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NFL Futures bets and odds: The Athletic’s model makes its best bets for the 2022 NFL season

The NFL season is right around the corner, which means rosters are essentially set; most vital pieces on every team’s roster will be healthy to start the season, and that gives us a clearer picture of the futures market. I’m not a huge futures bettor as I don’t love having money tied up for a long time, but certain spots are just too good to pass up.

My model tends to find value on win totals and playoff and divisional futures more than conference or Super Bowl futures, and that’s where my focus will be. There will be plenty of opportunities during the season to hop back into the future market if the value presents itself, as it did last season with the Cincinnati Bengals winning the AFC at +900. My simulator will run each week of the season and will be directly compared to the BetMGM futures market. Let’s see what value is left on the board a few weeks before the season gets underway.

AFC East

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

11.6

89.3%

72.9%

8.9

44.9%

14.8%

8.6

38.5%

12.0%

4.7

1.2%

0.2%

New York Jets under 5.5 wins +130 (risk 0.5 units)

Zach Wilson’s recovery from knee surgery looks good to go by Week 3, but things don’t look great with him behind center. My model makes the Jets better with backup Joe Flacco in the lineup instead of Wilson. Wilson is certainly the long-term option and should play when he’s healthy, but he wasn’t very good in his rookie season. My model expects a boost in Year 2, but even so, Wilson projects as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Factor in the rest of the AFC East will be playoff contenders, and there aren’t many wins on this Jets schedule.

AFC North

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

9.9

63.6%

38.6%

9.5

57.5%

32.4%

8.2

36.4%

23.2%

7.1

15.3%

5.9%

Pittsburgh Steelers under 7.5 wins -115 (to win 0.5 units)

Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett will be battling for the starting quarterback job and despite Pickett looking good in the preseason, that’s just preseason. The Steelers offense was bad last year, and even with a possible upgrade from Ben Roethlisberger, it doesn’t project to be good this year. Not only do I not expect the quarterback play to be good, but the offensive line also seems to be a liability heading into the season. Poor quarterback and offensive line play is a recipe for disaster, and my model reflects that as the Steelers grade out as a bottom 10 offense in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, yes, T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward are fantastic, but the rest of the defense isn’t. The linebacker play should be below average, and the secondary isn’t much better. Poor offense and an average defense spell disaster for a team playing a tough schedule.

AFC South

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

10.0

74.2%

64.1%

8.6

44.5%

30.1%

6.2

8.1%

4.7%

4.8

2.0%

1.1%

Indianapolis Colts to make the playoffs -190 (to win 0.5 units)

The Colts upgraded at quarterback on a team that was a win against the Jaguars away from making the playoffs last year. Ryan’s addition can take this offense into the top 10 in the NFL, while the defense added Stephon Gilmore at cornerback. Both units should be improved from last season, and 10 wins should be enough to get them into the playoffs, possibly as division winners. If Ryan can boost his play with the league’s best rushing attack, the Colts will certainly be a factor in a deep AFC.

AFC West

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

10.6

76.5%

44.5%

9.8

61.4%

26.2%

9.4

54.3%

20.4%

8.3

32.3%

9.0%

Kansas City Chiefs to make the playoffs -225 (to win 0.5 units)

I’m laying the juice here as I think the rest of the division improving has allowed the Chiefs to come into the season a little undervalued. Patrick Mahomes is still the quarterback, and despite losing Tyreek Hill, they have plenty of weapons for him to throw the ball to. The defense will likely be the downfall, just like years past, but if they can get any sort of contribution from George Karlaftis, that would do wonders. Yes, the Chargers have addressed their defense, the Broncos added Russell Wilson, and the Raiders are fresh off a trip to the playoffs last season, but this is a Patrick Mahomes-led offense here. I’ll lay the juice.

NFC East

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

10.6

78.9%

59.4%

9.0

48.5%

23.3%

8.2

33.3%

13.7%

6.6

11.0%

3.7%

Dallas Cowboys to win NFC East +140 (risk 0.5 units)

The Cowboys will undoubtedly have the best quarterback play in the division, which goes a long way in my model. Yes, the wide receiver position is thin to start the year, but CeeDee Lamb is plenty good as WR1. Prescott was playing possibly the best ball of his career before a calf injury, and I expect Dak to play to a top 10 level while being 100% in 2022. The Cowboys’ defense should take a step back as a lot of their fortune was due to turnovers, but they’ll still have an elite pass rush, with Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence being one of the best duos in the league. The Cowboys certainly will make things tougher than they need to be, often with penalties, but looking at the rest of the quarterbacks in this division, I can’t pass up this price.

