NFL Conference Futures Betting

NFL Conference Futures Betting
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We are now four games into the 2021 NFL season, which in previous years would mean that teams have completed 25% of their schedule. However, with the addition of a 17th game this year, which is no longer the case, which is an important consideration when thinking about various NFL betting strategies.

With that additional game comes the new opportunity for the best teams to course-correct, which may reduce the impact of the natural variance and unexpected results that have made the NFL even more difficult to predict in the past. In other words, a “freak loss” might not be quite as impactful anymore.

This is particularly important in divisional futures betting, where, for example, the Rams will have more time to make up ground on the Cardinals, who beat them 37-20 to stay top of the NFC West last Sunday.

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Ultimately, it means that there is more of a chance that the best teams in the NFL will make the playoffs and therefore stay in the hunt for both the AFC and NFC Conference titles, as well as ultimately the Super Bowl.

What are NFL Conference Futures?

NFL Conference Futures allow you to bet on a team to reach the Super Bowl, without quite banking on them to win it all. As the name implies, with NFL Conference Futures you're betting on a team to win its Conference Championship Game, whether that’s in the AFC or NFC.

Bettors get shorter odds when compared to Super Bowl winner markets, but the picked team will have to win one fewer game. It's lower risk, albeit with a lower reward. NFL Conference Futures can be especially appealing if you follow a couple of divisions within one conference closer than others.

Maybe you feel you have a strong read on the AFC West and AFC South, but not so much on the NFC. Or perhaps there's a team in the NFC that you think is being undervalued, but you don't think anybody is capable of knocking off the AFC powerhouse Chiefs. Instead of betting on that NFC team to win the Super Bowl, you might find more value placing a wager on them to win the NFC Championship.

AFC Championship Odds

Only three teams have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl over the last eight seasons: New England four times, Denver twice, and Kansas City in each of the last two years.

The Patriots are the most successful AFC team since 1970, with 11 AFC Championship Game wins and only four losses. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers have appeared in the most AFC Championship Games (16), one more than New England, with an 8-8 record in those contests. The Houston Texans are the only current AFC team that has never reached a Conference title game.

The AFC champions have won 27 of the 55 Super Bowls, but that includes five wins in the last seven seasons. AFC champion Kansas City won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2019 season with a 31-20 victory over San Francisco, but then lost 31-9 to Tampa Bay in their return to the title game last season.

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AFC Championship odds (via partnering Sportsbooks, as of Oct 5, 2021)

  • Kansas City Chiefs +300
  • Buffalo Bills +350
  • Baltimore Ravens +600
  • Cleveland Browns +650
  • Los Angeles Chargers +1000
  • Denver Broncos +1500
  • Tennessee Titans +1600
  • Las Vegas Raiders +2200
  • New England Patriots +4000
  • Indianapolis Colts +5000
  • Miami Dolphins +5000
  • Cincinnati Bengals +6500
  • Pittsburgh Steelers +6500
  • New York Jets +25000
  • Houston Texans +50000
  • Jacksonville Jaguars +50000

Buffalo Bills

Current AFC odds: +350 (Odds before season: +500)

Since losing to the Steelers in Week 1, the Bills have looked as hot as they were last season and are strong contenders to win the AFC based on what they’ve shown so far. They crushed the Texans 40-0 last Sunday to cover a mammoth 18-point spread with ease, and quarterback Josh Allen is proving that his incredible season last year was no fluke. He has thrown eight touchdown passes in his last three games, and Buffalo is tied with Kansas City for the most points scored (134) in the NFL. They have also allowed the fewest points in the NFL.

The fact that Buffalo’s juggernaut offence is complemented by such a sturdy defence that has already recorded two shutouts is critical for the Bills, as it means they are not overly reliant on one specific area.

Even if Allen is off one day, he could likely still rely on his defence to bail him out, and vice-versa. Given that the Chiefs’ defence has been struggling, the Bills present solid value at +350 to win the AFC title.

Miami Dolphins

Current AFC odds: +5000 (Odds before season: +1800)

After beating the Patriots in Week 1, it looked like the Dolphins could be a contender in the AFC this season. However, since quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was injured and placed on IR, things have gradually fallen apart.

