Posted in: NFL
With the 2018 NFL regular season fast approaching – the first game of the year kicks off on Thursday, September 6 – it’s time for bettors to take a serious look at the futures betting market.
Anything can happen in one game, but over the course of a grueling 16-game campaign, the cream tends to rise to the top in this league. With that in mind, savvy bettors can take advantage of futures betting by pouncing on divisional title odds*, Super Bowl championship prospects, and a few fun proposition wagers based on player performance.
To help you sharpen your futures betting skills, we’ll be covering all eight of the NFL’s divisions, beginning with the NFC North.
*All odds and lines included in this page were provided by online sportsbook Bovada on August 12th, 2018.
|Team||Odds to Win NFC North as of 8/12/18||Odds to Win Super Bowl 53 as of 8/12/18|
|Green Bay Packers||+140||+1100|
In the closest divisional race of the year, the Vikings look to defend last year’s NFC North title as slim favorites over the Packers. And indeed, if not for LB Anthony Barr breaking QB Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone midseason, effectively ending the Packers’ season, it very well could’ve been Green Bay atop the standings by year’s end. Rodgers is back and ready to roll through, so the bookmakers have Minnesota and Green Bay neck and neck. As for the also-rans, the Lions have QB Matthew Stafford but little else, just like every year for the last decade. And in Chicago, the Bears are still rebuilding with QB Mitch Trubisky at the helm. The capsules below offer full guides to each of the four NFC North contenders:
|1||Sep.9||vs San Francisco 49ers|
|2||Sep. 16||@ Green Bay Packers|
|3||Sep. 23||vs Buffalo Bills|
|4||Sep.27||@Los Angeles Rams|
|5||Oct.7||@ Philadelphia Eagles|
|6||Oct. 14||vs Arizona Cardinals|
|7||Oct. 21||@ New York Jets|
|8||Oct. 28||vs New Orleans Saints|
|9||Nov. 4||vs Detroit Lions|
|11||Nov. 18||@ Chicago Bears|
|12||Nov. 25||vs Green Bay Packers|
|13||Dec. 2||@ New England Patriots|
|14||Dec.10||@ Seattle Seahawks|
|15||Dec. 16||vs Miami Dolphins|
|16||Dec. 23||@ Detroit Lions|
|17||Dec. 30||vs Chicago Bears|
*(Opponents Went 133-123 in 2017 = T-8thMost DifficultSchedule)*
Last season saw the Vikings play three quarterbacks, but none that HC Mike Zimmer truly wanted.
Sam Bradford got the nod to start the season, with 2016’s starter Teddy Bridgewater still recovering from a devastating torn ACL. And he lit it up too, compiling one of the best stat lines of Bradford’s career in Week 1.
But he never saw the field again for Minnesota, as third-stringer turned starter Case Keenum took the reins and put on a show for the next 16 weeks. Keenum guided a high-flying aerial attack to a 13-3 record and the NFC North crown, before orchestrating the “Minneapolis Miracle” to stun the Saints in the Divisional round.
Fast forward to 2018, however, and that trio of QBs have all departed for greener pastures. Bridgewater is battling for a job with the Jets, Bradford is the starter in Arizona, and Keenum headed to Denver to enjoy his late-career resurgence.
As for the Vikings, enter Kirk Cousins.
The most highly sought free agent quarterback of the last few seasons, Cousins couldn’t escape the franchise tag in Washington until the most recent offseason. And after building his market value to the max, Cousins signed a huge $86 million deal to take over Minnesota’s stacked offense.
He’ll have WR Stefon Diggs and WR Adam Thielen on the outside, while TE Kyle Rudolph will man the flat. Throw in RB Dalvin Cook and RB Latavius Murray in the backfield, and Cousins has a cornucopia of weapons at his disposal.
And he won’t necessarily need to score 30 points per game to win either, what with the Vikings’ top-tier defense doing its thing. Minnesota surrendered just 252 points all season in 2017, by far the best mark in football, with players like LB Anthony Barr and DE Everson Griffen making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
Just ask Aaron Rodgers, who was brutalized and battered by Barr in Week 6 on a violent, yet legal collision. It was just one of the hundreds of hard hits doled out by Vikings defenders last year, but Barr’s collision broke Rodgers’ collarbone, ending his season in the process.
