NFL Super Bowl Futures Betting Advice
by Jeremy Martin - 7/16/2013
(Note: This article appears in this year’s Doc’s Sports Journal. You can purchase a copy of Doc’s Journal HERE or you can receive a complimentary copy by signing up for a full season football package HERE.)
Betting the NFL Super Bowl futures market is one of my favorite gambling endeavors. Not only do you have a wager that keeps you entertained and gives you a rooting interest all season long, but there can be some great value in the futures odds that are driven mainly by the public betting market (i.e., “squares,” or novice sports bettors).
Most NFL futures bettors take a flier on their favorite team. There is a reason the sportsbooks in Las Vegas often skew the odds for the Chargers, 49ers and Raiders. That’s because so many bettors from the region come to Southern Nevada and plunk down their duckets on their local squad with hopes of a big payday. I have been guilty of this in the past. But as a Kansas City Chiefs fan, this has proven to be a fruitless undertaking. I have realized the last few years that I would probably have more fun using this money to “make it rain” at the local gentleman’s club.
However, I do play championship futures every season for just about every major sport. One thing that I have learned during years of trial and error for futures betting is that it’s important to know when to place your bet. This can be just as crucial as the team you bet on. I have found that if you are looking to take an underdog, you should place your bet before the season starts. If you are looking to back one of the NFL Super Bowl favorites, you are better off waiting until the playoffs start to make your wager.
When I make a Super Bowl futures bet on an underdog, I am looking for a long-odds team that I think has a chance to make the playoffs. Maybe I see something in them from their offseason additions that the general public hasn’t caught onto yet, or maybe I expect a regression from the usual powers in the division that may give my chosen team a window to overachieve. I look for teams in the range of 20/1 or higher with hope they can make the playoffs and surprise once there.
The NFL has tons of turnover from season to season for playoff teams, and this league is one where a team can come from the bottom and succeed the following year. In the NBA, I would never bet a longshot for championship futures as the traditional powers are always the teams that wind up in the NBA Finals in June. However, the NFL often sees surprise teams win it all. The St. Louis Rams were available at 100/1 or more at the start of the season before eventually winning Super Bowl XXXIV. The Baltimore Ravens opened last season as 20/1 longshots and paid nicely for bettors that backed them, and the Giants were even better at 30/1 the year before.
And the beauty of betting a longshot for Super Bowl futures is that, if they make the playoffs, you have many opportunities to hedge your bet by taking the other side and ensuring yourself a profit if your team goes down before the Super Bowl.
Conversely, if you are going to play a favorite, I believe it’s your best strategy to wait until the playoffs to make your wager. From the time the season starts until the time the postseason begins, anything can happen. Looking at the Top 8 favorites on last year’s futures board, all of them were teams that were led by a franchise quarterback. If your chosen favorite has its quarterback go down for any considerable amount of time, making the playoffs might be a major achievement, and a Super Bowl win would probably be a pipe dream.
And by waiting for the playoffs before making a Super Bowl futures bet, the odds are not going to change that much. Last year I bet on the 49ers to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season at 10/1 odds. Although they did make the Super Bowl, eventually losing to the Ravens, they entered the playoffs at 5/1 odds at many sportsbooks. But they had a quarterback change mid-season, and at one point it looked like they might have to head on the road for their first playoff game in the Wild-Card Round. I would have gladly taken the 5/1 odds at the start of the playoffs without having to deal with the stress of all the ups and downs of the regular season. Luckily, I hedged my futures bet with a point spread bet on the Ravens plus the points in the Super Bowl. And I almost hit both sides if the Niners would have scored on their last drive, but I ended the season with a nice profit overall on my original investment.
And looking at the futures odds for the last several seasons, many of the favorites have failed to even make the playoffs. Of the Top 10 favorites for the 2012-13 season, five didn’t make the playoffs. Four of the Top 10 favorites for 2011-12 didn’t make the postseason. And in 2010-11, it was also four of 10. With so many teams underachieving each season, you can save a lot of money by waiting until the postseason until deciding which team you want to back for Super Bowl futures. There is normally about a 30-50 percent chance that your chosen favorite won’t even make the playoffs. It makes fiscal sense to sacrifice some odds in order to make sure your preferred team is in good shape physically, mentally and with a good seed heading into the postseason.
Remember, the NFL is one of those pro sports leagues where a team can go from worst to first in its division from year to year. You aren’t going to see the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats shock the league and compete for the Southeast Division title next year, but it will not be a surprise if a couple last-place teams from the NFL make a run to the postseason. And once the playoffs start, it is a whole new season. It is not out of the ordinary for a wild-card team to reach and win the Super Bowl in the present-day NFL.
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