They are now 1-3, having been comfortably beaten by the Bills and Colts, along with an overtime loss to the Raiders that never deserved to be that close. From what we’ve seen, it’s hard to envision Brian Flores’ team bouncing back.

The Dolphins have scored the second-fewest points in the NFL, and their defence has been letting them down, allowing 27 or more points in each of their last three games. The fact that they have the Bills in their division means the best they can hope for is a wild-card spot in the playoffs, and even that will be difficult given how hot the teams in the AFC North and West have looked. After going 10-6 last year, it looks like this season will be a step back for Miami.

New England Patriots

Current AFC odds: +4000 (Odds before season: +1800)

As far as +4000 bets go, the Patriots to win the AFC isn’t the worst value as a “buy low” opportunity. Sure, they’ve started 1-3, but given how quickly rookie quarterback Mac Jones has adapted to life in the NFL, you have to think that they will start building momentum as the season goes on.

Jones looked tremendous at times in the Sunday Night Football loss to the Buccaneers last week and may be showing signs of being a star in the making. Add in the fact that he is being developed by Bill Belichick, and the sky could be the limit for him.

But it isn’t all about Jones and Belichick. The Patriots defence remains one of the sturdiest units in the league, and the fact they have given up 19 points or fewer in three of their four games shouldn’t be overlooked. They absolutely humiliated Jets rookie Zach Wilson in Week 2 and gave Tom Brady a very frustrating homecoming in Foxborough last week.

If the defence can stay strong while Jones and the offence improves, then the Patriots have a chance of making the playoffs. From there, you can never count out Belichick.

New York Jets

Current AFC odds: +25000 (Odds before season: +7500)

The Jets secured their first win of the season on Sunday with a 27-24 overtime victory over the Titans, but let’s not get carried away. New York is still years away from being an AFC Championship contender (or even a playoff contender).

Quarterback Zach Wilson finally showed promise to help lead his team to the win, but he’s still thrown eight interceptions and needs to continue to improve his decision-making significantly if he is going to be a success story in the NFL.

As for the Jets defence, they have fought hard to keep the team in games (especially when the offence has been non-existent), but they still lack a killer instinct to change a game, as highlighted by the fact they are yet to record an interception. Don’t waste your money on the Jets.

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Baltimore Ravens

Current AFC odds: +600 (Odds before season: +650)

The Ravens are off to a 3-1 start, losing their opening game to Las Vegas in overtime, before wins over the Chiefs, Lions and Broncos. Injuries to their running backs in particular have provided them with challenges to overcome, but star quarterback Lamar Jackson is leading the way on the ground with 279 rushing yards.

It's no surprise that John Harbaugh's team has the third-best odds to win the AFC at +600, and they should remain a threat throughout the season. The Ravens play a crucial run of games in Weeks 12 to 14, when they face AFC North rivals Cleveland twice, with a game against Pittsburgh sandwiched in between.

After beating the Chiefs in Week 2, the Ravens won't fear anyone if they make the playoffs. However, they are 1-3 in the playoff games so far with Jackson under center.

Cincinnati Bengals

Current AFC odds: +6500 (Odds before season: +6500)

The Bengals have had a much better start than many expected after only winning four games last season. They have won three of their first four this year, including unexpected wins over Minnesota and AFC North rivals Pittsburgh. Improvement is all that Bengals fans were really hoping for this year after a poor run over the last five seasons, and they're well on their way to that already.

Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow is a true talent and has some young receivers in Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins that the team can build around. There's still plenty of work to do, particularly on the offensive line, and a challenge for the AFC title still looks at least a couple of years away.

Cleveland Browns

Current AFC odds: +650 (Odds before season: +800)

The Browns came up just short in their attempt to beat AFC champions Kansas City on the road in Week 1, but they have responded as they would have hoped, with wins, over Houston, Chicago and Minnesota. The positive news is that their defence looks to have taken a major step forward this year; they registered nine sacks against Chicago and held Minnesota's talented offence to just seven points.

