Vegas recently released playoff odds for each NFL team. Courtesy of Sports Insights, I want to take a look at a few odds that stand out to me. These odds will likely change, as could my opinion, as we move toward the preseason. But as it stands, on July 4th, these are some attractive lines that I’d consider wagering on.
Tennessee Titans: YES +140, NO -160
- I’m big on the Titans this year, and I like them to pull off the small upset and make the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Titans went 9-7 last year and may have snuck in the playoffs if not for Marcus Mariota getting injured in a Week 16 loss to Jacksonville. He’s supposed to be ready for camp, and the Titans got better this offseason in the draft and free agency. They’re a good running team behind a strong offensive line, and Mariota has a complete receiving core to throw to after drafting Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, plus adding Eric Decker in free agency. They addressed their ailing secondary, too, and I don’t see them going 2-4 in the AFC South like they did last year. I think the Titans win 10 games for the first time in nine years and make an appearance in the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers: YES -110, NO -110
- The Panthers had a nightmare season after losing the 2015 Super Bowl. One of the major reasons why was their lack of success running the football and protecting Cam Newton. In that Super Bowl season, the Panthers went 14-0 when leading at halftime. The reason was their success running the football to help sustain these leads. Last year, they went just 6-4 in such games. Drafting Christian McCaffrey should help the running problems they faced last year, especially since it will make the offense a whole lot more unpredictable for defenses. They also face a much easier schedule. According to Warren Sharpe’s 2017 football preview, the Panthers face the third easiest schedule of pass defenses next year after facing the sixth hardest last year – the largest drop-off in the league. This should result in us seeing the MVP version of Cam Newton, instead of the one that was far too often laying on the ground last year.
Kansas City Chiefs: YES -150, NO +130
- The Chiefs are 23-9 in the last two seasons, but I think they are an average team heading into 2017. You can actually make the argument that they’ve been an average team for the past two years, too, as proven by their playoff performances against the better teams in the league. The major reason for the Chiefs’ success in the regular season over the last couple of years is their dominance in the turnover battle and special teams.
- Winning the turnover battle results in a win nearly 80% of the time in the NFL. The Chiefs won that battle 10 times last year (best in the league), and the Chiefs won nine of those games. Of course creating turnovers and protecting the football is a testament to their discipline and play as a team, but there’s also a lot of luck involved. They recovered 15 fumbles while only losing nine; sometimes it’s just the way the ball bounces. Their conservative style on offense led to only eight interceptions, while they intercepted 18 on the other side of the ball. Such numbers can boost an average team like the Chiefs into the playoffs, and it has for the past two seasons in Kansas City. It’s tough to imagine a third straight season in which the Chiefs have such luck in the turnover margin, and that’s one of the reasons I think we’ll see them win less than 10 games this season for the first time in three years. Another reason is their competition. The Chiefs play in one of the best divisions in football, the AFC West. They went a perfect 6-0 in the division last year, and I don’t see that happening this year. The Raiders will be good again, the Chargers got better, and Denver is never an easy out with considering their defense. I think the division games will be the difference maker.