For those of you who enjoy a speculative bet at longer odds, Bet 365 have allowed their division winner markets to be multied. Whilst being hard to hit (not many saw the Niners/Broncos coming last season) they have the potential to pay off massively depending on how many divisions you include in them. Here is my thoughts on each of the divisions.
This division is tough to call, it appears to be a 2 horse race, between the Steelers ($2.30), who start as favourites by the narrowest of margins and the Ravens at ($2.35). Last season the Ravens took the bragging rights as they swept their fierce rivals, providing the tiebreaker for a 12-4 deadlock, and despite the loss of Suggs I feel as though they could do so once again. The Steelers seem to be out of luck on the injury front in the preseason and Mike Wallace is continuing to hold out. That said, a 12-4 record with big Ben playing hurt for large parts of the season is no lean feat! Still if Flacco can take the next step then I see this side being a real force of the NFL. The Bengals and Andy Dalton ($5 ) shocked us all by making the playoffs last season but I still feel they are a little short on quality to challenge for this tough division. The Browns ($36) aren’t winning anything, except perhaps the number 1 pick. You can make a case for either of the big guns in this division but I narrowly favour the Ravens.
Suggested Bet: Ravens $2.35
The Patriots appear certainties to take East once again and are priced accordingly at $1.22. The Dolphins ($17) are a long way off, and will need to be patient with rookie QB Ryan Tannehill still a very raw product. Usual challengers the Jets ($7.50) dropped off significantly last season, and whilst their defence still remains solid, with either Sanchez or Tebow at QB it is hard to see them challenging the Pats. The Bills ($9) showed a marked improvement last season, particularly when Fitzpatrick was healthy, but once again, a playoff wildcard spot is surely as good as they can hope for. The patriots with Brady throwing to Gronk/Hernandez/Welker/Lloyd will dominate this division.
Suggested Bet- Patriots $1.25 as an anchor.
The Broncos ($2.87) rode Tebowmania all the way to a division title last season, but this year it is a new signal caller who will look to lead them to a repeat triumph. Peyton makes this side infinitely better, considering they had next to no passing game last season( Final drives excepted) and with a solid ground game to support him the Broncos could well make it back to back AFC West crowns. It is Phillip Rivers’ San Diego Chargers ($2.67) who start out as division favourites though. If he can put his horror 2011 season behind him, we know he has the quality to be a top QB in this league, but which Rivers will it be in 2012, the touchdown king or turnover machine? They just seem far too short priced, based purely on “potential”. The bookies overrated them all last season and so it is once again here. The Raiders ($6.50) have a stud running back in Darren McFadden, a couple of great kickers, but asides from that they don’t seem to be on the same level as the 2 favourites here. If an upset is coming from anywhere it is from the Chiefs, who will get Matt Cassell and Jamaal Charles back as they try to recover from their poor 2011 campaign. They have a solid defence and I actually like them as a darkhorse at $4.50. I can’t bet against Peyton however, he has a solid supporting cast, and a defence that was remarkable last season, making crucial stops to allow for the much vaunted “Tebow Time”. With a competent QB this Broncos side should have enough about them.
Suggested Bet-Broncos $2.87
Without Peyton Manning to dominate the division it finally offered another team a chance to shine and the Houston Texans ($1.20) did just that, making the playoffs for the first time in their history. Few would bet against them repeating that feat in 2012 as on paper they are clearly the strongest side in the division. This team has aspirations of a superbowl and one would think they take the North with ease. The major threat comes from the Titans ($5.50) but even with a likely improvement from a fully fit CJ2K I just don’t see it. The Jaguars were awful last season and with MJD holding out appear set to get even worse, whilst it would be expecting an awful lot of number 1 draft pick Andrew Luck to give the Colts a chance.
Suggested Bet- Texans $1.20 as an anchor.
