I’m a sucker for interesting season long football prop bets. I don’t necessarily like to bet many of them, but I do like to analyze them and see what we can learn from them. Bodog has a simple but very interesting one posted right now – which NFL division will have the best winning percentage?
This prop first caught my eye when I read someone else’s analysis of it. It was built around a premise that was entirely flawed. The person had said that because the teams in the division play the other teams in the division more than anyone else, and because they will always be playing their best in divisional games, the games in the division were the most important ones to focus on when evaluating this prop bet. That sounds good, but there’s one fatal problem – every time a team in the division wins a divisional game another team in the division will lose one. And if one team ties, then another team will tie as well. No matter what, then, the overall winning percentage for the division in divisional games in going to be .500. Divisional games are totally irrelevant to the analysis of this prop.
Now that we don’t have to worry about that anymore, let’s look at how the prop does set up:
The longshot – The biggest price on the board, 10/1, belongs to the NFC West. It’s hard to argue with that too much. I am very bullish on the Niners, and think they can win at least 10 games. There are a lot of questions surrounding the Seahawks and Arizona, though, and the Rams are a few years away from looking like a real football team. The losses for St. Louis will cancel out the wins for San Francisco, and Seattle and Arizona won’t be much above .500, so this division isn’t going to shine. I may not put them at the bottom of the pile, but all that matters is that I certainly wouldn’t put them on top. That makes this price fair.
Second worst – There’s something rotten in the west this year – the second biggest price is the AFC West at 8/1. They would probably be my last choice. I am not nearly as optimistic about the Chiefs this year as many are. Denver has a world of issues that could get in their way. Oakland is on the right path, but Jason Campbell isn’t Joe Montana. The Chargers are an elite team, but I really don’t trust them. This certainly will not be the toughest division in football.
The middle of the pack – There are three divisions at the same 5/1 price – the NFC North and South and AFC East – and another, the AFC North, at 6/1. The NFC South is one I will happily ignore. I think New Orleans will take a step back like most Super Bowl champs do, I don’t really like Atlanta’s progress, Carolina will be nervous with a coach on the hot seat and several issues, and Tampa Bay is rebuilding. The AFC East was initially one I was very excited about, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it. I think Miami will be the biggest surprise of the year – in a good way. I’m not nearly as optimistic as many about the Jets, though. I certainly don’t think they are a playoff team. New England also has a lot of concerns that make me very nervous. The biggest reason not to like the division, though, is Buffalo. I think Chan Gailey is an awful coach, and the team has the inside track for the top pick in the next draft. A team that bad pulls the whole division down in this prop.
The other two divisions in this grouping are very interesting. To win this prop I would look for a division that has two or three strong teams, a chance at at least one elite team, and a bottom team that isn’t painfully lousy. Both the NFC North and the AFC North could fit that bill. In the AFC North Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati are all potential playoff teams, and though Cleveland definitely isn’t, and they have the potential to lose a whole lot of games, there is at least a chance they could be only pretty bad. The situation is much the same in the NFC North. Minnesota and Green Bay are both teams that could not only make the playoffs but win the conference. Chicago has improved and could be a playoff team. Detroit won’t be playing in the postseason, but they aren’t nearly as bad as they have been. I’d take a close look at either division at this price.
The favorites – The AFC South and NFC East top out the list at 7/2. Of the two I would definitely discard the NFC East first. I think that Dallas is a pretty good team, but don’t trust any of the others. The Giants seem very fragile to me, the Eagles are making so many changes that they will inevitably make mistakes that will cost them games, and the Redskins are trying to climb out of a very deep hole. The division is underpriced and offers no value. The AFC South is more attractive. Indianapolis should be the class of the AFC this year and will win a lot. Tennessee and Houston have a good shot at winning more than they lose. Jacksonville is the worst of the group, but could easily win at least six or seven games. On very good team, two pretty good ones, and one only marginally bad one leads to a likely good divisional winning percentage, and a fair favorite in this prop. I still like the AFC North better at the price, but not by much.
All lines from this article are available from Bodog.