2012 NFL Futures: Value Picks For Super Bowl Winner & Other Playoff Odds

Last year was the first year we posted NFL preseason projections, and we used them to spotlight some “top values” among the playoff odds and division win odds we found at offshore sportsbooks. Those picks ended up doing very well overall, so we’re going to do the same thing this year.

Our final 2012 NFL season projections were posted this weekend. Today we’re going to compare the playoff and division win odds from those projections to the odds found at Pinnacle sports book. For each division, we’ll spotlight cases where our projections indicate lines that appear to be inefficient.

Dynamics Of NFL Preseason Projections

When evaluating these numbers, remember that a lot can go wrong with preseason projections. Random factors we don’t model for (e.g., team morale, a new offensive system being put in place) can end up having a significant impact on a given team’s performance. Likewise, just one key player injury or some really horrible luck in close games may completely transform our assessment of a team’s conference win odds just a few games into the season.

It’s inevitable that some of these projections will look way off come January, so if you’re going to play season win totals, whether based on our analysis or not, it’s a good strategy to diversify your bankroll. A lot of these picks are relative longshots, so we’re basically hoping for a few homeruns to balance out a bunch of whiffs.

Each conference table below shows a team’s lines to win their division and to win the Super Bowl, along with the break-even win rate for a bet at that line (all taken from Pinnacle, on the morning of September 3rd. It also shows the team’s win total over-under line from Pinnacle, as well as our projection for team wins. Finally, we list our projected division win odds and Super Bowl win odds. Below each table is our spotlight of the best value bet(s), according to our odds.

2012 AFC East Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
New England Patriots-39580%+56315.1%1212.671%25.4%
New York Jets+78911%+46912.1%8.58.913%2.6%
Miami Dolphins+16546%+85311.2%7.58.410%1.6%
Buffalo Bills+61314%+65041.5%7.57.97%1.0%

Best Values

New England Patriots to Win Super Bowl (+563)

15.1% break even percentage / 25.4% TR Odds

Our projections see the Patriots as being the best team in the league, by a healthy margin. Of course, the best team doesn’t always win the Super Bowl, and that’s reflected in our odds — we give the Patriots about a 1 in 4 shot to take home the title. Still, that’s a fair sight above their offshore odds. In the books, they are essentially co-favorites with the Packers.

Miami Dolphins to Win AFC East (+1654)

5.7% break even percentage / 9.7% TR Odds

This one is obviously a long shot, but our projections do technically see some value here. We’re subjectively a bit suspicious of this, simply because, as RJ Bell points out, the fact that Miami chose Tannehill as their starting QB may indicate they are placing less of a premium on winning this season, which could mean they’ll be worse than the general statistical factors would indicate. Still, if New England falters, the Jets or Dolphins will likely take the division, and the Dolphins’ long odds make them a more attractive Plan B.

2012 AFC North Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
Pittsburgh Steelers-10251%+13906.7%1010.446%8.2%
Baltimore Ravens+16038%+18305.2%109.635%5.8%
Cincinnati Bengals+46618%+52581.9%8.57.512%1.1%
Cleveland Browns+24614%+243260.4%5.56.57%0.4%

Best Values

Pittsburgh Steelers to Win Super Bowl (+1390)

6.7% break even percentage / 8.2% TR Odds

We rate the Steelers as the second-best team in the NFL entering the 2012 season, but they only have the 6th-best Super Bowl odds at Pinnacle.

Cleveland Browns to Win AFC North (+2461)

3.9% break even percentage / 6.6% TR Odds

The Browns are the worst team in the division, yes. But our rookie quarterback projections see Weeden as one of the few rookies that has a chance to break out. It’s a small chance, but it’s enough that it may make sense to take a flyer on the long shot Browns.

2012 AFC South Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
Houston Texans-66787%+10778.5%108.441%2.1%
Tennessee Titans+50816%+83641.2%77.326%1.0%
Indianapolis Colts+21554%+210330.5%5.57.124%0.6%
Jacksonville Jaguars+28383%+249780.4%5.55.29%0.1%

Best Values

Indianapolis Colts to Win AFC South (+2155)

4.4% break even percentage / 23.5% TR Odds

You know what we said above about Brandon Weeden? That applies doubly to Andrew Luck. Our projected odds for Indy to win the division are almost certainly too high, but even if they drop by half the Colts still have some value.

Tennessee Titans to Win AFC South (+508)

16.4% break even percentage / 26.2% TR Odds

This pick (like the Colts above) is less about our projections being high on Tennessee, and more about them being a bit down on Houston. The Texans were good last season, but only average the few years prior. They also have less high-round talent from the 2009 and 2010 drafts than average, and are due for a bit less turnover luck.

2012 AFC West Football Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
Denver Broncos+13043%+16845.6%8.59.142%3.5%
San Diego Chargers+21632%+26803.6%98.634%2.3%
Kansas City Chiefs+34522%+63931.5%86.215%0.3%
Oakland Raiders+71012%+97521.0%76.810%0.5%

Best Value

San Diego Chargers to Win AFC West (+216)

31.6% break even percentage / 34.0% TR Odds

To be honest, it looks to us like the offshore odds pretty much have the AFC West nailed. Denver is rightly the favorite, but only by a small margin over San Diego. This bet is the only AFC West division winner or Super Bowl winner line that we project with a positive ROI. However, the edge is very small, and clearly within the margin of error of our projections. Still, if we have to pick one AFC West future, this is it.

