The Best and Worst Bets to Make the NFL Playoffs Based on numberFire's Projections

Using our projections as a guide, which teams make for good bets to reach the playoffs in 2018, and which squads should you avoid gambling on?

Predicting the playoff teams before the season starts is about as easy as comprehending the lyrics to Pearl Jam's Yellow Ledbetter. Sure, you can mumble the lyrics through the chorus like I do, but you aren't choosing the right words.

It's similar to picking the right NFL teams. Sure, the Patriots will probably clinch the playoffs for the millionth year in a row. The Bills will probably start a new streak of missing the playoffs. Some things can be assumed, but is it worth betting?

With the parity in the NFL, figuring out which team will win or lose over the season is tough. Betting sites like Betfair give odds for each team to make the playoffs. Are there any teams that stand out as values?

The Data

First, I took all of the odds from Betfair and put them into a table. I converted the decimal odds to American odds to get a moneyline value. I then used a probability calculator to get a probability for each bet.

Team BetFair Postseason Odds Probability Conversion
New England Patriots -2000 95.24%
Pittsburgh Steelers -450 81.82%
Philadelphia Eagles -333 76.91%
Minnesota Vikings -250 71.43%
Los Angeles Rams -227 69.42%
Green Bay Packers -200 66.67%
Los Angeles Chargers -164 62.12%
Atlanta Falcons -152 60.32%
New Orleans Saints -150 60.00%
Dallas Cowboys -139 58.16%
Carolina Panthers -139 58.16%
Houston Texans -139 58.16%
Jacksonville Jaguars -139 58.16%
San Francisco 49ers -120 54.55%
Kansas City Chiefs +100 50.00%
Oakland Raiders +175 36.36%
Denver Broncos +175 36.36%
Tennessee Titans +175 36.36%
Seattle Seahawks +175 36.36%
Baltimore Ravens +175 36.36%
Indianapolis Colts +275 26.67%
Detroit Lions +275 26.67%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +500 16.67%
New York Giants +500 16.67%
Arizona Cardinals +500 16.67%
Cincinnati Bengals +650 13.33%
Chicago Bears +650 13.33%
Washington Redskins +650 13.33%
Cleveland Browns +850 10.53%
New York Jets +850 10.53%
Buffalo Bills +900 10.00%
Miami Dolphins +900 10.00%

The Patriots are the heaviest favorites to make the playoffs. Two of their three divisional opponents -- the Dolphins and Bills -- have the worst odds to make the playoffs. The Patriots have made the playoffs 14 of the past 15 seasons.

So you think the Patriots will make the playoffs? Sure, we all do. But is there really value betting on a -2000 moneyline? The risk is far too great to bet $2,000 just to win $100 in return.

numberFire's Projections

I decided to compare these odds to our playoff projections here at numberFire to look for some possible values.

Team BetFair Odds Probability Conversion numberFire Projections Difference
Dallas Cowboys -139 58.16% 29.80% -28.36%
Atlanta Falcons -152 60.32% 34.60% -25.72%
Green Bay Packers -200 66.67% 42.50% -24.17%
San Francisco 49ers -120 54.55% 32.40% -22.15%
Los Angeles Rams -227 69.42% 50.50% -18.92%
Carolina Panthers -139 58.16% 40.20% -17.96%
New England Patriots -2000 95.24% 77.80% -17.44%
Kansas City Chiefs +100 50.00% 33.80% -16.20%
Indianapolis Colts +275 26.67% 12.10% -14.57%
Pittsburgh Steelers -450 81.82% 67.60% -14.22%
Oakland Raiders +175 36.36% 26.00% -10.36%
Houston Texans -139 58.16% 48.30% -9.86%
Denver Broncos +175 36.36% 26.60% -9.76%
Tennessee Titans +175 36.36% 26.70% -9.66%
Minnesota Vikings -250 71.43% 63.20% -8.23%
Philadelphia Eagles -333 76.91% 70.70% -6.21%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +500 16.67% 15.50% -1.17%
Detroit Lions +275 26.67% 26.00% -0.67%
New York Giants +500 16.67% 16.90% 0.23%
Seattle Seahawks +175 36.36% 38.10% 1.74%
New Orleans Saints -150 60.00% 62.90% 2.90%
Cleveland Browns +850 10.53% 13.60% 3.07%
Los Angeles Chargers -164 62.12% 65.90% 3.78%
Buffalo Bills +900 10.00% 15.70% 5.70%
Jacksonville Jaguars -139 58.16% 64.10% 5.94%
Miami Dolphins +900 10.00% 16.50% 6.50%
Arizona Cardinals +500 16.67% 24.20% 7.53%
Baltimore Ravens +175 36.36% 46.90% 10.54%
Cincinnati Bengals +650 13.33% 24.90% 11.57%
Chicago Bears +650 13.33% 25.00% 11.67%
Washington Redskins +650 13.33% 27.60% 14.27%
New York Jets +850 10.53% 33.70% 23.17%

After running the data, there are some teams that stand out as possible bets as well as other squads that are worth avoiding.

Avoid the Noid

Sometimes, your best bet is no bet at all.

The Dallas Cowboys have a 58.16% chance of making the playoffs, per Betfair's odds, but we give them only a 29.8% chance. This is our largest discrepancy, making Dallas a bet to avoid.

Along those same lines, the Atlanta Falcons have a 60.32% chance to make the playoffs, per Betfair, but our numbers give them 34.6% chance. The Falcons have made the playoffs two seasons in a row, but our projections like the Saints the most in the NFC South.

Betfair has the Packers next on the list as a -200 favorite to make the playoffs. I am not one to bet against Aaron Rodgers, but our projections lean towards them being a bit of a trap bet.

The last team worth avoiding is the sexy San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco hasn't been this sexy since Uncle Jesse and the Rippers were playing at the Smash Club in the 90's.

Jimmy Garoppolo led the 1-10 49ers to 5 straight wins to close out the 2017 season. His play was very praiseworthy and has caused many people to pick the 49ers as a darkhorse Super Bowl pick. I think it's time to hold those horses just a tad because our projections don't like the Niners as much as the Betfair odds do. It's easy to draw some comparisons to the Rams of 2017 and say that the Niners are ready to make that leap, but our projections say otherwise.

Teams to Bet On

The largest discrepancy among value picks were the New York Jets. I know. I am surprised, too. While the Jets are supreme longshots to make the playoffs, our projections give them a 33.7% chance, mostly because of how poor the Dolphins and Bills, fellow AFC East foes, are expected to be. Still, two-thirds of the time, we expect them to miss the playoffs, but if you are looking for a team with a high moneyline, taking the Jets at +850 is worth a roll of the dice.

Our projections also like Washington to make the playoffs 27.6% of the time, compared to Betfair's odds of just 13.33%. This correlates with our projections dislike of their divisional rival, the Cowboys.

Looking further up our board, the Baltimore Ravens stand out as a value. John Harbaugh started his career with the Ravens by making five straight playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl win. The following five years have seen the Ravens make the playoffs just once. The Ravens knew that quarterback was a weakness and went out and drafted the exciting Lamar Jackson. How much he will factor in in Year 1 is to be determined, but if Joe Flacco continues to play poorly, Action Jackson will likely step in sooner than later.

Betting on sports is also a "what have you done for me lately" market. The Ravens haven't made the playoffs for three straight seasons, so their Betfair odds are just 36.36%. Our models like them a bit more at 46.9%