NFL Futures Betting Division Winners: The Minnesota Vikings Are Good Value
Whew -- what a week it's been in the NFL. Adam Schefter has been a busy dude.
All the player movement has shaken up the odds for the 2020 division winners. With the dust starting to settle on free agency, let's take a look at a few good division winner value bets on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Over the years, the NFL has gained a reputation as a league in which teams can go from zero to hero very quickly. The 49ers were a great example of that this past year, playing in the Super Bowl after winning four games the campaign before.
But some of the year-to-year volatility has worn away in recent seasons, especially in the AFC, where all the 2018 division champs repeated as division winners in 2019.
Here's a look at the number of repeat division winners each season dating back to 2010.
|Year||Repeat Division Winners|
As of now, FanDuel Sportsbook has six of last year's division champs listed as a favorite -- or co-favorite -- to win their division in 2020. Over the last 10 seasons, we've seen exactly six repeat division champs two times, but we've also gotten two or fewer repeat winners on a pair of occasions. In the last two years, more than half of the division champs (9 of 16) won the division the previous season.
This Year's Odds
Here's the list of 2020 division favorites, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
|NFC East||Dallas/Philadelphia (+125)|
|NFC South||New Orleans (-110)|
|NFC North||Green Bay/Minnesota (+165)|
|NFC West||San Francisco (-115)|
|AFC East||New England (+110)|
|AFC South||Indianapolis (+135)|
|AFC North||Baltimore (-195)|
|AFC West||Kansas City (-390)|
The biggest favorite -- by a huge margin -- is Kansas City, listed at a whopping -390 to win, which implies a probability of 79.6%. Just three other teams have implied odds greater than 50%, and they are: Baltimore (-195), San Francisco (-115) and New Orleans (-110).
Now that we have the lay of the land, let's dive into what I think are a few of the better bets of the bunch.
Where's the Betting Value?
Minnesota Vikings (+165)
Among the favorites, I think the Vikings offers the best value.
Yes, the Packers won the NFC North by three games last year, but Minnesota wasn't that much worse than Green Bay. Actually, you can make the case the Vikings were the better team based on overall performance. The Vikes had a much superior point differential (+104 to Green Bay's +63), and our nERD-based algorithm had Minnesota one spot in front of the Pack.
Both Green Bay and Minnesota have lost key pieces this offseason. The Vikings traded away wideout Stefon Diggs, while the Packers lost offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, who PFF graded as last year's 15th-best tackle, in free agency.
The fact the odds have Green Bay and Minnesota as co-favorites tells you the gap between these two teams record-wise shouldn't have been as big as it was in 2019. I think the Bulaga departure hurts the Pack more than the loss of Diggs hinders Minnesota. At +165, I like a bet on the Vikings.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+320)
Pittsburgh hung tough last season (8-8, -14 point differential) despite having a nightmare situation at quarterback. With Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph starting a combined 14 games, the Steelers ranked 14th overall by nERD and had a somewhat realistic shot at making the postseason heading into Week 17.
The reason Pittsburgh's season didn't tank when Ben Roethlisberger got hurt was the rise of a young, talented defense, which our metrics had as the league's third-best unit. T.J. Watt, Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick -- three first-round picks who make up the core of the Steelers' D -- combined for a mere two seasons of NFL experience prior to 2019, so the Steelers should once again be elite on that side of the ball.
Offensively, Big Ben's return should raise the entire unit and bring JuJu Smith-Schuster back to life. In 2019, Pittsburgh had the league's third-worst passing offense, per our numbers, and there's almost no way they're that poor again as long as Roethlisberger is under center. In his last full season (2018), Big Ben totaled 34 passing scores and a league-high 5,129 yards.
The Ravens look like the most complete team in the NFL -- first in nERD in 2019 -- and Baltimore has already made some shrewd improvements this offseason. Baltimore absolutely should be favored to win the AFC North, maybe even the Super Bowl. But outside of the Ravens, Pittsburgh's schedule looks pretty nice as they face the AFC South and NFC East this coming season, a pair of divisions which combined to have just two teams (Dallas and Tennessee) in the top-15 in nERD in 2019.
A +320 line for the Steelers implies odds of 23.8%, and while Baltimore is the better team right now, I think Pittsburgh has a shot to make a run at the division crown as long as Big Ben is 100%.
Los Angeles Rams (+350)
The Rams were unlucky last season while the Niners (-115) and Seahawks (+250) -- both of whom oddsmakers have in front of LA -- were rather fortunate. That makes betting on a Rams rebound pretty attractive.
Seattle had a measly +7 point differential last year and was extremely lucky to go 11-5. San Fran's remarkable turnaround was mostly legit. They had a +169 point differential and were the NFL's second-best team by nERD. With that said, the Niners were still pretty lucky, too, per a study at fivethirtyeight.com,
San Fran had 10 games in which ESPN’s win-probability model gave a 60-40 (or narrower) split at any point with five or fewer minutes left in regulation, and they went 7-3 in those games. Seattle had six such contests and won five of them, with nearly half (five) of the Seahawks' 11 wins coming by four points or fewer. Seattle's and the Niners' records in such games were the two best records in the split in the league.
The Rams, meanwhile, played in four such games and didn't win any. Only one other team (Detroit) played in more than two such games without winning at least one of them.
The NFC West had a thrilling title race last season as the 'Hawks and 49ers played for the division crown in Week 17. With some better luck, LA -- who finished with a +30 point differential and was two spots ahead of Seattle by nERD -- could've been right in the mix, too.
In 2020, the NFC West may be the league's toughest division, with even the Cardinals having a puncher's chance if you squint hard enough -- which, spoiler alert, we're about to do. The odds have San Fran with an implied probability of 53.5% to win the division, with Seattle (28.6%) and LA (22.2%) priced as long shots.
Should LA be the favorite in the NFC West? No way. The Niners are the team to beat. But I do think LA at +350 is very enticing as I anticipate a Rams bounce back.
Arizona Cardinals (+1000)
This one's a reach -- just wanted to get that out there right off the bat.
At +1000, the Cards have the worst odds in the NFC West (by a lot), and the three other teams in the division are all pretty darn good. This obviously isn't likely, and that's why it's at +1000.
But hear me out for a hot minute.
Arizona has its franchise quarterback, with Kyler Murray showing pretty well as a rookie despite Arizona sitting 26th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders. With Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and Kenyan Drake around Murray, Arizona already had a decent crop of weapons, and then they pilfered DeAndre Hopkins via trade. All of the sudden, Murray has himself some serious toys to play with, and the Cards already ranked 11th in offense a season ago, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
The biggest obstacle to contention for Arizona -- in addition to a brutal division -- is going to be their defense and said offensive line, but given the addition of Nuk and how many wideouts the team drafted a year ago, it's safe to assume the Cards will be investing a lot of draft capital into D and offensive line. If they hit on a couple picks, this team could make a jump in 2020.
For me, the reward is worth the risk at +1000, as Arizona could be the breakout team of 2020.