Rodgers will be back under center for Green Bay in 2018, and while the Pack is ranked quite closely in terms of NFC North odds, Minnesota gets the nod at (+125).
From a bettor’s perspective, both teams are worth a wager, but as the Packers schedule in the next section makes clear, they face the steepest uphill climb of any team in the league. With that in mind, taking the Vikes to claim the North yet again is a reasonable play. And if they do, why not double up with a (+1200) flier on them to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history?
After all, Minnesota did play its way into the NFC Championship game with Keenum leading the charge. Cousins is a clear upgrade at QB, and with much of the roster returning for a second hurrah, if Minnesota can make its fifth Super Bowl ever, this just might be the year they win it all.
Speaking of wins, the Win Total of 10 (-125 on Over / -105 on Under) looks to be a bit light given Minnesota reeled off 13 victories last year. A pretty tough schedule doesn’t do them any favors, but unless Cousins becomes a true bust, the Vikings should be able to eclipse that number rather easily.
|1||Sep.9||vs Chicago Bears|
|2||Sep. 16||vs Minnesota Vikings|
|3||Sep. 23||@ Washington Redskins|
|4||Sep.30||vs Buffalo Bills|
|5||Oct.7||@ Detroit Lions|
|6||Oct. 15||vs San Francisco 49ers|
|8||Oct. 28||@ Los Angeles Rams|
|9||Nov. 4||@ New England Patriots|
|10||Nov. 11||vs Miami Dolphins|
|11||Nov. 15||@ Seattle Seahawks|
|12||Nov. 25||@ Minnesota Vikings|
|13||Dec. 2||vs Arizona Cardinals|
|14||Dec. 9||vs Atlanta Falcons|
|15||Dec. 16||@ Chicago Bears|
|16||Dec. 23||@ New York Jets|
|17||Dec. 30||vs Detroit Lions|
*(Opponents Went 138-118 in 2017 = 1stMost DifficultSchedule)*
It’s already been mentioned on this page, but Rodgers’ return from injury is the only story in town for Green Bay.
With him breaking the huddle in their first five games of 2017, the Packers stormed out to a 4-1 mark. But without the wizard behind the curtain, Green Bay’s generally lackluster roster was exposed, as the Pack only won three more games all year.
Clearly, then, Rodgers is the engine that drives this train. And if he can stay upright and healthy for the full schedule, his presence alone makes Green Bay a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Bettors can get a glimpse of Rodgers’ impact in the Super Bowl odds, as Green Bay is actually slightly better at (+1100) than Minnesota, despite the latter winning six more games.
When wagering on the Packers, bettors will obviously be focused on Rodgers, but they should be sizing up LT David Bakhtiari. As the man tasked with protecting Rodgers’ blind side, Bakhtiari plays perhaps the second-most important role on the team.
Unfortunately for him, Rodgers, and Packer backers, Bakhtiari suffered an ankle injury during a recent scrimmage. It was only diagnosed as a sprain, so Green Bay avoided disaster thus far, but any further damage to Bakhtiari would spell doom for an already limited Packers offensive line.
HC Mike McCarthy is playing it cautious with Bakhtiari through the preseason, but bettors should keep a close eye on his progress when assessing Packers futures. With him healthy and ready to wall off Rodgers’ blind side, those (+145) odds on the North title are quite juicy. As is the (+1100) number on Rodgers to win a second Super Bowl.