The Packers ($1.33) dominated this division last season and despite being very keen on the Bears ($6.25) to be a strong side this year I expect the Packers to dominate once more. With Rodgers under centre they will win a lot of games based purely on their explosive offence, he is quite simply a machine that looked every bit the leagues best player in 2011. As I have preivously said, I like this Bears team, with a good mix of Offence and Defence, and crucially Brandon Marshall’s arrival, they certainly have the potential to play spoliers, but I expect them to lack the consistency of the Pack. Lets not forget this was a 15-1 side last year! The Lions ($6) were marked improvers last season, that Stafford-Megatron combo was lethal, but their defence remains far too inferior for them to be serious contenders in my mind. The Vikings($34) are in a rebuilding phase and no threat at all.
Suggested Bet- Packers $1.33 as an anchor. (Bears in some as value)
The Eagles, or the “Dream team” failed to deliver on the hype last year, yet once again start as bookie’s favourites at ($2.50). It is not hard to understand why with such dynamic, explosive players on their side, but much like the Chargers, the bookies tend to overrate them, and as such are not great value. Defending Superbowl champions the Giants ($3) could feel stiff not to be favourites here, yet one must remember they were minutes away from not making the playoffs due to some poor regular season showings last year. They showed they have the quality though with their fairytale run to the championship. With Eli emerging as genuine star they should still be favourites here. If Tony Romo had not missed a wide open Miles Austin it would have been the Cowboys ($3.40) in the playoffs last year. They probably would have made it well before that fateful night had Romo not gotten himself injured and John Kitna forced to start. Early on in the season they looked the likely division winners with both the Giants and Eagles lagging and are more than capable of springing a surprise here. This is the toughest division to call and the odds reflect that, with 3 sides within 90 cents of each other. The redskins($13) will be a force in years to come thanks to their drafting of RGIII but it is too much to expect them to be contenders just yet. The Giants seem the best value if they can replicate their playoff and late season form, it honestly could go to any of the 3 though.
Suggested Bet- Giants $3
With bounty-gate looming large over the Saints ($2) many are forecasting a drop off, yet with a star like Drew Brees at the helm, and coming off a 13-3 season, it would take a pretty dramatic drop off for them not to be up there in the NFC once more. The Falcons ($2.50) seem to be the most likely to challenge but those odds seem a little short. Matt Ryan will need to take the next step to compensate for an ageing Michael Turner who is starting to show signs of wear and tear meaning they can be less reliant on the run. Julio Jones will give Ryan 2 stud recievers to help him achieve this and I do expect the Falcons to be a playoff side. The Panthers ($7) surprised many with Cam Newtons stunning rookie season, but are a clear 3rd in this division and he still has much learning to do. The Buccs $17 regressed horribly last season and it would be a brave man to bet on them to turn things around so suddenly as to have them in the reckoning for the south. This seems very much like the AFC North, 2 clear side that should both make the playoffs. I give the edge to the Saints on a count of
Suggested Bet- New Orleans $2
Last but not least we come to the NFC west. Suffice to say that few saw the 49er’s ($1.36) coming out and posting a 13-3 season but that is precisely what they did as they dominated a weak division. I expect a much similar story this season, even if they were to drop off slightly, this ultra tough defence is going to be overwhelming for their competitors. The Seahawks ($5.50) appear the best chance to upset them, but even with “Beast Mode” having a career season, they were a long way off the pace in 2011. With a rookie QB they seem unlikely to factor into the division race. The Rams ($13) made a complete mess of the draft, and despite finishing second they failed to get Sam Bradford a legitimate WR threat or increased protection, it will be another long year for Rams fans. Then there is Arizona ($8.50) who have Kevin Kolb and John Skelton as their QB options with no feature running back, enough said. 49’ers to take the division by the length of Candlestick Park.
Suggested Bet- 49ers $1.39 as a lock
So in my opinion there are 4 “locks” for their divisions, and 4 which are tough to call. Using the 4 clear cut favourites Patriots/Texans/Packers/49ers as anchors across all your multi’s gives you odds of $2.68. From there you can add a few of the value selections to boost the odds. Using various combinations you can get some pretty good value, and if 2/3 value legs hit then you will be in profit.
Say you like the Ravens/Broncos/Saints to win their divisions. Along with the 4 anchors the combinations pay the following.
So if 2 of your 3 value legs get up you win big, if all 3 do then you win massively. You could go riskier even and add in the Giants and make it a 7 or 8 leg multi, it is entirely up to you, there is some good value here if you think that you can pick the winners.