2012 NFC East Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
Philadelphia Eagles+15839%+10119.0%1010.556%9.7%
New York Giants+19933%+23654.1%9.58.828%3.6%
Dallas Cowboys+23030%+19424.9%8.56.810%0.7%
Washington Redskins+10898%+83201.2%6.56.16%0.3%

Best Value

Philadelphia Eagles to Win NFC East (+158)

38.8% break even percentage / 56.0% TR Odds

Remember last preseason, when the Eagles signed a bunch of defensive free agents, and everyone was predicting they’d be a great team? Well, they almost were, despite their 8-8 record. They played a tough schedule, yet outscored their opponents by over 4 points per game. They just happened to suffer some disastrous plays at just the wrong moments.

The Eagles have been very good for several years running, had terrible turnover luck last season, and didn’t have a healthy Michael Vick for the full season. Now, that last part may very well happen again, but with better turnover luck, they ought to improve in 2012.

2012 NFC North Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
Green Bay Packers-20968%+57714.8%1211.053%10.2%
Detroit Lions+45118%+29183.3%9.59.731%4.7%
Minnesota Vikings+20045%+187760.5%67.39%0.6%
Chicago Bears+41220%+29873.2%9.57.18%0.5%

Best Values

Detroit Lions to Win NFC North (+451)

18.1% break even percentage / 30.6% TR Odds

Like the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers were the benificiaries of some very good turnover luck in 2011, and were not as good as their 15-1 record would imply. Our projections also are low on the Chicago Bears compared to the general consensus, partly because they have a dearth of young talent from the previous few drafts. Because the Bears and Packers may be overrated. the odds for the other NFC North division teams look skewed to us. We see the Lions are the most likely team to unseat the Packers, partly because they have a tremendous amount of young talent that should be maturing in 2012.

Minnesota Vikings to Win NFC North (+2004)

4.8% break even percentage / 8.5% TR Odds

The explanation for this Viking pick is essentially the same as for the Lions above: the Packers and the Bears don’t look as strong to us as they do to the offshore books, so that leaves value on the table for their division mates. The Vikings are more of a long shot than the Lions, and it may make more sense to play them only along with Detroit in a portfolio approach.

2012 NFC South Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
New Orleans Saints+12744%+19494.9%1010.760%10.0%
Atlanta Falcons+12744%+24883.9%98.727%2.9%
Carolina Panthers+52816%+62171.6%7.56.37%0.3%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers+14187%+173870.6%66.27%0.3%

Best Value

New Orleans Saints to Win NFC South (+127) 

44.1% break even percentage / 59.9% TR Odds

This pick comes with a big asterisk. The Saints have a big question mark hanging over their heads this season: how will the suspension of Sean Payton affect the team? In our projections, it doesn’t affect them at all, because we don’t have a similar situation from the past that we can use to objectively measure the effect of losing a coach. The team itself has the talent to be favored to win the division. If you think the loss of Payton is going to destroy the Saints, then by all means avoid this pick. If you think it will only make a marginal difference, then New Orleans looks like they have some value.

2012 NFC West Futures

TeamDiv LineImplied Div OddsSB LineImplied SB OddsWin O/UTR Win ProjTR Div OddsTR SB Odds
San Francisco 49ers-28474%+11468.0%107.537%1.1%
Seattle Seahawks+36821%+52491.9%76.827%0.5%
Arizona Cardinals+11938%+84771.2%76.624%0.5%
St Louis Rams+12477%+124980.8%65.112%0.1%

Best Value

Arizona Cardinals to Win NFC West (+1193) 

7.7% break even percentage / 24.4% TR Odds

Our low win projection for the San Francisco 49ers has been our most discussed prediction this offseason. You can read our rationale for the forecast in our 2012 NFL preseason rankings post. Our differing opinion on the 49ers means we see value in every other team in the division, so a portfolio approach (with division win bets on Arizona, Seattle, and St. Louis) looks great here. But the balance between Arizona’s offshore line and our division odds is so huge that they are worth calling out individually.

2012 NFL Futures Expectations

We’ve laid out what our projections see as the best values among these conference and division odds bets. Does that mean we think these will all be winners, and you’ll quintuple your money if you bet them? Not a chance.

You may have noticed that most of the TR projected odds for our choices were between about 6% and 34%, and we only made two picks with projected odds over 50%. That means that for most of our picks taken in isolation, odds are we’ll be wrong. That’s what makes a portfolio approach important. Instead of betting your whole allotted futures budget on a single pick, you can manage your risk by splitting it up among many.

So what should you expect if you do follow all the picks above? Well, that depends on how accurate our projections are. Let’s assume they are spot on, 100% accurate. If you wagered on every bolded pick above, you’d have 12 tickets in your hand. Based on our projected odds, in an average year three of those would be winners. In any given year it could be a couple more or a couple less. Those three winners (again, assuming our projections are accurate) ought to roughly double your money (+98% ROI to be exact, assuming equal sized bets on each).

However, there’s some selection bias at work here. Because we chose the picks partly based on the fact that our projected odds were abnormally high, there’s a very good chance our projected odds for those picks were … well … too high. So, let’s be conservative and chop our projected win odds for each by a third. In that case, you’d expect to win an average of two out of the ten bets, and your expected ROI would be +32%. This seems like a much more reasonable expectation, though it’s still likely a bit high — Vegas isn’t just giving money away.

As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below, and we’ll answer them as soon as we can.