2021 NFL Divisional Round Picks, Analysis, Odds & Predictions
Remember those NFL division bets you made at the start of the season? Did they tank? Did you grab a cheap favorite whose odds are now priced in the stratosphere? Or did you bank on a team like the Cleveland Browns and are left holding a losing ticket?
Whatever the case, we’re past the midway stage of the season, so let’s take a look at where the NFL division odds stand — and see if any value remains.
Three divisions could come down to the wire, including the NFC West, AFC West and North. NFL odds have framed a tight market, so the division title is still up for grabs.
It’s also a semi-close race in the AFC East and NFC South. However, the NFC North, NFC East and AFC South could be all sewn up.
Still up for Grabs
There has been a significant change in the NFC West, which had the Los Angeles Rams as even-money favorites last week. However, a heavy loss to the 49ers has seen a change in favoritism, and the Rams slipped hard to +160.
Thanks to the Rams’ prime-time loss, the Arizona Cardinals received a bump in their odds. The Cardinals are now the -230 favorite to win the division. They scored an emphatic win over the 49ers without Kyler Murray, but struggled against Cam Newton and the Panthers.
The Cardinals look the better bet to win the division given how poor the Rams looked on Monday, but the move in the odds rightly reflects that advantage.
One of the most competitive NFL divisions, the AFC West could go one of three ways.
Kansas City is the current favorite at -115. This is a far cry from their preseason odds of -275. The Chiefs drifted midway through the season, but after beating the Giants, Packers and Raiders in three consecutive games, they have regained bettors’ faith.
They are leading the AFC West, but the separation from first to last place is just a single game, so even the Broncos at +1400 is a live bet. With recent form in mind, we’re picking the Chiefs to continue their winning run to capture another AFC West title.
All four teams in the AFC North are paying +500 or less. NFL betting lines have the Baltimore Ravens as -140 favorites as they sit alone in first place. But their lead over even the basement-dwelling Browns is only 1½ games.
There isn’t a lot of consistency in this division — and just when it looks like the Ravens are running away with it, they lose to the Miami Dolphins.
The Ravens have an implied 52% chance to win the division. It’s not a big number, but the narrow lead could be enough when it’s all said and done.
Cincinnati established itself as the biggest mover in the division, having opened at +1800 in the preseason, they are now priced at +450 — though it may be too little too late. The Browns, on the other hand, suffered a collapse, having opened at +135 and now carry +450 odds to win a division for which backers thought could be their year.
A Two-Horse Race
What opened with a clear favorite now has a dark horse coming up the rear. In September, the AFC East was there for the Buffalo Bills’ taking. Now, the New England Patriots want a second opinion.
The Bills started the season as a -150 favorite and they have firmed into -450. It’s a steady but not expected move for the Bills, who have a one game lead over the Patriots.
It could be a close contest, so bettors shouldn’t overlook the +275 for Bill Belichick’s men. They opened at +325, so they’re living up to expectations with a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones.
The Patriots defense is also making a difference after holding opponents to under 300 yards in three of their four wins.
“That’s something that we harp on, that’s something that we believe in and that’s something that we practice,” Patriots linebacker Hightower told Patriots.com.
It would make for a great story, so take the Patriots at value.
Pick: New England Patriots +275
We have called the NFC South a two-team division, but that’s not to say the Panthers and Falcons don’t have a chance. They are only a couple of games behind Tampa Bay, but we think the Buccaneers and the Saints will be the teams to follow over the remaining schedule.
Despite losing their last two games, the remaining schedule should play in their favor. The Buccaneers are now clear -700 favorites (after opening the year at -175). The Saints meanwhile have slipped to +450 from their season open of +250.
They play in December, which could decide the NFC South, but we’re going with the Buccaneers to pull away even at the steep price.
All Over but the Crying
We don’t always like using the word “lock” but the following divisions appear to be all over but the shouting.
We would be shocked if the Dallas Cowboys didn’t win the NFC East. They hold a sizable advantage over the Philadelphia Eagles and shouldn’t be caught.
Dallas was a +110 favorite to start the season, which looks like excellent value now. NFL markets have the Cowboys at -3300 after Week 10.
Philadelphia has played better over the last few weeks, but we can’t see Jalen Hurts and the Eagles getting past Dak Prescott and the highly-powered Cowboys.
Bookmakers predicted the correct order when releasing markets. They had the Packers leading the Vikings, which were followed by the Bears and Lions.
We expect the NFC North to finish in that exact order, except the Packers were -150 in opening lines and now they’re -3300.
The Vikings are still clinging to respect at +850, but that’s way down from their season open of +275. It would take a Packers’ collapse over a few shocking few weeks, so even at nosebleed odds we’re calling Green Bay to ship the division.
If the Tennessee Titans don’t win the AFC South as -5000 favorites, we would be shocked to say the least.
They are the shortest-priced favorites to win their division after scoring eight wins from 10 games. The Titans have a big lead over the Indianapolis Colts at 5-5, who are a distant +1200 to chase them down.
Those Colts were the favorite in pre-season markets with slim +115 odds — a far shot from their current +1200. The Titans opened on the second line of betting at +115 in the preseason, and it looks like incredible value in hindsight.