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Best NFL Division Bets: Buy Low on Steelers in AFC North

Sep 12, 2018 12:44 PM EDT
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers are -113 to win the AFC North after tying the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.
  • The Action Network ran 10,000 simulations of the 2018 NFL season.
  • By comparing our projections to available betting lines, we have found ten teams including the Steelers worthy of a division bet.

Take a look at the NFL standings. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are tied with the New England Patriots for first in the AFC East. The Pittsburgh Steelers sit at the bottom of the AFC North.

In the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, the division winners in 2017 and 2016, respectively, are looking up at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.

It is just one week, and it is important not to overreact, but early season results impact the betting market. Bookmakers have adjusted division odds based on the Week 1 outcomes.

Which teams are overvalued and undervalued? To find out, we compared our projections to current betting odds.

For example: The Jets’ odds of winning the AFC East are +1250. For us to feel comfortable with wagering on New York, it would need to win the division 7.4% (which is 100/(100 +1250)) of the time.

According to our simulations, Gang Green has a 3.9% chance of winning the division crown, meaning there is no value in placing a bet at +1250 odds.

Based on the difference in implied probability and projections, 10 teams have value to win their respective divisions. The analysis below looks at the three best wagers bettors can place after the first week of the season.

All odds via 5Dimes as of mid-day Wednesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Current odds: -113, Implied Probability: 53.1%
  • Steelers win AFC North 70.2% of the time

The Steelers blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to tie the Browns on Sunday. Pittsburgh committed six turnovers in the game, including three interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger.

It was a sloppy game, but even with all the mistakes, the Steelers could have won if Chris Boswell didn’t miss a 42-yard field goal with 1:47 left in overtime.

Not beating the Browns is a bad look, but the Steelers’ odds to win the division have swung dramatically. In the preseason, Pittsburgh was -300 to win the AFC North; now the team is -113.

According to the simulations, the Killer B’s should be closer to -250 favorites.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Current odds: +158, Implied Probability: 38.8%
  • Chiefs win AFC West 66.5% of the time

How is Kansas City still plus-money to win the AFC West? No team in the division can match the Chiefs in offensive talent.

Tyreek Hill is the most electric player in the NFL. The speedy receiver had a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown, a 58-yard reception for a score and added another touchdown for good measure in Kansas City’s win over the Chargers.

The Chiefs have a tough matchup against the Steelers in Week 2 in Pittsburgh. If Kansas City can start the season with back-to-back road wins, this will be the last time you’ll be able to buy KC at plus-money.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Current odds: -198, Implied Probability: 66.4%
  • Eagles win NFC East 84.2% of the time

The difference maker for Philly is its defense. The Eagles ranked fifth last season in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA and were fourth in yards allowed (306.5) and points (18.4).

In Week 1, Philadelphia limited Atlanta to 299 yards and 12 points – in line with 2017 averages. The defense also held Matt Ryan to a completion percentage below 50%, sacked the quarterback four times and had 13 hits on the passer.

Star quarterback Carson Wentz is expected back in Week 3, but the Eagles defense has already shown up to play. Defense wins championships; it also helps win division titles.

Here are other teams with value to win their division based on differences in implied probability and projected chance:

  • New England Patriots (-770)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (+113)
  • Houston Texans (+205)
  • Minnesota Vikings (+107)
  • Carolina Panthers (+255)
  • Los Angeles Rams (-250)
  • San Francisco 49ers (+430)

Credit:

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

Follow John Ewing on Twitter
@johnewing

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