The NFL Preseason hasn't even started yet, and already every single coach and player knows that they have to make the playoffs or their seasons, to some extent or another, will be considered a failure. It is, of course, more likely that some teams will make the playoffs than others. And, not surprisingly, oddsmakers have found a way to bet on just how likely that is. Bovada has posted odds on whether each NFL team will make the playoffs or not. Some are obvious - the Browns at -1000 to miss the playoffs, or the 49ers at -1400, for example - but many more are much more interesting than that. Here's a look:
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Green Bay Packers: They are the biggest chalk play to make the playoffs at -500. It's hard to argue with that. The Bears and Lions are still in the midst of eternal rebuilding exercises and won't be contending for the top spot in the NFC North. Minnesota is a solid team, but they are clearly a step behind the Packers at QB and elsewhere. Green Bay is well positioned to win their division.
The NFC isn't exactly at maximum excellence right now, so it is quite easy to make the argument that even if Minnesota is able to beat them that Green Bay is likely to claim a wild-card spot. This team deserves these odds.
It's worth noting, though, that the lowest price for making the playoffs is much higher than the lowest price for not making them. That's not surprising - it's much harder to make the playoffs than it is to miss them. Not only are there fewer playoffs teams than non-playoff ones, but good teams which had solid seasons can easily miss the playoffs, while bad teams with lousy seasons never sneak into the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings: This is further proof of just how justified Green Bay is to be the biggest favorite to make the playoffs. The Vikings are at -200 to make the playoffs, and +160 to miss them. That is a clear sign that oddsmakers and bettors expect two playoff teams to come from the NFC North.
Oakland Raiders: They are even money to make the playoffs and slightly favored at -130 to miss them. These odds have to offer hope to every seemingly hopeless organization out there. The Raiders have been awful for a long, long time and have made every terrible decision that can be made, but now they have a franchise quarterback, some strong young talent around him, coaching that could be worse, and some actual hope to contend. I'm quite bearish on the Broncos this year, so there is some reasonable hope for the Raiders to break through. It's not going to be easy, though, so it feels to me that even money doesn't adequately compensate for the risk involved.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Whenever I am looking at a list of props like this one I am always looking for a worthy gamble at a decent payoff. The Jaguars fit that bill - they are +185 to make the playoffs. They have been investing heavily in players, have a quarterback who should be established and comfortable by now, and they have been slowly moving in the right direction. I like their coaching, too - though my patience is admittedly wearing a bit thin. Houston has big questions at QB, and the Colts are expected to be dramatically better than last year's disappointing season -- but that isn't assured. That makes is a manageable division. I would also put Jacksonville in the mix with the better wild-card contenders. This is worth a gamble.
Kansas City Chiefs: They are at -150 to make the playoffs and +120 to miss them. They seem like a reasonably safe bet to make them. They are healthy - for now at least - and have a good collection of talent on both sides of the ball. They have made savvy personnel decisions lately - with the addition of Nick Foes to back up Alex Smith being the latest example. Andy Reid has no excuse not to be good here, and they are well positioned not just to make the playoffs but to win their division over an overrated Denver team and the Raiders. This is the Chiefs we are talking about, so anything can obviously go wrong, but I'm a little surprised that the price on the yes side isn't even a little lower.
New England Patriots: They are at -400 to make the playoffs. But wait, you might say, they won't have Tom Brady for a quarter of the season! So what? They play in the mess that is the AFC East - a collection of team with the sole goal of making sure New England always wins the division. The Jets are such a mess that Ryan Fitzpatrick remained a priority throughout the offseason. Seriously - they felt they couldn't do better than Fitzpatrick despite being in the biggest city in the country. The Bills were so thrilled with the truly underwhelming job that coach Rex Ryan has done with the team that they doubled down and hired his twin, arguably the most overrated defensive coordinator in league history. And the Dolphins - well, they are the Dolphins. Nothing is certain in the NFL, but New England making the playoffs is as close as it gets.
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