NFL Division Bets: Pittsburgh Steelers Undervalued to Win AFC North

NFL Division Bets: Pittsburgh Steelers Undervalued to Win AFC North article feature image
Credit:

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers are +280 to win the AFC North after starting the season 2-2-1.
  • The Action Network ran 10,000 simulations of the 2018 NFL season.
  • By comparing our projections to available betting lines, we found three teams worthy of a division bet.

Since Week 2, 19 teams have held or shared a division lead, and most divisions are still very much up in the air.  However, one race appears to be decided.

In the NFC West the Los Angeles Rams are 5-0 and the only team at .500 or better. Oddsmakers list LA as a -5000 favorite, which translates to a 98.0% implied probability of winning.

According to The Action Network’s NFL model, Sean McVay’s team has a 98.7% chance of winning the NFC West. That means at -5000 odds there is value betting on Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to bring a division crown to Hollywood.

But who wants to wager $5,000 to win $100?

Instead of tying up your entire bankroll on the Rams, here are a few teams with value to win their division based on the difference in implied probability and projected chance according to our simulations.

The analysis below looks at the three best wagers bettors can place heading into Week 6 of the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Current odds: +280, Implied Probability: 26.3%
  • Steelers win AFC North 40.4% of the time

The path to an AFC North championship is pretty straightforward. It starts by winning in Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals are listed as 2.5-point favorites but our model favors the Steelers by 2.4 points.

A win over Cincy bumps Pittsburgh to 3-2-1 and gives the Steelers a tiebreaker in the division race.

Le’Veon Bell is expected to rejoin the Steelers during their bye week following the Cincinnati game. With one of the league’s best playmakers back in the fold, the Steelers will be heavy favorites over the Browns in Week 8 and are 50/50 to win in Baltimore the week after.

If Pittsburgh sweeps all three division games it will be a clear favorite to win the AFC North. Our simulations give Pittsburgh a 40.4% chance to win the division. More times than not the Steelers come up short, but at +280 odds there is value.

Tennessee Titans

  • Current odds: +270, Implied Probability: 27.0%
  • Titans win AFC South 37.4% of the time

Jacksonville and Tennessee are mirror images of each other. Both are solid on defense and special teams but struggle offensively. The Jags are 4th in defense, 9th in special teams and 22nd in offense per Football Outsiders DVOA.

The Titans rank 12th, 4th and 28th, respectively, in the same categories.

The stats say the teams are similar and they are tied for first in the AFC South. The Titans hold a tiebreaker over the Jaguars thanks to a Week 3 win in Jacksonville, yet the oddsmakers list Doug Marrone’s team as a clear favorite.

Not going to argue that the Jaguars are the better team, if only by a slight margin, but the odds have shifted too far. With the Titans having a 37.4% chance to win the AFC South, their betting odds should be listed at +167, almost half of their current price.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Current odds: -550, Implied Probability: 84.6%
  • Chiefs win AFC West 91.7% of the time

This race might as well be over. The Chiefs offense, the best in the league, just bested one of the NFL’s top defensive teams in the Jacksonville Jaguars. Few teams can keep pace with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid’s scoring machine, especially if KC’s defense is creating turnovers.

After forcing just three turnovers through the first four games, the Chiefs defense forced five against the Jaguars while sacking Bortles five times. A mediocre defense will be enough for this team to win the AFC West, but performances such as the one we saw against Bortles & Co. make this team scary.

Eric Berry, Kansas City’s All-Pro safety, has yet to play. His impact on the field can’t be overstated. When he plays, the Chiefs have had a top-10 defense in the Andy Reid era, but when he misses time they have been below average.

With an unstoppable offense and Berry’s return looming, there’s a good chance we will be talking about the Chiefs winning more than just their division this season.

Other teams with value based on differences in implied probability and projected chance: New York Jets +5000, Philadelphia Eagles +100, Minnesota Vikings +150, New Orleans Saints -170.