Injuries to receivers (first Odell Beckham, then Jarvis Landry) and along the offensive line are a concern, while QB Baker Mayfield hasn't looked quite right since injuring his non-throwing shoulder against the Texans. The Browns should be in the mix for a strong seeding in the AFC playoffs, but it may be wise to hold off on conference-winner bets until we've seen how they look in their next four games against the Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos and Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Current AFC odds: +6500 (Odds before season: +2500)

Pittsburgh pulled off one of the most impressive victories of Week 1 with an impressive road win at Buffalo, but everything we have seen since suggests that performance was an outlier for both teams. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - likely playing his final NFL season - looks a shadow of his former self, and rookie running back Najee Harris is struggling to show his talent behind a leaky offensive line.

The Steelers have lost by nine or more points in their last three games - against the Raiders, Bengals and Packers. Their preseason AFC odds have ballooned already, and they could be even longer after meetings with the Broncos, Seahawks and Browns in their next three games.

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Houston Texans

Current AFC odds: +50000 (Odds before season: +15000)

The Texans were expected to be the worst team in the NFL heading into this season. They actually have a win under their belt, so they can claim that they are better than the Jaguars (whom they beat 37-21 Week 1). But Houston likely still isn’t better than any other team, not even 0-4 Detroit.

With quarterback Tyrod Taylor out, the Texans have been getting worse and worse. They have scored a grand total of nine points over the past two weeks, as backup Davis Mills has been completely inept.

Taylor could return at some point this month, but it likely won’t matter. Houston’s next four games are home against New England, at Indianapolis, at Arizona, and home versus the Rams. Therefore, it would be somewhat shocking if the Texans are anything other than 1-7 through eight weeks. This team has close to no chance of making the playoffs, so even at +50000 there is no reason to bet any amount of money on an AFC title.

Indianapolis Colts

Current AFC odds: +5000 (Odds before season: +2000)

The Colts were planning on being serious contenders this season because of their defence. Unfortunately, that defence has not shown up yet. Through four games, Miami is the only opponent that Indianapolis has held to fewer than 25 points. Unsurprisingly, the Colts are 1-3. They are allowing the sixth-most yards per pass attempt (8.4) and have generated only eight sacks and three interceptions.

Indy’s offence is not good enough to carry the team. Carson Wentz cannot stay healthy, and even when he is 100 percent he is far from an elite quarterback. Keep in mind that two of the Colts’ next three games are at Baltimore and San Francisco, so things could get worse before they get better.

This team could possibly sneak into the playoffs as a division champion, simply because the AFC South is once again weak, but there is almost no way Indianapolis will make a deep run in January. We’d avoid this one like the plague, even at long +5000 AFC Championship odds.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Current AFC odds: +50000 (Odds before season: +6000)

At 0-4, the Jaguars are tied with the Lions for the worst record in football. Given that one of the Jaguars’ four losses has come to Houston (whereas Detroit would have upset Baltimore if not for a Justin Tucker 66-yard field goal), one could make a strong argument that they are the worst of the worst. Adding insult to injury, new head coach Urban Meyer is once again dealing with off-the-field controversy, and there are already questions over how long he will survive in the NFL.

Only one thing is certain: Jacksonville isn’t making the playoffs (much less actually winning in the playoffs). Number 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence has more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five), and his team has not scored more than 21 points in any contest. There are no odds that could possibly lure anyone into betting on the Jaguars to capture the AFC title.

Tennessee Titans

Current AFC odds: +1600 (Odds before season: +1300)

Losing to the Jets is a borderline disaster, but there is no need to panic yet with a 2-2 record -- especially when the Titans play in one of the worst divisions in the league. Their Week 1 loss to Arizona isn’t looking bad at all (the Cardinals are the only undefeated team left), and they also boast wins over Seattle and Indianapolis.

Tennessee still plays both Houston and Jacksonville twice, including this coming week against the Jaguars. This team is going to win a lot more football games, and it won’t have to win a ton to come out on top of the AFC South.

After starting slow against Arizona, Derrick Henry has been on fire over the past three weeks (452 yards and four TDs during this stretch). Tennessee’s defence is allowing just 91.5 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. Any team that can run the ball and stop the run has to be taken seriously. At +1600, it’s worth taking a shot on the Titans.

