NFL Playoff Odds: Ravens, Packers Among Best Bets

NFL Playoff Odds: Ravens, Packers Among Best Bets article feature image

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson

  • The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released odds for all 32 NFL teams to make or miss the playoffs.
  • We ran 10,000 simulations of the 2019 NFL season to determine which teams are worth betting right now.

The 2019 NFL season doesn’t kickoff for five months, but with free agency and the draft in the books, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released odds for each franchise to make and miss the playoffs.

There are 32 teams in the NFL and they share one goal: to win the Super Bowl. To get there each must first reach the postseason. According to the oddsmakers, the Patriots (-900) and Chiefs (-550) are two of the most likely teams to play past Week 17, while the Cardinals (+1000) and Dolphins (+1100) are the biggest longshots.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are postseason staples but that doesn’t mean there is value wagering on them to make the playoffs. At -900 odds, for us to feel comfortable betting on New England, the Pats would need to make the playoffs 90.0% (900/(100+900)) of the time. Based on The Action Network’s 10,000 simulations of the 2019 NFL season using player and team statistics adjusted for Strength of Schedule, we can expect to see Brady & Co. in the playoffs 86.7% of the time, which means there is no value in placing a bet at -900 odds.

So which teams are offering bettors value to make or miss the playoffs? Based on the difference in implied probability and projected chance, 10 of the 32 teams have value to either make or miss the postseason. The analysis below looks at the two best bets.

Best Bets to Make the NFL Playoffs

Baltimore Ravens

  • Current odds: +180, Implied Probability: 35.7%
  • Ravens make the playoffs 49.7% of the time

The Lamar Jackson era has begun. Taking over for an injured Joe Flacco, Jackson went 6-1 as a starter and guided the Ravens to their first AFC North title in six years. Jackson rushed for 695 yards and had 11 runs of 15 or more yards — best among quarterbacks.

Jackson needs to develop as a passer — he produced only one game with over 200 yards — for Baltimore’s offense to make a leap. But with a defense that ranked third in DVOA and a special teams unit that was sixth, the Ravens can have success even if Jackson doesn’t play like a Pro Bowler.

The oddsmakers have listed the Steelers and Browns as the favorites to win the AFC North. Our model disagrees. The Ravens are the most likely team to win the division (30.8%) and have a 49.7% chance of making the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers

  • Current odds: +120, Implied Probability: 45.5%
  • Packers make the playoffs 56.2% of the time

The Packers will go only as far as Aaron Rodgers will carry them as is evident following back-to-back losing seasons. Injuries to Rodgers, arguably the game’s best quarterback, have kept the franchise from reaching the playoffs in recent years.

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. Green Bay is the most likely team to win the NFC North (40.5%) and has a 56.2% chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Other teams with at least a 5% difference in implied probability and projected chance to make the playoffs: Giants (+500), Bengals (+700), Seahawks (+160), Panthers (+240)

Best Bets to Miss the NFL Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys

  • Current odds: -125, Implied Probability: 55.6%
  • Cowboys miss the playoffs 65.3% of the time

After a 3-5 start to the 2018 season, it looked as though the Cowboys would miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. But the Amari Cooper trade helped spark an offense that was averaging 20.0 points per game. Dallas finished the season winning seven of their last eight and topped the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card game.

The team will bring back a majority of the players on offense that got them to the playoffs, while also getting Jason Witten out of retirement and Pro-Bowl center Travis Fredrick back after missing all of last season after being diagnosed with Gullian-Barre Syndrome. The defense, led by Pro Bowler Demarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch, is the team’s strength, though, finishing ninth in DVOA a year ago.

So why is Dallas favored to miss the playoffs? All seven of the games the team won in the second half of last season were by eight or fewer points. Records in one-score games tend to regress from season to season. The Cowboys had a point differential of a .500 team and though they did score more points once adding Cooper, the team still finished 22nd in scoring.

There is only a 24.8% chance the team repeats as NFC East champions and a 34.7% chance of reaching the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Current odds: -150, Implied Probability: 60.0%
  • Vikings miss the playoffs 71.7% of the time

A year after playing in the NFC Championship game, the Vikings finished 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. Kirk Cousins was expected to be a difference maker after signing a three-year, $84 million deal that was fully guaranteed.

The Vikings new quarterback did set career-highs in completion percentage (70.1%) and touchdowns (30) but ranked only 10th in the NFL in passer rating. According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins failed to produce when it mattered most, recording a grade of over 71.0 only once during the team’s final seven games.

Cousins is under pressure to perform in 2019, yet his play is not likely to match his salary. During his career, Cousins has shown himself to be an above-average quarterback, which is valuable in the NFL, though not a true difference maker in the same vein as Patrick Mahomes or Drew Brees.

Minnesota does have a talented roster, so if everything clicks, the team could find itself back in the playoffs. However, our projections have the Vikings winning 7.8 games on average and missing the playoffs 71.7% of the time.

Other teams with at least a 5% difference in implied probability and projected chance to miss the playoffs: Chargers (+180) and Titans (-400)