2019 NFC Conference Champion Odds and Pick
We are on the verge of the 2018 NFL season and every team along with their fans are dreaming of making it to Mercedes Benz Arena in Atlanta for Super Bowl 53. Sportsbooks have posted lines on teams winning their divisions, their conferences and the big game along with some unique props. Here we will take a look at the NFC’s road to Atlanta and which teams are worth betting.
The NFC is loaded again this year but that doesn’t mean a team can’t come from the middle or back of the pack to hoist the George Halas Trophy. We think that the 6 playoff teams will surely come from last year’s top 8 or 9 teams but last year only 1 NFC team made the playoffs that had made it after the ’16 season.
Bettors that bought into the Eagles at this time last year cashed tickets at a 25 to 1 payout. Philly had the combination of an improved roster and a quarterback that played at a higher level than pre-season expectations. There are teams that could fit that mold and will look to follow the Eagles path.
Listed below is each team’s current odds as offered at online sportsbook, 5dimes. Let’s look at each team to see if they can make it to Atlanta and if they hold any value.
The defending super bowl champ Eagles, who get the Falcons in week 1, have the shortest odds on the board, and why not. They knocked off the supposedly invincible Patriots in the big game with their back-up quarterback after a 13-3 season. Carson Wentz expects to be back on the field early in the season, and except for Mike Wallace replacing Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount leaving with Darren Sproles back in the lineup, the offense is basically the same. The defense has swapped out some players on the line and may struggle until Timmy Jernigan returns from back surgery. This team has great chemistry and the talent to be at the top of the league for a few years. Philly deserve their spot of being the favorite. However, only 1 team has repeated as NFC champs in the last 20 years. With the amount of talent at the top of the NFC, that’s a tough trend to get in front of. A 1 out of 20 shot needs better than a +565 payout.
The Cowboys are going down the path of being the team that wins with a great defense and running game. To win this way the defense must be truly elite - think 2013 Seahawks or 2015 Broncos. This defense is middle of the pack, ranking 13th in points allowed and they were also in the middle of the pack in yards per play, sacks and turnovers. The pass rush should be improved after week 4 when David Irving returns from suspension and bookends DeMarcus Lawrence. There is no concern about Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. Quarterback Dak Prescott has played very well when everything around him is going well but he has been unable to put the team on his back and carry the team to victory in less than perfect surroundings. He will be throwing to a bottom 5 receiving corps this year which makes 2018 look like a struggle for Prescott. The ‘Boys defense will struggle to shutdown elite offenses and the offense will struggle to keep up in shootouts. That equation won’t make it to the Super Bowl. We like the Cowboys UNDER 8.5 season wins.
Many people believe the Giants should blow the team up and start over after last year’s embarrassing 3-13 campaign. But new GM Dave Gettleman isn’t one of those people. Gettleman used the 2nd overall pick on running back Saquon Barkley and fortified the left side of the offensive line with ex-Patriot Nate Solder and 2nd round pick Will Hernandez. Odell Beckam Jr. should be fully recovered from last year’s ankle injury and will team with one of the most promising tight ends in the league in Evan Engram to form a very formidable receiving corps. We will find out versus Jax in week 1. Pat Shurmur takes over for Ben McAdoo after leading the Vikings offense last year to 10th in the league in points scored. This Giant offense has as much talent as that Viking offense so there are reasons for optimism in New York. The right side of the line is the weak link but going into last year the Vikings O-line was their weakness. On defense, the G-men return the majority of the 2016 unit that was 2nd in the league in points allowed being led by new D Coordiator James Bettcher. It’s very possible that the defense (and team) turned on McAdoo last year and may play closer to the 11 win 2016 team than the 3 win 2017 team. At +2250 odds, it’s worth considering.