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Denver Broncos

Current AFC odds: +1800 (Odds before season: +2000)

Denver was a popular sleeper team in the AFC entering the year, and they delivered on the buzz in the first few weeks by racing out to a 3-0 record. They were humbled by the Ravens in Week 4, but there's still a lot to like here. Vic Fangio's defence is legit. However, it’s a competitive conference this year, and it’s unclear whether Teddy Bridgewater is capable of leading an offence to the Super Bowl.

And the Broncos’ three wins? They came against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets - arguably the three worst teams in the entire league. The Broncos are certainly a very solid team, and their stadium is one of the toughest environments to play in, but a run all the way to the Super Bowl seems extremely unlikely this season.

Kansas City Chiefs

Current AFC odds: +300 (Odds before season: +250)

Getting +300 with the Chiefs? Sign me up. Kansas City has looked far from their best, but it’s important to put their struggles in context. One of their losses was on the road against the Ravens by a single point in a game they controlled most of the way. The other was in another close game to a really strong Chargers team where they were -4 in turnover differential.

The Chiefs have won the AFC each of the past two seasons, and it would’ve been three in a row had Dee Ford not lined up offsides three years ago. They very easily could be going for their fourth AFC title in a row, and we’re getting 3/1 here? This buy-low spot seems too good to pass up.

Las Vegas Raiders

Current AFC odds: +2800 (Odds before season: +4000)

Much like the Broncos, the Raiders were also humbled after a 3-0 start. Las Vegas got smacked by the Chargers, and their futures odds went tumbling. To be fair, their odds are still a fair amount shorter than they were to start the season. Jon Gruden’s squad has gotten off to an impressive start, but major question marks remain.

Has their defence really gotten that much better, or did two of their first three games just happen to come against lifeless Steelers’ and Dolphins’ offences? Is this patchwork offensive line really going to be able to hold up an entire season? It certainly didn’t look like it on Monday Night Football in Week 4, when Derek Carr spent most of the night running for his life. We’d recommend passing on Las Vegas at this stage.

Los Angeles Chargers

Current AFC odds: +1000 (Odds before season: +1600)

Many analysts were high on the Chargers coming into the season, and it looks like new head coach Brandon Staley may be the real deal. The week after slaying the dragon by beating the Chiefs on the road, Los Angeles followed it up with a largely dominant win over the Raiders in primetime. Justin Herbert is a superstar, and Staley is working the same magic with this defence that he did with the Rams’ last year.

Derwin James is back healthy and once again playing like arguably the best safety in football, while upfront Joey Bosa continues to show that he’s an elite pass-rusher. With Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and Jared Cook, the skill position talent is abundant. Hopefully, you got the better price before the season started, but the Chargers could make some noise in the playoffs, so +1000 is still appealing.

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NFC Championship Odds

As you might expect, two of the three most historic franchises in the NFC lead the way in both championship game appearances and championship wins. The 49ers are 7-9 in 16 appearances in the NFC Championship, while the Cowboys are 8-6 in their 14 efforts.

The story has been much different of late, however. Unbelievably, Dallas has not been to the conference title game since the 1995 season. Since making three consecutive trips from 2011-2013, San Francisco has been back only once (beat Green Bay in 2019). There have been seven different NFC representatives in the Super Bowl over the past seven years.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, the NFC holds a slimmest possible 28-27 all-time lead over the AFC. But mostly because of New England’s dominance, the NFC is 2-5 in the last seven Super Bowls. Could the tide turn now that Tom Brady has switched conferences? Early returns last season suggest that could be the case, as Brady’s Buccaneers clobbered defending champion Kansas City in Super Bowl LV.