Philadelphia Eagles under 9.5 wins +110 (risk 0.5 units)

The Eagles have built a fantastic roster over the past few years. One of the best offensive lines in all of football, with good skill position players and a stout defense. The problem is that their weakest link is at the quarterback position. I like Jalen Hurts, and I hope he proves me wrong. But from what we’ve seen of him, he’s not an average quarterback. My model projects him as such. I can’t buy into a team that’s uncertain at quarterback, and that’s the case with the Eagles. According to rbsdm.com, Hurts was 16th in EPA/Play, but when removing garbage time (any part of a game with <10% win probability), that rank drops to 21st. Hurt will certainly need to be better to live up to the expectations of this team. It’s not my favorite play, but I can’t ignore the numbers here, and after all, 9-8 gets this ticket to the window.

NFC North

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

11.4

89.9%

70.3%

9.7

64.4%

26.0%

6.9

13.5%

2.7%

5.9

5.9%

1.0%

Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North -155 (to win 0.5 units)

Per my model, despite trading DeVante Adams, the Packers are the overwhelming favorite in the NFC. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the best. And this Packers defense, if it can stay healthy, has the pieces to be a top unit in the league. Rashan Gary had a coming-out party in the second half of 2021, pairing him with Za’Darius Smith to give opposing quarterbacks fits all season long. Jaire Alexander and Adrian Amos should man one of the better secondaries as well. A good pass rush and a good secondary? Sign me up. Oh, and Rodgers is still an elite quarterback. I’ll pay this price all day long.

Minnesota Vikings to make the playoffs -115 (to win 0.5 units)

I know Kirk Cousins gets a lot of crap because he’s not good enough. My model doesn’t think Kirk is an elite quarterback by any means, but I think his perception has gone a bit too far. Cousins is plenty good to lead this Vikings team to the playoffs. Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are a great bunch of playmakers, and Kevin McConnell’s offense should bring life back into this offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings ranked 13th in EPA/Play last season, which I think would surprise some people. If the offense can produce in their new scenery, the defense should be good enough to make the playoffs. Also, my model isn’t as high on the Lions and Bears as the market, and it seems the Vikings are reaping the benefits.

NFC South

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

10.5

78.6%

58.7%

9.4

58.8%

31.3%

7.5

23.3%

8.5%

5.8

5.3%

1.6%

New Orleans Saints over 8.5 wins +100 (risk 0.5 units)

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my model saw Tampa Bay as the most overvalued team in the NFL, despite Tom Brady returning from his short retirement. While they’re overvalued, the rest of the division gets a boost because of it and looks no further than the New Orleans Saints. The Saints should have one of the best defenses in the NFL — my model currently ranks them second — which should keep their offense in most games. Jameis Winston is behind center, and while Winston doesn’t excite many people, he was possibly having the best season of his career last year before going down with an injury. Per rbsdm.com, Winston ranked second; you read that right. Among quarterbacks with 200 plays in EPA/Play, behind only Rodgers. While I don’t expect him to put up those numbers again, if Winston can play at an above-average clip, the Saints will be right in the thick of it for an NFC South crown.

Carolina Panthers over 6.5 wins -105 (to win 0.5 units)

Baker Mayfield was announced a starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers in what was a sham of a quarterback battle, in my opinion, and this is almost entirely a bet on Baker redeeming himself as an NFL quarterback. Mayfield has shown he can be an above-average quarterback, but battles with injuries and inconsistency derailed his career in Cleveland. The Panthers managed to win five games with Sam Darnold as their leading passer. Mayfield will almost certainly be an upgrade (Darnold rates as one of the worst quarterbacks over the last decade, according to my model), and all we need is an improvement of two wins. Oh, and if Christian McCaffrey stays healthy, that should help Mayfield even more during his redemption tour.

NFC West

TeamWinsPlayoffsWin Division

10.1

72.1%

44.4%

9.7

64.8%

34.9%

8.7

45.3%

19.1%

6.0

6.4%

1.6%

Unfortunately, my model sees nothing worth playing in the NFC West.

 

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