- ESPN Sports Betting Analyst
- Host of Daily Wager
- Behind The Bets podcast host
The Buffalo Bills enter the NFL season as the outright betting favorite for the first time since 1991, as the franchise continues to pursue its first-ever Super Bowl title. The Bills are listed at +600 at Caesars Sportsbook ahead of their season opener Thursday against the defending champion Los Angeles Rams.
“We really think the Bills are the highest power-rated team, but just as importantly is where they play,” SuperBook executive director and oddsmaker John Murray told ESPN. “The philosophy is the AFC West teams will beat each other up and that will allow the Bills to be in a favorable position to have the AFC Championship Game running through Buffalo.”
Caesars Sportsbook vice president of trading Craig Mucklow told ESPN: “With a rebuilding AFC East, the Bills are almost a certain lock for the playoffs and the clear front-runner for home field in January, which will make them a tough out for any visiting team.”
Following the Bills, the AFC West accounts for the next three teams in the conference with the shortest Super Bowl odds: the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1), Los Angeles Chargers (14-1) and Denver Broncos (16-1). Along with the Las Vegas Raiders (30-1), all four division teams rank among the top seven for most Super Bowl bets, in terms of ticket volume, at Caesars. No other division has even three teams in the top 15.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at +750, are the second overall Super Bowl favorite, followed by the Rams (11-1) and Green Bay Packers (12-1) in the NFC. A large reason for that is the high volume of wagers they drew during Tom Brady’s brief retirement at 40-1 odds and their overall popularity at the betting window.
“They’re a team that takes money all year long,” DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello told ESPN, sharing that he would rate Tampa Bay at 10-1 odds in a vacuum, if not for the heavy action they received all offseason.
The Cincinnati Bengals entered last season as 125-1 longshots and reached the Super Bowl. The longest odds of a Super Bowl champion this century are the 2001 New England Patriots (60-1) and 2007 New York Giants (30-1), and oddsmakers do not anticipate another run like Cincinnati’s.
“I don’t think you can go down the list past the Patriots at 50-1,” Avello said. “The Dolphins, Raiders and Saints could do it, if everything lines up.”
In terms of betting interest, the Philadelphia Eagles and Raiders have received noteworthy attention. This week, the Eagles (+130) surpassed the Dallas Cowboys (+135) as the NFC East favorite at most sportsbooks. Mucklow attributed it to “very sharp money” over the weekend, though Avello noted that the Eagles support has come from both “sophisticated and unsophisticated” bettors.
“The big surprise so far is the love we’ve seen for the Raiders nationally and not just in Las Vegas,” Mucklow said. “They’re our biggest liability going into the season, and their 4-0 preseason gave the betting public even more reason to bet on the silver and black.”
Las Vegas made significant changes this offseason, hiring coach Josh McDaniels and overhauling the front office. On the field, Vegas added five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams and two-time All Pro defensive end Chandler Jones, among others.
“Any time a team makes a splash in any sport, it’s going to draw a lot of handle. The Raiders added some sexy names, and people want to talk themselves into it,” Murray said. “But the problem is the AFC West looks like the best division ever. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I don’t think it is.”
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