Having a good feeling about a potential Super Bowl team before NFL training camps begin can bring a rush of anticipation, but there’s also the percentage play of betting on whether particular teams will make the playoffs.
Not surprisingly for teams quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are each listed at -500 to qualify for the postseason at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Patriots have a favorable early-season schedule that should allow them to do no worse than 2-2 while Jimmy Garoppolo is starting during Brady’s Deflategate suspension. The Patriots have -350 odds for not making the playoffs; they haven’t missed since 2008, when Brady suffered a serious knee injury in Week 1.
Eight of the 12 playoff teams last season also qualified in 2014. Seven teams that qualified in 2014 also did so in 2013.
The defending champion Denver Broncos, with upheaval at both quarterback and on defense, are -150 to qualify again, but slightly better than even money to miss the playoffs at +110 on those NFL betting lines. While Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers surely won’t repeat their 15-1 record from 2015, they would need a serious nosedive to be done in December. The Panthers’ playoff odds are -140.
The Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, who are both defending division champions, are each listed at -200. Each team is respectively well-quarterbacked with Carson Palmer and Teddy Bridgewater and well-stocked defensively, making a wild-card spot a fallback if the division slips away.
One way to simplify the process might be to narrow the focus down to divisions with a shaky defending champion. Based on off-season departures and arrivals, that would likely be the AFC South, the AFC West due to Denver’s turmoil, and the NFC East since it’s the NFC East.
In the AFC South, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts have -165 playoff odds, which seems derived mostly from the expectation Luck will stay healthy. The J.J. Luck-led Houston Texans are at -135 after upgrading offensively with QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller. A bettor who is unsold on either could look at the +300 darkhorse Jacksonville Jaguars, who have improved on each side of the ball by adding LT Kelvin Beachum and CB Jalen Ramsey.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who reached the divisional round last season despite losing main cogs such as RB Jamaal Charles, are listed at -150. The Oakland Raiders have a 13-season playoff drought, but are at +110 due to expectations that QB Derek Carr and WR Amari Cooper will be difference-makers for a young team.
The Washington Redskins, at +160, have the highest potential payout of any playoff incumbent. Washington retained QB Kirk Cousins without blowing its salary-cup structure. However, the NFC East changes hands on an almost annual basis. The Dallas Cowboys have the best playoff odds in the East at -140, with the New York Giants at even and the Philadelphia Eagles at +215.