The Redskins come into 2018 with the fourth longest odds to make it to the Super Bowl in the NFC. They have meandered in mediocrity compiling a 24-23-1 over the last 3 years, playing contract games with Kirk Cousins during that time. Cousins has now moved to Minnesota and Alex Smith takes over at QB. Smith will have a good pass catching group as Paul Richardson will join Jamison Crowder at receiver and Jordan Reed will try to stay healthy at tight end. It’s a debate if Smith is an improvement over Cousins, but he has proven he can take care of the ball and win games, winning 50 in 5 years at KC. Rookie Derrius Guice will look to improve a running game that finished 29 in yards per attempt last year. The O-Line should be better and could be very good if Trent Williams gets back to full strength. The D was last in the league against the run but was 9th against the pass. Alabama DT Daron Payne was selected 13th overall and with the return of ’17 first round pick Jonathan Allen the run defense should improve. The balance of the D mostly returns with the exception of slot corner Kendall Fuller. This team should be as good as last year’s team. With the Cousins drama replaced with the stability of Alex Smith, the Redskins could challenge for a playoff spot. Making it to the super bowl would be the definition of a long shot, but at 26 to 1 it’s worth some consideration.
Minnesota looked the part of a conference champion last year. They dominated the regular season to a record of 13-3 and held the second seed for the tournament. A miracle walk-off win against the Saints earned them a trip to the city of brotherly love where the Eagles crushed them in the conference championship game. Kirk Cousins should be at least as good as Case Keenum. Dalvin Cook was playing at rookie of the year level before tearing his ACL and should be 100% for week 1 versus the 49ers. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs proved to be one of the best receiving tandems in the league. The O-line has issues, but they had issues last year and it didn’t impact their season. The only offensive concern is the loss of coordinator Pat Shurmer, who is replaced by former Philly QB coach John DeFilippo who has never designed an offense or called plays. Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s defense may be the best in the league. They stop the run, rush the passer and create turnovers and have not lost any key pieces from last year. This is a truly balanced team and no one will be surprised if they are the NFC representative in Atlanta.
Without Aaron Rodgers the Packers would be next to the Bears at +5000 as they showed last year when they went 3-6 without Rodgers. But Rodgers is back, which means Green Bay will expect to make the playoffs. When Rodgers is behind center, they have not missed the playoffs since 2008 – Rodgers first year as a starter. The offense will look different this year with Davante Adams taking over the #1 receiver role and Jimmy Graham slotting in at tight end. There is a trio of running backs that are interchangeable that will fight for time and the receivers will battle in the pre-season to determine the pecking order behind Adams and Randall Cobb. With Rodgers on the field, there is no concern about the offense. The defense has been weak in the recent past so Green Bay brought in Mike Pettine to coordinate the D. They spent their first 2 draft on cornerbacks to improve the secondary and Muhammed Wilkerson joins the D-line after wearing out his welcome with the Jets. Wilkerson can play at a high level when motivated. The Pack are in need of pass rushers but if the defense can hold teams in the 20s the offense can do the rest. As good as Rodgers and his offense is, he has only led the Pack to 1 super bowl appearance in his 10 years and it’s hard to see why this year will be different. Only getting +600 for the Packers is a little tight. Rodgers has broken collarbones in 2 of the last 5 years and hasn’t taken the team to the big game since 2010. 5dimes is offering the Packers NOT to win the NFC at -880.
Matt Patricia has fallen off of the Bill Belichick tree and moved to motor city to take over the Lions from Jim Caldwell. Detroit was mediocre winning 36 games in Caldwell’s 4 year tenure. He took the Lions to the playoffs twice but never could get over the hump and seriously compete for an NFC championship. Matthew Stafford is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league as demonstrated by 7 consecutive years of over 4000 passing yards. Patricia retained Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and he will try to improve the worst rushing attack in 2017 by adding rookie Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. The former Patriot Defensive Coordinator will also try to improve a defense that finished 21st in points allowed last year. It’s hard to see how this team has improved to move from the middle to the top of the NFC. Patricia will try to replicate the “Patriot Way” which generally means teams take a step back while weeding out players that don’t buy in to the new system. I think this is the most likely outcome for the Lions this year.
Chicago, which sportsbooks estimate are worth 6.5 wins, is trying to follow the Eagles path by adding receiving weapons to an offense with a young signal caller. Mitch Trubisky showed the tools of an NFL QB but he will have to improve his consistency and accuracy to be this year’s Carson Wentz. Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy was hired to lead the Bears after John Fox 3 year coaching tenure produced 3 NFC North last place finishes. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton were brought in to bolster the receiving corps that was last in the league in receiving yards. The defense was 9th in points allowed and this year will have 8th overall pick Roquan Smith patrolling the middle of the field. The Bears will need Leonard Floyd and the rest of the pass rush to improve and get more takeaways to make a big jump. If Trubisky progresses, this team could win the conference, but everything would have to go perfect for that to happen. The Bears are a lottery ticket but one that could pay off.