NFC Championship odds (via partnering Sportsbooks, as of Oct 5, 2021)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers +225
  • Los Angeles Rams +450
  • Green Bay Packers +600
  • Arizona Cardinals +800
  • Dallas Cowboys +1000
  • Seattle Seahawks +1200
  • San Francisco 49ers +1600
  • New Orleans Saints +1600
  • Minnesota Vikings +3000
  • Carolina Panthers +4000
  • Washington Football Team +4000
  • Philadelphia Eagles +6500
  • Chicago Bears +8000
  • New York Giants +10000
  • Atlanta Falcons +15000
  • Detroit Lions +50000

Dallas Cowboys

Current NFC odds: +1000 (Odds before season: +1500)

Based on what we’ve seen in the first four games, the Cowboys look legit this year. Dak Prescott has returned from his injury last year with a vengeance, Zeke Elliott is getting the ball moving on the ground, receiver CeeDee Lamb looks like a star and their defence has been shored up under new coordinator Dan Quinn.

The only defeat for Dallas so far this year was on opening night against the Buccaneers, and even that came down to the last kick of the game. Since then, they have beaten the Chargers, Eagles, and Panthers, two of which have had their only losses to the Cowboys.

This Dallas team looks legit this year, and if they can keep things rolling on offence they have the ability to beat anybody. The fact they play in the NFC East makes their playoff likelihood almost certain, and +1000 on the Cowboys to win the NFC is quite tempting right now.

New York Giants

Current NFC odds: +10000 (Odds before season: +3700)

The Giants finally turned a corner last week, picking up their first win of the season with a 27-21 overtime victory over the Saints. New York had suffered stinging losses to Washington and Atlanta in the previous two weeks, where they had done more to lose those games than their opponents did to win them. Plus, the victory over New Orleans will no doubt do wonders for the Giants’ morale. However, this is still a team that turns the ball over far too frequently, is prone to anemic games on offence and lacks the ability to convincingly win football games.

The Giants would be 3-1 if they could close out games, but that is something that still eludes them, and there’s no way you’re winning the NFC if you can’t.

Philadelphia Eagles

Current NFC odds: +6500 (Odds before season: +4800)

Since crushing the Falcons in Week 1, it’s all been downhill for the Eagles. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been up and down, while their defence has been a turnstile the past two weeks (allowed a total of 83 points). While rookie receiver DeVonta Smith has looked like a bright spark for the future, the Eagles just aren’t in the position to consistently win football games now.

With hopes of winning the division all but extinguished by the Cowboys, it’s hard to see how they find a route into the playoffs. Even at +6500, neither the offence nor the defence is good enough for this team to even be thinking about a potential return to the Super Bowl.

Washington Football Team

Current NFC odds: +4000 (Odds before season: +2400)

Washington is a strange football team to figure out. They are currently 2-2 and have the potential to either have a very disappointing season or make a surprise playoff push. The latter came to fruition last year as Washington made a late surge to reach the Wild Card round before defeat to eventual winners Tampa Bay.

But Washington remains a solid team, with its defence remaining a force to be concerned about (although to a lesser extent this year than last season based on what we’ve seen so far), while the offence under Taylor Heinicke has been inconsistent but shows flashes of brilliance at times.

Pass catchers Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas have the ability to terrorize any defence they come up against, while Antonio Gibson is always a solid choice out of the backfield. They would need a lot of things to go their way, but we wouldn’t rule out a Washington surprise playoff run completely.

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Chicago Bears

Current NFC odds: +8000 (Odds before season: +2400)

It has been a strange first quarter of the season for Chicago. If you only read the news stories about them, you would think they were a total mess, with a coach who is out of his depth and potentially on the brink of being fired.

Yet look at the standings and the Bears are second in the NFC North with a 2-2 record. Losses to Super Bowl hopefuls the Rams and Browns are understandable, and they have beaten the two lower-tier teams they have met, Cincinnati and Detroit.

Rookie QB Justin Fields looks to have real promise when the team is prepared to see the light and build around him, and Chicago's defensive front seven is one of the best in the league. Even so, their mid-season schedule is tough, so they are not realistic NFC Championship contenders.

Detroit Lions

Current NFC odds: +50000 (Odds before season: +10000)

The Lions have actually shown a little more promise in their first four games than their 0-4 record suggests; they would have secured a stunning win over the Ravens if not for a record-breaking field goal, but they are not realistically going to turn things around to the extent that they can challenge for the NFC title.

Running back D'Andre Swift is a bright spot and if the Lions can restock their wide receiver room in the offseason things might be better next time around. The Lions have lost 8 games in a row stretching back to last season, and concentrating on breaking that streak is a much more realistic goal.

