some sports there’s a good deal of validity in favoring a team with playoff experience, at least from a conceptual standpoint. That being said, it’s hard to say if it matters in the NFL at this point. For example, the Minnesota Vikings are technically a ‘team with Super Bowl experience’ but how relevant is it that the 1977 Vikings with Fran Tarkenton at quarterback reached Super Bowl XI only to lose to John Madden’s Oakland Raiders?
Some models tried to add some time parameters to their formulas to factor in the recency of playing in and/or winning the Super Bowl. This simply meant that you were imposing an arbitrary timeframe to the concept of Super Bowl experience in order to improve your model’s predictive ability–in essence, ‘backfitting’ the system which is a statistical no-no and particularly for sports handicappers. Another reaction was for handicappers to ‘get granular’ and consider the Super Bowl experience of the individual players on each team. That makes more sense–at least in theory–but it hasn’t been borne out by practice. In fact, a popular angle that has been tossed around recently is the performance of Super Bowl teams with less ‘big game experience’ than their opponent. The team with fewer veterans of previous Super Bowls has won 10 of the last 15 matchups.
There are 12 NFL teams that have never won the Super Bowl: Cleveland, Buffalo, LA Chargers, Cincinnati, Arizona, Atlanta, Detroit, Jacksonville, Carolina, Houston, Tennessee and Minnesota. I’m not prepared to dismiss 37.5% of the teams in the NFL for this reason alone and as we’ll discuss in a moment I’m going to take a Super Bowl futures position on four of these teams. For what it’s worth, there are only four teams that have never made it to a Super Bowl: Cleveland, Jacksonville, Detroit and Houston. That being said, out of the last 12 Super Bowl matchups there are only 3 first time winners (Seattle, New Orleans, Philadelphia) and only one of these (New Orleans) was playing in the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
In lack of a viable ‘profile’ of a Super Bowl winner that doesn’t require current season statistics we’ll do what we did in for our NFC and AFC futures plays–go back to the beginning. Our strategy for the Conference Championship futures was to use the teams that we liked at the divisional level. We’ll reprise that strategy here playing the same teams as in the Conference futures once again ‘drawing a line’ through Kansas City:
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM +5000 TO WIN SUPER BOWL (+37)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS +4000 TO WIN SUPER BOWL (+27)
CHICAGO BEARS +5000 TO WIN SUPER BOWL (+37)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +2800 TO WIN SUPER BOWL (+15)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS +1400 TO WIN SUPER BOWL *2 UNITS* (+16)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS +2200 TO WIN SUPER BOWL (+9)
BUFFALO BILLS +1200 TO WIN SUPER BOWL *2 UNITS* (+12)
BALTIMORE RAVENS +1600 TO WIN SUPER BOWL *2 UNITS*(+20)
CLEVELAND BROWNS +1600 TO WIN SUPER BOWL *2 UNITS* (+20)
TENNESSEE TITANS +2500 TO WIN SUPER BOWL (+12)
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 plays are not indicative of a ‘best bet’ or having a qualitative edge over the single unit 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 the teams priced below 20/1 to give me a decent return on investment.