The following is a preview with futures betting tips for the 2014 NFL season. The division winner markets are discussed, followed by the AFC Championship, NFC Championship and Super Bowl XLIX.
All 11 experts interviewed by NFL.com predict the New England Patriots will win the division. The Patriots have won the AFC East in 10 of the past 11 seasons and with Bill Belichick still coach and Tom Brady still the starting quarterback, it’s hard to argue they aren’t the team to beat. The Patriots strengthened on defence during the off-season by acquiring former Jet CB Darrelle Revis. The biggest threat to the Patriots will be Miami (8.00), who will be playing a more up-tempo offence this season under new coordinator Bill Lazor. The Dolphins just need to find a way to protect QB Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked 58 times last season.
My Pick: New England Patriots (1.33 with Ladbrokes)
This is the only division without a clear-cut favourite amongst the experts. Five predict the Pittsburgh Steelers will win the division, while four picked the Cincinnati Bengals and two picked the Baltimore Ravens. On paper it looks to be very close, but last year the Bengals topped the division and I back them to do the same this year. They’re a well-balanced and consistent team that has made the playoffs for the last three straight seasons.
My Pick: Cincinnati Bengals (3.00 with Ladbrokes)
All 11 experts predict the Indianapolis Colts will win the division. Given how weak this division is on paper I can’t argue with them. The Colts have been the most consistent over the past two seasons and in Andrew Luck they have the best QB in the division. If we see the 2012 Houston Texans rather than the 2013 version, then the Colts will have their hands full, but Indianapolis beat San Francisco, Seattle and Denver last season, showing that on their day they can beat anyone. My only concern for the Colts is they have struggled with injuries in pre-season so they may be slow out of the blocks this year.
My Pick: Indianapolis Colts (1.70 with Luxbet)
Ten experts pick the Denver Broncos to win the division while one picked the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos boast one of the best QBs in the league in Peyton Manning and they picked up DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward to strengthen their defence during the off-season so Broncos fans have every reason to be optimistic. If Manning gets injured then the KC Chiefs and San Diego Chargers will be within a sniff, however. Chiefs fans will be hoping to see a repeat of the first half of last season when they went 9-0 rather than the second half when they went 2-5. The Chargers only just missed out on the playoffs last season so I look forward to seeing how this division pans out in 2014.
My Pick: both the Denver Broncos (1.28 with Luxbet) AND the San Diego Chargers (7.00 with Luxbet). If Manning gets injured this division will be wide open and on paper the Chargers look to have improved through their off-season acquisitions.
Ten experts pick the Philadelphia Eagles to win the division while one picked the Dallas Cowboys. After such a strong season in 2012, I’m not surprised to see no one pick the Washington Redskins, because QB Robert Griffin III doesn’t look to be the same player he was two years ago. The NY Giants struggled on offence during the pre-season after they switched to a new system so I expect them to get off to a slow start. The Dallas Cowboys were dreadful on defence a season ago and on paper they are weaker this year with the loss of DeMarcus Ware to the Broncos. The Eagles have now had a full season under their belts under head coach Chip Kelly so they should start better than 1-3 as they did last year. If QB Nick Foles can play at a similar level to 2013 then the Eagles could dominate the league even more than they did last season.
My Pick: Philadelphia Eagles (2.40 with Luxbet)
Ten experts pick the Green Bay Packers to win the division while one picked the Chicago Bears. The Packers have the best QB in this division in Aaron Rogers and they should be strong defensively this season. On paper they are a well-balanced side and they managed to win this division in 2013 despite a torrid injury count. I predict the Packers will be too strong again.
My Pick: Green Bay Packers (1.73 with Ladbrokes)
Ten experts pick the New Orleans Saints to win the division while one picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints are incredibly good at home and QB Drew Brees looked sharp in pre-season after coming back from surgery. The Saints were undefeated at home last season and are 20-4 at the Superdome since 2011. To cap things off, Brees has an intimidating arsenal at his disposal, with the 6’7″ TE Jimmy Graham an almost unplayable target. Oh, and they also had the 4th best defensive record last year.
My Pick: New Orleans Saints (2.00 with Ladbrokes)
Ten experts pick the Seattle Seahawks to win the division while one picked the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl last season and they haven’t lost much in personnel since 2013. They had the best defence in the country last year so if they can find improvements in their Russell Wilson-led offence they could be scary this season. Note that WR Percy Harvin has recovered from injury after only playing in one game last year.
My Pick: Seattle Seahawks (2.10 with Ladbrokes)
Ten experts predict the New England Patriots will feature in the AFC Championship, with six of them picking the Patriots to win it. Seven experts predict the Broncos will make the AFC Championship game, with four backing them to win it. The Colts and Bengals were each picked by two experts, while the Steelers received one mention. Not surprisingly, the Broncos (3.40) and Patriots (4.00) are the bookmakers’ favourites, although I give the Colts (10.98) and Bengals (13.80) an outside chance.
My Pick: I would go with the Denver Broncos (3.40 with bet365) because of their squad strength and as a value bet I would back the Indianapolis Colts (10.98 with Pinnacle Sports) because of their softer division and their wins over the Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers last year. If you’re looking for a rough outsider, the San Diego Chargers offer reasonable value at 18.83 with Pinnacle Sports.
Eight experts pick the Seahawks to make the NFC Championship game, with four predicting them to win it. Seven experts predict the Saints will make the title game, with three predicting they’ll win it. The Packers were named by five experts, with four predicting they’ll win the NFC Championship. The Chicago Bears were named by one expert to make the NFC title game. Amazingly, not one expert predicts the 49ers will make the NFC Championship game, despite the San Francisco side sitting 2nd favourite with bookmakers.
My Pick: I would go with the Seattle Seahawks (4.50 with Ladbrokes), Green Bay (8.50 with Luxbet) and the New Orleans Saints (10.00 with Luxbet). All three teams are hard to beat at home, so home advantage will be crucial in the playoffs.
Super Bowl XLIX
The following teams were picked by the experts to feature in the Super Bowl, with the number of picks shown in brackets:
New England Patriots (6), Denver Broncos (4), Indianapolis Colts (1)
Green Bay Packers (4), Seattle Seahawks (4), New Orleans Saints (3)
The predicted Super Bowl winners are:
New Orleans Saints (3), Green Bay Packers (3), Denver Broncos (2), New England Patriots (2) and Seattle Seahawks (1).
Below are the futures odds at the time of writing.
There aren’t many teams in the top half of the above table that I’m willing to put a line through, with Indianapolis (26.00), Philadelphia (31.00) and San Diego (41.00) standing out as long-odds selections with a fighting chance.
The NFC looks stronger than the AFC on paper so I predict the winner will come from there. I would back the following three teams: Seattle (7.00 with Ladbrokes), Green Bay (13.00 with Ladbrokes) and the New Orleans Saints (17.00 with Sportingbet).