And for folks betting Win Totals, the line of 10 (-125 on Over / -105 on Under) appears to be extremely fair. After all, the Packers went 10-6 in 2016 when Rodgers last played a full season.
|1||Sep. 10||vs New York Jets|
|2||Sep. 16||@ San Francisco 49ers|
|3||Sep. 23||vs New England Patriots|
|4||Sep.30||@ Dallas Cowboys|
|5||Oct.7||vs Green Bay Packers|
|7||Oct. 21||@ Miami Dolphins|
|8||Oct. 28||vs Seattle Seahawks|
|9||Nov. 4||@ Minnesota Vikings|
|10||Nov. 11||@Chicago Bears|
|11||Nov. 18||vs Carolina Panthers|
|12||Nov. 22||vs Chicago Bears|
|13||Dec. 2||vs Los Angeles Rams|
|14||Dec. 9||@ Arizona Cardinals|
|15||Dec. 16||@ Buffalo Bills|
|16||Dec. 23||vs Minnesota Vikings|
|17||Dec. 30||@ Green Bay Packers|
*(Opponents Went 137-119 in 2017 = T-2ndMost DifficultSchedule)*
For bettors and fans alike, the one word that defines this Lions team is “frustrating.”
Last season saw Detroit beat up on the league’s doormats early on, then notch an impressive 14-7 win over the eventual North champion Vikings – in Minnesota no less. But the same team was blown out by the Saints in a 52-38 laugher that was never really that close.
And with a chance to secure a playoff spot in Week 16, the Lions stumbled badly in a 26-17 loss to the hapless Bengals.
All things considered, it’s extremely tough to know what Detroit brings to the table week in and week out. Sure, they still have top-tier quarterback Matthew Stafford doing his gunslinger thing, but he’ll lack his man target after TE Eric Ebron was signed away in free agency.
But it didn’t take long for scandal to surround Patricia, after allegations of sexual abuse from his time in college surfaced. Patricia was eventually vindicated by a team investigation, but the stain lingers over his arrival. And with local media already covering Patricia’s hard-nosed approach to practice as a negative, things don’t feel quite right in the Motor City at the moment.
Barring a miracle, the Lions won’t be cashing any division or Super Bowl tickets this season, but bettors can take advantage of their Win Total of 7.5 (-130 on Over / EVEN on Under). Detroit has averaged 9 wins in each of the last four years, including 9-7 runs in 2016 and 2017. If that pattern holds up, the Over on 7.5 wins should be a decent play.
|1||Sep. 9||@ Green Bay Packers|
|2||Sep. 17||vs Seattle Seahawks|
|3||Sep. 23||@ Arizona Cardinals|
|4||Sep.30||vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|6||Oct. 14||@ Miami Dolphins|
|7||Oct. 21||vs New England Patriots|
|8||Oct. 28||vs New York Jets|
|9||Nov. 4||@ Buffalo Bills|
|10||Nov. 11||vs Detroit Lions|
|11||Nov. 18||vs Minnesota Vikings|
|12||Nov. 22||@ Detroit Lions|
|13||Dec. 2||@ New York Giants|
|14||Dec. 9||vs Los Angeles Rams|
|15||Dec. 16||vs Green Bay Packers|
|16||Dec. 23||@ San Francisco 49ers|
|17||Dec. 30||@ Minnesota Vikings|
*(Opponents Went 133-123 in 2017 = T-8thMost DifficultSchedule)*
The Bears have Mitch Trubisky entering his first year as the undisputed starter, and with little else to hang their hats on, the second-year starter is the talk of the town.
The only thing is, Trubisky wasn’t exactly a world-beater in his rookie season. He threw for a 59.4 percent clip, putting up 2,193 yards in 12 games, with 7 touchdowns to 7 interceptions.
Those numbers are the definition of pedestrian, and while he gets a pass for playing as a rookie on a poor team, the Bears will need to see improvement from Trubisky if they hope to contend in 2018.
As the odds suggest, however, Chicago is a big longshot in both the North and the Super Bowl chase. Bettors would be wise to shy away from those wagers, but at only 6.5 (-170 on Over / +140 on Under), there could be value in backing a Bears revival. With that said, Chicago hasn’t touched 7 wins in four seasons and counting, so it wouldn’t be a shock to seem them go 6-10 or worse.
Green Bay and Minnesota look to battle it out for the top spot in the division. The team that loses out in the division race stands to have a good chance at a wild card spot.