Everything clicked for the New Orleans last year as the offense was 4th in points, 1st in yards per play and the defense was 10th in points. Drew Brees played at his up to his high standard of play, Mark Ingram was strong running the ball and Michael Thomas and the receivers did their part. Offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara added the electricity and pushed the offense back to being one of the best 2 or 3 in the league and he should be better this year. Defensive rookie of the year Marcus Lattimore sparked a defense that played fast and loose and exceeded even the most optimistic Saints fan’s expectation. New Orleans traded up to pick pass rusher Marcus Davenport to complement Cameron Jordan who had 13 sacks last year. Vegas has the Saints season win total at 9.5. Sean Payton and the Saints brass know they have 2 years left in the Drew Brees window and are going all in. New Orleans was one Minneapolis Miracle away from playing in the NFC Championship last year which they probably would have been favored to win. Had they won they would probably be +500 on this slate. That makes +875 very attractive.
The Falcons never could get on track last year but still managed to record 10 regular season wins and a playoff win in LA. The offense scored 187 points less in ’17 with Steve Sarkisian as Offensive Coordinator than in ’16 with Kyle Shanahan in that position. Calvin Ridley was drafted in the first round and will add another playmaker to an offense that boasts one of the best receivers and one of the best backfield combos in the league. The defense was solid ranking 8th in points allowed last year and returns the nucleus of the squad. This is a team that is basically the same as the squad that was winning Super Bowl 51 28-3, so there is enough talent to return to the big game, which would be in their own stadium. Sportsbooks set the 2018 season’s over/under win total line at 9. The offense has to become more efficient in Sarkisian’s second year as they did in Shanahan’s second year. At +950 there is good value with the Dirty Birds.
Carolina bounced back in ’17 after a disappointing ’16 to win 11 games and make the playoffs, only to lose to division rival New Orleans in the Wild Card round. Cam Newton is a quarterback that can lead his team to victory any given Sunday through his unique abilities to make clutch downfield throws while also being able to run over linebackers. Cam will be throwing to an improved receiving corps with Carolina drafting D.J. Moore in the first round. Chrisitian McCaffrey should continue to improve as a threat out of the backfield after catching 80 passes last year. The defense has one of the best front 7 in the league but struggled at the end of the year against the pass. Norv Turner takes over as offensive coordinator and has suggested he wants to improve Newton’s efficiency and protect the QB by utilizing a quick passing attack that really does not match Cam’s strengths. Last year’s Panthers were 7-1 in one score games. That is probably not repeatable and part of the reason we went under on the Panthers season win total prop. The value at +1500 is reasonable but I think the Panthers are the third best team in the division and 2017 was probably the ceiling for this team.
Tampa Bay was expected to make positive strides last year as Jameis Winston continued his development towards being an elite NFL signal caller. Instead, Winston missed time with injuries and continued his pattern of mixing in a great game with multiple games of making bad decisions and throwing bad interceptions, 11 in 13 games. The defense also stepped back by finishing 22nd in the league in points allowed and last in sacks. Coach Dirk Koetter finds himself on the hot seat as we enter ’18 and needs to show improvement to keep his job. The defense has loaded up adding Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre Paul to improve the pass rush and drafting Ronald Jones to improve the rushing attack. Wilson will be suspended for the first 3 games of the season which are against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers. The Bucs have no margin for error in the loaded NFC South, so if they start out 0-3, it’s a lot easier to see the Bucs giving up on a lame duck coach than seeing Winston come off suspension and lead Tampa to a 10-3 record to make the playoffs, then pull off 3 road wins to get to the super bowl.
The Rams, who are -3 versus Oakland in week 1, come in with the third shortest odds which is a little surprising considering they had the weakest showing and weakest quarterback of any team in the NFC playoffs. If we listed out the top quarterbacks in the NFC, Goff would certainly be behind Rogers, Wilson, Ryan, Brees, Newton, Stafford, Wentz and probably Cousins and Smith. This means we have to pay the second or third highest price and we get the 8th or 9th best quarterback. Of course for that price we also get the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, 2 ball hawking cornerbacks and Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. The offensive skill players are talented and Sean McVay proved he can put them in positions to succeed. The Rams should continue to improve, and I think make the playoffs, but it’s a lot to ask for them to win 2 or 3 playoff games to make it to Atlanta. I think the +570 price tag is too high for this team until Goff proves he can elevate his game.