Green Bay Packers

Current NFC odds: +600 (Odds before season: +550)

The Packers had a turbulent offseason, and alarm bells were ringing when they lost their opening game 38-3 to the Saints. That is all in the past now, though, after three straight wins over the Lions, 49ers and Steelers.

This could be an opportunity to back the Packers for the NFC, as their next three games are all solid win opportunities against Cincinnati, Chicago and Washington before they step up a difficulty level to play Arizona, Kansas City and Seattle.

This might well be quarterback Aaron Rodgers' last season in Green Bay, but he looks committed to the cause for the time being, with eight TD passes thrown so far. Only one of those was to star wide receiver Davante Adams, so there should be more to come.

Minnesota Vikings

Current NFC odds: +3000 (Odds before season: +1700)

The Vikings can consider themselves unlucky to be 1-3. They might easily have started 3-0, but contrived to lose to the Bengals and Cardinals before earning a good win over the Seahawks.

Cleveland held Minnesota's talented offence to just seven points in Week 4, but that won't happen often with Dalvin Cook running the ball and QB Kirk Cousins seeking out wide receivers Adan Thielen and Justin Jefferson, one of the best pairings in the league.

The Vikings' schedule doesn't really provide ideal opportunities for them to regain the ground they have already lost, and they won't be favourites for many games except for their divisional matchups with the Bears and Lions. A conference championship run from this point looks highly unlikely.

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Atlanta Falcons

Current NFC odds: +15000 (Odds before season: +2800)

I’m not sure how the Falcons were only +2800 to win the NFC title before the season started. There wasn’t any value on them then, and there certainly isn’t now, even at +15000 odds. Aside from a road date with Tampa Bay, the early stages of the season were the soft part of the schedule where the Falcons had to take advantage. Instead, they have just a single win over the Giants, and their 1-3 record includes losses to Philadelphia and Washington (both at home).

There is no reason to think anything will change. The defence has surrendered at least 32 points in all three losses and the offence has struggled when it matters. Atlanta’s only threat running the ball is Cordarrelle Patterson, who used to be a receiver! This team will almost certainly miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Carolina Panthers

Current NFC odds: +4000 (Odds before season: +5000)

Christian McCaffrey is hurt again, but that is where the similarities with last year end. You see, the Panthers are actually strong this season even without McCaffrey. A change of scenery has been just what the doctor ordered for quarterback Sam Darnold, whose career appears to have been resurrected by a move from the Jets to the Panthers.

He has accounted for 10 total touchdowns and is averaging almost 300 passing yards per game, a big reason why Carolina is 3-1 and tied with Tampa Bay atop the NFC South. McCaffrey should be back soon, and in the meantime Darnold and a stout defence can keep this team afloat.

Over the next five weeks, Carolina’s only road contests are against the Falcons and Giants. Philadelphia, Minnesota, and New England are the upcoming home opponents. The schedule is brutal the last four weeks of the season, but by then the Panthers could -and should -be way over .500. Carolina’s odds have been cut from +5000 to +4000, and they should continue to get shorter as wins pile up on a soft schedule, so jump on it now.

New Orleans Saints

Current NFC odds: +1600 (Odds before season: +1600)

If the Saints make the playoffs (which is a big “if”), they will have to win three games to reach the Super Bowl. After all, there is no way they are getting the NFC’s lone first-round bye. As we saw in Week 1 with a blowout of Green Bay, Jameis Winston and company are capable of getting hot at any moment and turning in a great performance.

But they are nothing if not inconsistent and it’s hard to see them stringing together three victories in succession -probably not even at any point during the regular season and certainly not in the playoffs. Thus there is no reason to bite on relatively short +1600 NFC title odds.

A home loss to the previously winless Giants was an unmitigated disaster in Week 4. Alvin Kamara hasn’t done much on the ground or in the receiving department, and New Orleans needs him to be great with Michael Thomas sidelined.

