2020 AFC Betting Preview
In this craziest of all seasons, there are so many unknowns that it is almost impossible to predict. However, that goes for odds-makers as well as odds-takers. In this article we will be breaking down the betting market for each AFC division, and identifying any value when it comes to the division winner market.
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Prices are correct as of 6th September at 4:30pm (BST)
The one team that can be discounted straight away is the New York Jets. Find anyone willing to attempt to talk you into any possibility of the Jets winning the East and you will have found a Jets fan so delusional; they make Fireman Ed seem sane.
Given the fact they were surprisingly competitive in 2019 and are available at around 9/1, the Dolphins are worth a cursory look. However, there is such a long distance to go from being competitive to divisional winners that you are placing way too much face in their rookie talent in a year where rookie impact should be reduced due to lack of playing time. This is especially true when you consider that Tua Tagovailoa might not take the field for a few weeks.
Therefore, it comes down to a straight choice between the Patriots (best price 11/8 with SkyBet) and the Bills (29/20 with 888). Depending on who you are betting with, favouritism seems to flip between the two,.
Usually, in a situation where two teams are essentially co-favourites, always take Belichick over anyone. However, the Bills are practically the same team as in 2019 but with a shiny new number one receiver in Stefon Diggs. Meanwhile, there are more questions on this Patriots roster than possibly ever before, and that is before the quarterback position is discussed. The are just too many unknowns to consider backing the Patriots at a price that is shortened purely because they have the Patriots name.
Selection: Buffalo Bills
Ignore the Ravens. They are short and have every right to be short as the AFC team with a 14-win season behind them. Especially when you add Patrick Queen and Calais Campbell as impact defenders and J.K. Dobbins as another rushing threat. However, in a division where all the other three teams have upsides, it should be impossible to look as odds of around 1/2 as attractive.
The Browns are talent rich, but this is not the first talent rich team that has failed to deliver. Until they can prove themselves competitive against the Steelers and Ravens, they are unbackable at 6/1.
Price wise, the Cincinnati Bengals are worth a look. With A.J. Green and Jonah Williams back, there will be at least plenty to get excited about in Joe Burrow and the offense. However, to ask them to top the division is probably asking too much, even at 28 or 30/1.
Because backing the Pittsburgh Steelers (19/5 with William Hill) to win the AFC North might just be the best bet in the entire NFL in 2020.
‘Duck’ Hodges and Miles Rudolph had this team 8-5…8-5! Even finishing 8-8 they would have had the seventh play-off spot under the 2020 rules. They only lost to the Ravens at Heinz Field in overtime as well.
Ben Roethlisberger may not be the top-10 quarterback that he was at the peak of his career but given the play they had under centre, even Roethlisberger being a top 40 (yes, that does say FORTY) quarterback in the league would have had this team 10-6 or 11-5. If one of the additional wins is that overtime game, you are already just a game or two behind the Ravens.
Selection: Pittsburgh Steelers
Gardner Minshew might be difficult to ignore but the Jacksonville Jaguars are, unless you are looking at backing them to pick first in the 2021 NFL Draft as opposed to finishing first in the AFC South.
Meanwhile, the second-favourite Tennessee Titans (7/4 with Skybet) need a lot of things to go right if they are to repeat their performance from last year. Saying that they were over-reliant on Derrick Henry may have been true if you looked at just the play-offs, but Ryan Tannehill more than played his part in getting them to January football. Asking Tannehill and Henry to repeat while replacing the play of Jurrell Casey, Jack Conklin and Logan Ryan with no let up to get you back to 9-7 and the play-offs is one thing. However, even if they do manage that, chances are they will have to go further to win the division.
Over in Indianapolis, the Colts might have one of the safest floors in the entire league. With top draw lines on both sides, it is very difficult to see a world where they can finish any lower than a seven- or eight-win team. With the addition of talent like Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor, even if Phillip Rivers is a complete bust in Indy or gets hurt, Jacoby Brissett should be able to be able to produce at a higher level than last year. Their price of around 5/4 (11/8 with 888) is about right for a team that should be favourites to win the division.
Where it gets interesting is with the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien is rightly vilified for the DeAndre Hopkins trade, which is one of the most baffling decisions we have seen in the modern NFL. This is still a good roster though, if you ignore the fact that they did have DeAndre Hopkins, the receiving core is still even solid.
Therefore, for the Texans to be priced at 7/2 in most places, is almost like bookies are pricing Bill O’Brien the coach as if he was Bill O’Brien the personnel guy. However, O’Brien is still a very good game-day coach and this team did win the division in 2019.
Really, while the pricing seems right on the Colts and Jaguars, it is almost like the Texans and Titans have been priced the wrong way around. It should be the Titans who are 7/2, not the Texans. Essentially, it comes down to whether you back the team you think should win the division at an average price in the Colts, or whether you take the team that has been fundamentally miss priced in the Texans.
Selection: Houston Texans
The Chiefs are not only the reigning Super Bowl champions, with a roster that looks just as good heading into 2020, but they were the only team to finish .500 or above in the AFC West last season. That’s why the Chiefs are 1/4 to win the division though. A frankly unbackable price when all it takes is a Patrick Mahomes’ ACL tear in Week 3 to blow the division wide open.
Given the respective prices, where currently there are only around two points between the other three teams, it is frankly a case of working out which team is the second best in the division.
The bookmakers seem to be split on whether that is the LA Chargers (9/1 with Skybet, 888) or the Denver Broncos (9/1 in most places).
For all the talent on the Chargers roster, there are two essential weaknesses with them. The first being that any bad stretch from Tyrod Taylor would almost certainly see Justin Herbert come in, and backing a rookie quarterback to win the division when he comes in halfway through is problematic at best. The bigger one is the inability of the Chargers to keep key players fit. There are only so many years in a row where major injuries can be considered luck rather than something indicative of a deeper issue, plus we are already seeing those injuries come to the fore with Derwin James.
Meanwhile, while there is a huge amount of excitement with the Denver Broncos, an awful lot relies on believing in Drew Lock. Lock looked exciting last year but that was in just five starts. To extrapolate that into an entire season is asking a lot even before considering the possibility of a sophomore slump. To feel confident about the Broncos really does take a leap of faith.
Which leaves the Las Vegas Raiders (12/1 with Unibet, 10’s elsewhere). For all the potential talk of Gruden wanting to move on from David Carr, it overlooks the fact that it was the offense that allowed the Raiders to end up as a 7-9 outfit as opposed to something nearer 5-11. Even if David Carr continues to be the gun-shy signal caller that he is, the floor for this offense is almost certainly higher than the floor is for a Herbert-led Chargers team or if Lock’s early promise is not sustained in year two.
If the defense can be league average, something entirely possibly with serious upgrades in the linebacker core then they can easily be better than the Chargers or Broncos and are worth the bet as outsiders.
Selection: Las Vegas Raiders
NFL Betting Analyst
STEVE IS AN ANALYST WHO WILL BE COVERING THE NFL FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AS WELL AS PROVIDING YOU WITH SOME VALUE IN THE BETTING MARKETS. YOU CAN FIND ALL OF HIS ARTICLES HERE