NFL Division Odds: Giants to Win the NFC East Among Best Bets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley
- The Patriots (1-5), Saints (5-9) and Rams (4-7) are among the betting favorites to win their divisions.
- We ran 10,000 simulations of the 2019 NFL season to determine which teams are worth betting right now.
The surest way for an NFL team to guarantee a playoff spot is to win its division. According to the oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, the most likely teams to be crowned division champions in 2019 are the New England Patriots (1-5), New Orleans Saints (5-9) and Los Angeles Rams (4-7).
Each won at least 11 games and their division a season ago. It is easy to pick these elite teams to finish on top of the division once again, but given their short odds is there value placing a bet?
To answer that question we simulated the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times using player and team statistics adjusted for Strength of Schedule. By comparing our projections to the available betting lines, we have found 11 teams worthy of divisional wagers.
The analysis below looks at the three best bets to make.
New York Giants
- Current odds: 14-1, Implied Probability: 6.7%
- Giants win the NFC East 22.5% of the time
The Giants are tied for the sixth-worst odds to win a division. There is little faith in the G-Men following the trade of Odell Beckham Jr., the continued employment of quarterback Eli Manning and the questionable drafting strategies (see: Jones, Daniel) of general manager Dave Gettleman.
But the hate has gone too far. There is reason to believe the Giants will be better in 2019. A year ago, the team lost eight games by a touchdown or less. Records in one-score games tend to regress from season to season. Plus, Manning and Co. have the sixth-easiest schedule in the league.
We are not saying the Giants will win the NFC East. In fact, they are nearly as likely to not win the division (77.5%) as the Patriots are to capture an 11th straight AFC East title (81.9%). Still, the market is undervaluing the Giants.
According to our model, New York’s division odds should be closer to 4-1, not 14-1. If the team experiences some positive regression and capitalizes on a favorable schedule, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Giants competing for the division down the stretch.
Green Bay Packers
- Current odds: 2-1, Implied Probability: 33.3%
- Packers win the NFC North 40.5% of the time
The Green Bay Packers have suffered through back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990-91. Injuries to Aaron Rodgers, arguably the game’s best quarterback, have kept the franchise from excelling.
A broken collarbone in 2017 limited Rodgers to seven games and the All-Pro passer suffered a knee injury in the first half of Week 1 last year. The future Hall of Famer started all 16 games, but his mechanics were off as he played through the injury.
In addition to injuries, the defense ranked 29th in DVOA a year ago and former coach Mike McCarthy’s offense was outdated. General manager Brian Gutekunst used five of the team’s eight draft picks on defense, including taking linebacker Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage in the first round.
McCarthy was fired and replaced by Matt LaFleur, who previously worked under offensive innovator Sean McVay.
Assuming Rodgers is fully healthy, plus an improved defense and a modern offense, the Packers win 10 or more games 44% of the time in our simulations.
- Current odds: 20-1, Implied Probability: 4.8%
- Bengals win the AFC North 11.1% of the time
The Bengals have had a losing record in three straight seasons and haven’t finished better than third in the AFC North since winning the division in 2015. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are consistent playoff participants and Cleveland has emerged as a contender with a talented young nucleus. So why take a flier on Cincy?
Injuries were a big part of why the team finished 6-10 in 2018 after winning four of the team’s first five games. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert were all lost to season-ending injuries.
With Dalton and Green healthy, the continued development of Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd, plus the addition of new head coach Zac Taylor — former quarterback coach for the Los Angeles Rams under Sean McVay — the Bengals offense should improve from 23.0 points per game (17th in the league) last season.
It is always difficult to imagine a team going from worst to first, but it happens more often than you think. The Houston Texans won 11 games and the AFC South last year after finishing 4-12 and at the bottom of the division in 2018.
The Chicago Bears did the same thing a season ago as the team went from five to 12 wins and finished on top of the NFC North for the first time since 2010.
Cincinnati could be the next franchise to go from worst to first in its division. It probably won’t happen, but given the odds there is value on the Bengals.
Other teams with value to win their divisions: Ravens (3-1), Colts (10-11), Lions (14-1), Buccaneers (16-1), Seahawks (3-1), Panthers (5-1), Chiefs (5-8) and Texans (14-5).