The defence is solid but unspectacular, and there are also plenty of injuries on that side of the ball. This team is just mediocre on all counts; nothing about it in the post-Drew Brees era is especially impressive.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Current NFC odds: +225 (Odds before season: +300)

The Bucs are 3-1 with a win over Dallas and a loss only at the Rams. The defending Super Bowl champions have been far from dominant, but a 3-1 record through four games is just fine. After all, the schedule has been difficult and the defence is banged up at the moment, especially in the secondary.

Moreover, Tampa Bay was 7-5 after 12 games last year, and we all know what happened the rest of the way. Brady and company can be expected to pick up the pace later in the season, and you especially can’t bet against him (or the Bucs as a whole) in the playoffs.

That being said, it’s hard to justify betting on Tampa Bay at +225 when it was +300 in the preseason and the team hasn’t looked great so far. Plus, the Cardinals (4-0), Cowboys, and Rams are all looking like real contenders.

Given that the Bucs haven’t hit their stride yet, another loss in the near future can be anticipated and that would lead to longer odds. Tampa Bay is still the team to beat and has all the ingredients to win the NFC and even the Super Bowl, but it would be advisable to wait on a conference title bet until the odds become more favourable.

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Arizona Cardinals

Current NFC odds: +800 (Odds before season: +1800)

The Cardinals are the league’s last undefeated team after improving to 4-0 with a blowout win over the Rams last time out. Kliff Kingsbury has a lot of skeptics, but it would be hard for his offence to have been much better so far. Kyler Murray looks like an MVP frontrunner, and the upside he brings this offence definitely gives them a chance at making a run.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has impressed in the desert, and his edge-rushing duo of J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones is one of the best in the NFL. They’ve made big upgrades next to Deandre Hopkins, adding A.J. Green and Rondale Moore this offseason, and they’re paying dividends. The price has moved significantly, but I’d still take a flyer on the Cardinals at +800 in this wide-open NFC.

Los Angeles Rams

Current NFC odds: +450 (Odds before season: +650)

The Sean McVay/Matthew Stafford partnership looks like it’s going to be a thing of beauty. The problem is, everyone seems to have caught on. Preseason expectations were already high, and their first few games caused a new round of excitement.

Their odds have been reduced a lot, to a point where there may not be much value left right now. Plus, as the Cardinals exposed in Week 4, this Rams defence has major issues.

It looks like they’re missing old defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who left to become head coach of the Chargers after last season. After the Rams’ win over the Buccaneers, the hype got a bit out of control. Perhaps if they suffer another loss or two, you could jump back in at a better number, but at this price, it’s not worth it.

San Francisco 49ers

Current NFC odds: +1600 (Odds before season: +700)

The 49ers started hot but are a bit of a mess right now. Week 3 saw them blow a late lead to the Packers, and Week 4 was a loss in a winnable game to the Seahawks. Once again, San Francisco has unfortunately been besieged by injuries.

Their secondary in particular has been completely depleted, and it’s clear that this defence isn’t going to be anywhere near as good as it was during their Super Bowl run in 2019.

That’s a big problem since it appears that the offence isn’t going to be either. Jimmy Garoppolo had been shaky at best the first few weeks, and now he’s dealing with a calf injury. Trey Lance certainly didn’t look ready to lead an NFL offence to the playoffs during his first real action in relief.

We’re still high on Kyle Shanahan, but there are too many concerns about this team at the moment. Even with their odds having lengthened since the start of the season, it’s likely not worth biting right now.

Seattle Seahawks

Current NFC odds: +1200 (Odds before season: +1000)

I’ve been skeptical of this Seahawks team. They did everything they could to lose their Week 4 game against the 49ers, but luckily San Francisco gave it right back. The offence has been highly inconsistent - dynamic one moment and anemic the next.

In their game against the 49ers, they started with five straight three-and-outs. The defence is once again vulnerable in the secondary after they did nothing to replace top cornerback Shaquill Griffin once he signed with Jacksonville.

They’ve also been vulnerable to the big play, routinely blowing coverages. In Weeks 1 and 4 they were fortunate to not be playing teams well-equipped to take advantage. The one top-tier offence that they’ve played was the Vikings, who torched them by double digits. Given that, we’re not buying any Seahawks futures.

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