NFL Playoffs Betting: Odds Show AFC and NFC Much Different
by Trevor Whenham - 12/31/2013
We are at the point in the NFL Playoffs when anything is still possible. There are 12 teams qualified, and though some have an easier road than others, every team has an opportunity to win it all. With a full slate of teams still to choose from, one good way to classify the teams and compare them is by their conferences. This year that comparison is particularly interesting because the NFC is, in so many ways, deeper and more threatening. Here’s a look at how the conferences measure up from five different perspectives heading into the wild-card round:
Conference strength: The easiest way to compare the strength of the conferences in general is to let the oddsmakers do it for you. At this point, the NFC is solidly favored if you want to bet on the Super Bowl by conference. At Sportsbook.ag the NFC sits at -145 to win it all, with the AFC well behind at +125. That’s not overwhelming — it translates to less than three points in a point spread — but given all the factors at play and all the uncertainty involved it’s a clear sign that the NFC is stronger and deeper.
Elite teams: We can let the oddsmakers do a lot of the work here, too. There are eight teams at +2000 or less to win the Super Bowl — teams that wouldn’t be considered longshots by any measure. Of those eight, five are from the NFC. Only the Saints are higher in the NFC, and that’s thanks to their lack of the possibility of a home game and their road weakness. Meanwhile, the Colts, Chiefs and Chargers are the three longest shots on the board. On the other end, the favored Seahawks and four of the top six teams are from the NFC. The Broncos are well-liked, and the Patriots get a lot of respect, but outside of that oddsmakers are not in love with the AFC.
Elite QBs: The Super Bowl is typically either won by a great QB or a decent QB playing really great football at the right time. Either way, there is no more important position at this time of year. By this measure, the two conferences are a bit of a wash. Each has two Super Bowl-winning starters — Manning and Brady in the AFC and Rodgers and Brees in the NFC. In the NFC, Kaepernick and Wilson are young, but they got valuable playoff experience last year. Newton and Foles have less experience, but they are playing sharp football. In the AFC, Luck and Dalton have seen some playoff action in their young careers, and Smith and Rivers are veterans playing some of their best football right now. I give the NFC a slight edge on this front, but again it isn’t particularly significant. The QB I have the biggest concern with right now is Andy Dalton given his disastrous play last time out, but he has playoff experience and is far from a liability. Overall, this just proves that teams with good quarterbacks make the playoffs and teams with questionable ones don’t.
Coaches: San Diego’s Mike McCoy and Ron Rivera of Carolina haven’t coached in the playoffs before, but both have experience as assistants, so they aren’t completely clueless. The biggest wild card is Chip Kelly. He’s new to the NFL at any level, but he has done a very good job this year — particularly making adjustments in the second half of the season — and he isn’t going to lack for creativity and has plenty of tools to play with. He should be fine unless the moment is too big for him the first time around, though Oregon has had a bad habit of falling short in the biggest of games. The AFC has a slight edge here.
Weather: One of the biggest stories in these playoffs is the potential for lousy weather in New York for the Super Bowl. While it’s probably an overblown factor — both teams will face the same weather, and it’s not like any of these players have never seen poor weather at any time in their careers. Still, a team that sees the weather a lot could at least potentially have an edge over a team that doesn’t. In the NFC, bitter winter conditions would be a major concern for the Saints and their dome sensibilities and a minor concern for Seattle and San Francisco. In the AFC, the Colts play in a dome but live in a cold climate so they have some experience and are therefore only a minor concern. Only San Diego could be at a real disadvantage. The AFC might have a minor edge here, but it doesn’t seem big enough to lose any sleep over.
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