The Seahawks will give us the opposite of the Rams. We get the 2nd or 3rd best quarterback in the league but only have to pay the 10th highest cost. Russell Wilson has a super bowl championship on his resume and led the league in passing touchdowns last year. But what else do we get with Wilson at that price - maybe the worst offensive line in the conference, one good receiver and a small college running back. New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants to run the ball with rookie Rashaad Penny rather than build the offense around Wilson. The defense still has All Pro linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and probably will have Earl Thomas but offenses will not dread seeing the Seahawks across from them this year. This team is trying rebuild on the fly while continuing to compete for championships but that is usually what happens one year before going all in on the rebuild. I think there is a better chance that this team implodes than puts it all together and makes another run. Definitely not worth the price. We also picked the Seahawks to go under the win total.
Judging from the placement of the Niners at the 8th best odds on this slate, it appears San Francisco is in high gear on the path to a dynasty reminiscent of their Bill Walsh / Joe Montana era. Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo were great together, winning 5 games in a row to close out the year. Jimmy G only had a month to learn Shanahan’s offense before stepping in so he should continue to improve after a full off season studying the system. But if I offered you your choice of Garoppolo, Brees, Ryan and Newton for 2018 which one would you take? If I offered you the choice of the following defenses – 49ers, Saints, Falcons, Panthers – which would you take? Same question for offensive skill players. In all cases the 49er option is probably last or maybe next to last on the list. Yet the 49ers are more expensive than most teams. The 49er defense has some talented young players that may get better, and the offense should take some steps forward but the recency bias of those final 5 games of 2017 has made every 49er bet too expensive at the sportsbooks this off season. Yes, we bet 49ers under 8.5 wins. This team is full of potential but is not yet an elite NFC team, so shouldn’t be priced as such.
Steve Wilks takes over as Arizona’s coach after Bruce Arians held the position for 5 years. Sam Bradford currently sits at #1 on the quarterback depth chart ahead of 10th overall pick Josh Rosen. Bradford can play at a high level but he can’t stay healthy and will be playing behind a line that allowed 52 sacks last year. Rosen was considered by some the most pro-ready of the QBs in this year’s draft and he will get his chance to play sooner rather than later. David Johnson should be 100% after last year’ wrist injury to lead the running game and Larry Fitzgerald will again lead the receivers. Johnson is the only concern for opposing defenses and his O-line will struggle to open holes for him. The defense was 19th in points allowed but did rank 4th in opposing yards per play. All-pro Chandler Jones recorded 17 sacks and Patrick Peterson is a true shut-down cornerback. However, the defense has holes and is not elite enough to carry the offense and shut down opponents on a weekly basis. This is year 1 of Arizona’s rebuilding project. The Cards may exceed expectations and win 8 or 9 games but this team’s ceiling is below a run at a conference championship.
I feel like the Saints and Vikings are the 2 most likely teams to represent the NFC in SB53, and I would give the Saints a slight edge. Both of these teams are well balanced and I think Sean Payton and Drew Brees will pick up where they left off last year and continue to play at the top of their game. The Vikings have some risk with a new offensive coordinator and Cousins working in this new offense. The Saints were on the edge of making it last year, but there is still good value in the price. My favorite play is the Saints +875. To get a little exposure to the Vikings without having to take +575, 5dimes is offering a futures prop to pick the super bowl matchup. Viking vs Patriots match-up is +2800. The Patriots are +275 to win the AFC, so playing this prop provides some value with the Vikings.
If I were looking for a long shot to play I would look at the Giants or Bears. I expect the Bears will be better but their division is tough and the step is too big for Trubisky. The Giants could be this year’s dark horse. The coaching should be exponentially better, the combination of OBJ and Barkley should be on the level of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and Eli might be able to do enough to make the Giants contenders and then have another magical playoff run. If the defense can get back close to 2016 form, the G-Men have a shot to win the NFC.