The NFL playoffs begin tomorrow, and before we dive into previews on a game-by-game basis, let’s stop and take a bigger picture look at the Super Bowl betting odds.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the top seeds, Denver and Seattle setting the tone as clear favorites, head-and-shoulders above the rest of the 12-team playoff field…
Seattle Seahawks: 12-5
Denver Broncos: 14-5
The next rung down are three teams that are priced in the role of legitimate challengers, with 2-seeds New England and Carolina, along with San Francisco. The 49ers’ status isn’t surprising, but it’s at least noteworthy that the one team in the first round priced this high has to open on the road and likely go the distance playing each game away from home.
Green Bay took that route in 2010 and Pittsburgh did so in 2005. But while teams in the first round have made hay in recent years, the last two champions, the New York Giants in 2011 and the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, at least had the opening game at home.
San Francisco 49ers: 7-1
New England Patriots: 17-2
Carolina Panthers: 10-1
The next rung down are six teams that you can grab a nice payout on, the dark horses in this year’s Super Bowl race…
Cincinnati Bengals: 20-1
Green Bay Packers: 20-1
Philadelphia Eagles: 20-1
Kansas City Chiefs: 30-1
Indianapolis Colts: 30-1
New Orleans Saints: 30-1
And finally we come to the big longshot, Mike McCoy and San Diego…
San Diego Chargers: 50-1
The recent history of the Super Bowl tells you that, whatever you think on a straight-up basis, it makes more sense in the futures market to look at the dark horses. You can grab several teams and if one of them comes through, you can still turn a profit.
In fact, you can bet seven teams in the first round—everyone except San Francisco—and if you do an equal amount on each team, you turn a substantial profit regardless of who wins. Let’s say you bet ten bucks a team—that’s a $70 wager, for a potential payday that’s at least $200. In fact, you can even include Carolina in this package, and make it an $80 bet and still collect $100 if the Panthers win it all.
What these odds underscore is just how top-heavy the betting markets see this year’s NFL playoffs. If you see Denver and Seattle as that prohibitive of favorites, then there’s no point in making a bet you feel has no shot. But if you think the favorites are vulnerable, as I’ve felt all year, then the futures market on Super Bowl betting odds is ripe.