Picking Every NFL Division Winner Ahead of 2017 Stretch Run
All division-winner odds come via Bovada and are current entering Week 14. Be sure to re-check these results before deciding on a wager, as odds are always fluid on the futures front.
AFC East: New England Patriots (-50000)
Imagine betting against the New England Patriots.
And, on that note, imagine actually betting on on the Patriots at this point. They’re too far in front of the field to make the investment worthwhile. They look every bit the part of a Super Bowl champion.
Consider this: They’re now 8-4 against the spread this year entering Week 14 after beginning the season 2-4 in that department—meaning they’ve covered six straight lines…and counting. They shouldn’t just be your well-obviously AFC East favorites. They should be your Super Bowl favorites.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers (-10000)
Though the Steelers’ offense has lacked a certain luster for most of this year, they still sport one of the NFL’s best passing games. They’re fourth in total yards through the air, and sixth in total touchdowns. A shoddy interception rate is all that separates them from the elite of the elite. The Ravens cannot even begin to say the same.
AFC South: Tennessee Titans (-110)
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be a popular pick here, and for good reason. Their defense has been largely sensational this year, while their offense is experiencing a nice uptick in recent weeks, thanks to a quasi-revival from quarterback Blake Bortles.
But the Tennessee Titans have a slightly easier schedule to close out the season. Equally important: These two teams face each other once more this year, in Week 17, a game that will take place on the Titans’ turf. And if you believe they’ll steal that one, well, then you believe they’ll steal the division crown in the process.
AFC West: Los Angeles Chargers (+150)
Talk about your giant cluster-you-know-whats.
Entering Week 14, the AFC West is playing host to a three-way tie between the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. While the Chiefs were initially expected to run away with this crown, a recent four-game losing streak has opened the door for both the Raiders and Chargers.
After some thinking, we’re inclined to give the advantage to the Chargers, even though oddsmakers feel differently. The Chiefs look absolutely done, and the Raiders haven’t delivered nearly enough consistency on the offensive side of the ball.
The Chargers, meanwhile, have morphed into an elite defensive outfit. They’re fourth in points allowed per game, and they’ve let up 25 or more points just once all season. With the offense rounding into form over the past few weeks, they might actually be the safest pick.
Beyond that, they rate as a top-12 team in the league according to Pro-Football-Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS), which grades every squad by point differential and strength of schedule. That’s a huge freaking deal.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles (-15000)
Really, the Eagles need only one win to put the .500 Cowboys out of their misery. And, hell, they might not even need that much. Dallas is currently laboring forward without running back Ezekiel Elliott and doesn’t have the requisite deep-ball threats in the passing game to make up for his absences.
Again, though, this is immaterial. The Cowboys could play their best football of the year to close the schedule, and it wouldn’t matter. The Eagles pair a first-place offense with a top-seven defense. They are winning this division without breaking a sweat.
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings (-10000)
We can try and use the Minnesota Vikings‘ perpetual uncertainty under center to dredge up some controversy here, but it would be pointless.
Case Keenum may have actually won the starting quarterback job for the rest of the year, no matter what the Vikings say. He is helping pilot an offense that ranks 11th in points scored per game. Minnesota is still extremely reliant on its ground attack, but the team also places sixth in net yards per passing attempt—a testament to Keenum’s arm and precision.
Attach an above-average offense to a lockdown defense, and what do you get? A legitimate playoff threat that will run away with the AFC North this side of Aaron Rodgers’ injury.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints (-350)
Keep your eyes peeled on the Carolina Panthers here. Their defense is bordering on top notch once again, and they can be frisky on the offensive side. The New Orleans Saints also have two matchups with the surging Atlanta Falcons left on their docket.
Still, we cannot ignore the Saints’ budding balance. They are no longer inadequate on the defensive side. They are a tidy 12th in points allowed per game, in addition to ranking third on the points-per-game scale.
According to SRS, in fact, the Saints grade out as the NFL’s best team, bar none. Now is the time to take their 2017 performance seriously, and it starts with giving them a hearty nod over the Panthers and Falcons.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks (+150)
What’s the matter? Were you expecting the Los Angeles Rams?
Understandable. But the Seattle Seahawks are inexplicably flying under the radar. Injury bugs haven’t prevented them from propping up a top-seven defense, and their offense is up to ninth in points per game.
Go back to Week 13, and their drubbing of the NFL-best Eagles comes off like a poignant statement. The Seahawks don’t have the easiest schedule to finish the year; their final four outings include dance-offs with the Jaguars and division rival Rams. But Seattle always seems to hit its stride late in the year, particularly on offense. That appears to be happening once again.
And if that doesn’t do it for you, there’s always this: The Rams, while solid, probably won’t prop up a first-place offense for the rest of the season. They’re more overrated than not.
*Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and accurate leading into games for Week 14 unless otherwise cited.
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