Super Bowl Betting Odds Prior To The NFL Divisional Round

The Super Bowl betting odds as we approach the second round of the NFL playoffs amount to a 4-on-4 battle that’s been brewing all the way since August. Four of the five teams that were the preseason Super Bowl favorites are left, and all are in separate games, going against four darkhorses. Whether you believed in the favorites or thought that 2013 would be the year of the darkhorse, the decisive hour has arrived.

When the season began, the clear favorites were the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. They were priced anywhere from 3-1 to 6-1, and it was then a big dropoff to 18-1. Of those five, all but the Packers will be playing this weekend.

TheSportsNotebook carved out a clear position early on—whomever was going to ultimately win the Super Bowl, it wasn’t coming out of the Gang of Five. I then tacked one more prediction and said none of the five would even make it to New York City.

That stance has led me down the garden path of trying to identify the Super Bowl longshot. The path has stopped along the way of the disappointment (Pittsburgh), to the still-have-a-chance-but-probably-not (New Orleans) to the completely ridiculous (Washington). It was around midseason that I honed in on Indianapolis, and once Carolina beat New Orleans to take the NFC South, I gave the Panthers the perch previously held by the Saints.

The beauty of Super Bowl futures though, is that you don’t need to take just one team. In fact, it’s not even smart. The point is to put as many teams as possible under your roof. With that in mind, let’s review the current Super Bowl betting odds and consider some strategies…

Seattle: 5-2
Denver: 5-2

San Francisco: 5-1
New England: 15-2

Carolina: 10-1
San Diego: 15-1
New Orleans: 15-1
Indianapolis: 20-1

To keep strategy simple, we’ll assume the premise is that you would wager equal amounts on each team chosen and to keep this responsible, we’ll assume that amount is $10. If you believe in the favorites, you can take both Seattle and Denver. It won’t be very profitable to play both, but a $10 bet on each ($20 total) would give you a $25 payout if either won.

A more profitable path, presuming you don’t want to buck the system too much, would be to opt for both challengers, and ride Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady, hoping one of them can deliver the goods. The same betting path produces a payout anywhere from $50 to $75 if you split a $20 opening wager two ways.

Then we come to TheSportsNotebook’s chosen path and it’s to ride the darkhorses. Betting $10 on each team would be a $40 investment up front and if any of the four win, you’re payday will range from $100 to $200.

Furthermore, the math allows you to also add New England as a fifth team. This would up the investment to $50, but a Patriot payday would be worth $75. San Francisco doesn’t work as the fifth team, because they would only get you back to break even.

Let’s say that you want to try a middle path, and that’s combine a favorite with a longshot. That works too, especially if you have a strong preference for Denver or Seattle. Make your pick there, then choose the best longshot. The favorite serves as your hedge, where you turn a very small profit, and the longshot gives a you a chance at a max payday. For example, this investment requires only $20, making that $100 payout on Carolina all the more enticing.

The options are plentiful. But as we head into this weekend, with the four remaining preseason favorites playing darkhorses in each of the four games, I’m sticking with the longshots. If you make me get specific, I’ll say Carolina beats Indianapolis in New York City. But why get specific when the oddsmakers will let you take the entire group and add Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to the list?