While the very first days open for NFL camp it's time to look at the best earliest future wagering possibilities into the regular season. No doubt picking the Super Bowl winner offers the greatest odds and payoffs but there are other opportunities to cash in about six weeks earlier. Why not take advantage of selecting a few individual NFL Division winners?
Many of the top online sportsbooks already have future wagering selections listed, breaking down choices division by division. Unless there is one obvious choice that stands above the rest, they offer some reasonable opportunities scoring a decent price for those bettors patient to invest toward January 1st. Here's a look at some examples and suggestions from a few of the most preferred sportsbooks:
AFC North (courtesy of Bovada)
• Pittsburgh Steelers +130
• Cincinnati Bengals +175
• Baltimore Ravens +275
• Cleveland Browns +2000
This is the best example of the most competitive NFL division and wagering chance to make a lucrative score. Outside of the Cleveland Browns having no chance whatsoever of winning the division, the other three teams can win and all games between them figure to have wagering lines within seven points home or away.
Likely the only reason the Bengals are slight odds favorite behind the Steelers are Pittsburgh's loyal wagering support from bettors and Cincinnati's proven reputation to disappoint. Speaking of disappointment, the Ravens are coming off their worst season in memory but are very capable of bouncing back under excellent coaching, a proven Super Bowl QB in Joe Flacco and an improving defense.
AFC South (courtesy of Bovada)
• Indianapolis Colts +140
• Houston Texans +190
• Jacksonville Jaguars +300
• Tennessee Titans +1000
Another interesting division betting field with lots of questions marks. I would figure the Colts to bigger favorites in the -150 range if they built a stronger team around Andrew Luck, still the most valuable overall player in the NFL. That remains to be seen and if he can bounce back after an injury plagued 2015 season. If so, they are an outstanding value at +140.
The Houston Texans are this year's "wise-guy" team. Meaning the team that could surprise everyone and have a big year, giving some people the chance to tell others "I told you so". The Texans went out and invested heavily in getting QB Brock Osweiler from the Broncos plus might now have the best defense in the AFC built around JJ Watt. The primary reason they are currently listed right behind the Colts.
As for the Jacksonville Jaguars, another team improving under QB Blake Bortles. They will win more games this season but not really worth a play to win the division at +300. The Tennessee Titans are still a year or so away with too many young players. Talented QB Marcus Marriota needs to gain more experience and cut down on the turnovers.
NFL South (courtesy of BetOnline)
Atlanta Falcons +600
Carolina Panthers -300
New Orleans Saints +850
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +750
This is an easy one if you're content to simply swallow the price. But act fast!! The Carolina Panthers are going to win division, flat-out. The key is getting down quickly at -300 before it turns into -500 very soon at most sportsbooks. Unless Cam Newton suffers a season ending injury, they are too loaded on defense to fall down after a Super Bowl season.
The Falcons will rebound and win more games than last year but cannot be expected to overcome the Panthers to win the division. The Bucs have proven to be too inconsistent while the Saints might be on their way down to being one of the worst NFL teams. Drew Brees is headed to the Hall of Fame but not getting any younger plus their defense is quite suspect.
NFC West ( courtesy of BetOnline)
Arizona Cardinals +150
Los Angeles Rams +1000
San Francisco 49ers +2500
Seattle Seahawks -140
Think of this like a baseball game. Eliminate the Rams and 49ers as having no chance. It's a basic choice of the Cardinals vs. the Seahawks to win the game. Except you'll have to wait till the regular season ends between these two teams.
Seattle is a logical -140 to win the NFC West due to their outstanding defense, dominance at home and reputation under Russell Wilson to win big ones. They were quite angry getting knocked out by the Panthers last year and will be looking for revenge. Arizona at +150 is not that far behind and loaded with talent. This might be QB Carson Palmer's last hurrah to make it to the Super Bowl. Having Larry Fitzgerald at WR and a great offensive line helps. The Cards are also solid on defense with All-Pro Patrick Peterson anchoring one of the NFL's best secondarys.
Best Bets are on Sale Now!
The overall message here is a clever bettor making their mind up during the next month. Once the season starts, even the very first week the odds will change significantly and the best potential opportunities to profit will disappear. The Super Bowl future board will remain until December but NOW is the best time to invest in the short NFL divisions.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.