NFL Betting: AFC Season Preview
A collective sigh of relief will be heard from NFL fans around the world on Friday 11th September after a tumultuous 223 day off season finally comes to an end. The layoff has been one yet again marred by controversy for Commissioner Goodell and the NFL, with a spate of substance abuse suspensions, sexual assault allegations and an investigation, inquiry and report into cheating by the eventual champions.
Whilst it was Brady who lifted the Lombardi trophy last year (thanks to a last play interception from unknown defensive back Malcolm Butler), some pundits were predicting the four game suspension handed down to Brady for his role in ‘Deflategate’ would prevent the Pats from repeating their heroics this season.
Now that the ban has been lifted we’ve seen the markets adjust accordingly.
Price Movements: New England Patriots
Super Bowl Market AFC Conference Winner
This two part article looks at some of the teams I believe will be contending from the AFC and NFC conferences in the upcoming season to help you decide where you should put your hard earned.
Indianapolis Colts (AFC South) Betfair odds $4.60 to win AFC, $10 to win Superbowl
- Last year : 11 -5 (lost AFC championship game)
- 2015 Prediction : 14-2 (AFC winners)
The Colts already boasted one of the more potent offences in the league last season lead by wunderkind Quarterback Andrew Luck. After being blown out in the AFC championship game last year by Tom Brady and LeGarette Blount, the Indy front office sent a resounding message to the rest of the competition in adding more high powered weapons to Luck’s already jam packed arsenal.
Andre Johnson gives the Colts a redzone threat to couple with nimble but undersized first choice receiver T.Y Hilton, and the addition of former 49er stalwart running back Frank Gore will ensure opposing defences don’t have loaded secondary coverage in attempts to thwart Luck’s cannon of an arm. Picking up speedy first round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett adds to the compounding headache for any defensive coordinator coming up against the Colts on any given week.
Add to this a young offensive line that is improving with every snap played together, and the result is that teams that wish to challenge the Colts this year better be ready for a shootout. In one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, the Colts are primed to clean up their division and seriously press for Superbowl contention.
Betting strategy: Other than putting the house on Luck for MVP honours and Indy to win the Superbowl, the start of the season tends to throw up some juicy odds in regards to player performance markets. In the first five weeks of the regular season, Luck and the aforementioned arsenal face a bevy of lowly teams with QB’s boasting a winning percentage of .376.
Bank on the Colts Defence to get Luck out on the field and racking up first downs, with the only issue being blowouts forcing Luck to the bench early to avoid the risk of injury.
Best overall bet: BACK the Colts to win the AFC @ any price over $4.50.
Denver Broncos (AFC West) Betfair odds $6.80 to win AFC, $15 to win Superbowl
- Last year: 12-4 (lost in Divisional round to the Colts)
- 2015 Prediction: 10-6 (AFC west winner)
The Broncos once again come in to the season with their Superbowl aspirations resting on the shoulders of ageing quarterback legend Peyton Manning. Whilst impressing in the regular season since his switch from the Colts in 2012, the touchdown record holder has failed to live up to his lofty status in the post –season, going 2-4 when it matters (including an embarrassing Superbowl loss at the hands of the Seahawks in 2013/2014 season).
Whilst the second half of last season saw the emergence of CJ Anderson as the team’s bell cow running back, the loss of once revered slot receiver Wes Welker and man mountain tight end Julius Thomas to free agency is sure to hurt an offence that had already lost its previous year’s elite status. New coach Gary Kubiak has ushered in a new era with a run heavy offence to lighten the load on Manning, and brought with him his favourite tight end Owen Daniels who is sure to see a lot of red zone targets early on.
However, Broncos fans must be champing at the bit to see their much vaunted pass rush combination of All- Pro linebacker and sack artist Von Miller and defensive end Demarcus Ware. Former Broncos champion quarterback and now General Manager John Elway made arguably the boldest call of last year’s draft in trading away their first, fifth, and starting guard Manny Ramirez away to the Detroit Lions for the chance to grab the sliding linebacker from Missouri Shane Ray.
Known as the best pass rusher in the ACC (and considered a top 10 talent before testing positive to marijuana at the NFL draft combine) offensive lines and opposing quarterbacks will instantly be second guessing their protection when this three headed pass rushing monster is on the field in third down passing situations. Coupled with All Pro cornerback combo Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr, a changing of the guard has taken place which will see Denver’s offence play second fiddle to their playmaking defence.
Betting Strategy: Whilst the Broncos have enjoyed a flawless pre-season, these contests are often a chance for undrafted rookies to desperately grab a spot on the 53 man roster, and not a true indication of what lies ahead in the big dance. The early season schedule was also not kind to the Broncos, offering significant away tests in the Chiefs and Lions in Rounds 2 and 3 respectively. It may be prudent, given the reduction in Manning’s targets, to look at better under the given points totals in these games, especially with the run blocking prowess of both of these teams. One failsafe is the presence of undisputed favourite target Demariyus Thomas, who was third in the league last year in receptions and top 5 in yardage.
Given the departure of his brother from another mother Julius, look for the athletic receiver to rack up plenty of yardage against teams with weak secondaries and bet to back the player performance market accordingly.
Super Bowel Price Movements: Denver Broncos
Best Bet: LAY the Broncos to win the Super Bowl @ $15, with their offence faltering and the rise of divisional rivals the San Diego Chargers.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North) BF odds $11 to win AFC, $29 to win Superbowl
- Last Season 11-5 (Lost Wild Card playoff)
- 2015 prediction: 11-5 (Wild Card Round)
The Steelers enjoyed somewhat of resurgence in 2014, beating out heavy favourites the Baltimore Ravens to take the AFC North division on the back of some impressive performances from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Whilst Big Ben enjoyed his best season to date statistically, this can largely be put down to stud receiver Antonio Brown leading the league in receptions and stamping himself as the hottest property in the NFL at the wide receiver spot, hauling in 13 touchdowns from the behemoth quarterback.
The Steelers also began to reap significant reward from investing their second round draft choice in versatile running back Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for nearly 1300 yards, second to only Dallas’ Demarco Murray. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they did not escape the wrath of the dreaded off- season, with both Bell and surprise packet receiver Martavis Bryant being suspended for the first two and four games respectively. Add to that a serious ankle injury to perennial All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey and the Steelers suddenly have cause for concern.
One thing that the Steelers have made a priority is to sure up their run defence, with their past three choices in the NFL draft being spent on highly rated linebackers Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree. With legendary defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau once again taking the reins, other teams may look to test out a fairly week secondary that last year was susceptible to giving up big plays, further compounded by the loss of long haired All- Pro safety Troy Polamalu.
Betting strategy: Losses to some key players will result in the Steelers having to rely on some second string players to get them over the line in some early season matchups. It’s worth taking a look at the spread to see whether there is some value is present. In Big Ben’s hot streak in the middle of last year, 6 out of 7 games were over the total points spread. A leaky secondary should ensure that this trend continues once his suspended stars return
Best Bet: BACK to Lay the Steelers to win the Super Bowl @ $30.
Whilst some key additions are missing, a relatively soft early season schedule means the impact of this is minimised, just in time for Big Ben to do some damage in the wintery depths of the home friendly Heinz Field. Whilst their division is fairly even, no team boasts the firepower of the Steelers and if their young linebackers develop faster than anticipated, they could be one of the surprise packets of the year in the final 8 games.