I don't mean to provide a foolproof system—every time you bet on sports, you're taking risks.
You choose to either go for the underdog or assume the expected blowout will come to pass. Ultimately though, it's better than trying your luck at the casino.
Here are the NFL playoff bets I made for the entire tournament:
The Denver Broncos are hedged at 76-1 odds for winning it all. While I see no way they will, I can see them coming through the AFC where they are given 34-1 odds. Simply put, with a hurting Big Ben and their starting RB done for the season, if the Broncos should win, they would face the unpredictable Baltimore Ravens in the second round barring a Houston win.
The Texans will not win it all, and they certainly won't win the AFC. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
The Bengals, likewise, have no shot of winning the conference.
I already bet the Patriots winning it all, 20 on 7-1 odds (they sit at 5-1 today).
The Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are the other contenders.
The Steelers sit at 13-1 and Ravens at 7.5-1. The Ravens are simply not worth it to bet on, if they do win it all, you'd have to put up plenty to make a decent profit. The Steelers, on the other hand, are potential outsiders. However, they shouldn't be favored and if they beat the Broncos like most expect, a date with the Ravens or Pats will not be favorable. They'll most likely have to beat both just to get back to the big game. Ultimately not worth it.
Who is a probable longshot?
The Green Bay Packers should be favored, but if history is any indication, the Pack are not the 1998 Vikings. They're worse, and the 49ers and Saints both have considerable opportunity.
The Conference outright odds are as so:
While the Giants may seem like a historically probable underdog to root for, don't count on it. The Lions at 34-1—like the Broncos—are worth a look just for the sake of the disgusting odds that, like the Cardinals in 2008, scream for a few dollars that way.
I already put 20 on the Falcons to win the conference at the beginning of the year at 13-1 ( they now sit at 19-1).
Overall, my total bets are as so:
20 on Patriots at 7-1 to win Super Bowl= 140
20 on Falcons to win NFC at 13-1= 260
20 on 49ers to win NFC at 8-1= 160
5 on Lions to win NFC= 170
5 on Broncos to win AFC= 170
Which team is most expected to win it all?
Total bets= 70
Max win= 400 (Patriots over Falcons)
Secondary win= 300 ( Patriots over 49ers )
Lowest win=170 (Broncos or Lions make Super Bowl)
Historical analysis dictates the No. 1 seed in either conference has less than a 30 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. The No. 2 seed has, on average, a higher chance of victory.
Teams without a BYE have won half of the last ten Super Bowls.
Since 2001, the NFC has fielded ten different teams—teams currently that haven't won the NFC in those last ten years would be the 49ers, Falcons and Lions.
In the end, my biggest threat to not winning anything on the future bets (I will be betting individually for some games) is this:
Patriots, 49ers, Falcons, Broncos and Lions all fail to make the Super Bowl. In theory, the odds are around 50 percent based on history, but the Patriots and 49ers both hold favorable chances.
By process of elimination, the weak links—teams with a relative chance of making the Super Bowl less than 20 percent—are: the Bengals, Texans, Broncos, Falcons and Lions.
Which team has no shot at winning it all?
The above five out of 12 teams are weak contenders because of inexperience, potential matchups to get to the Championship and "anti-clutch" factors.
The strong contenders to make the Super Bowl are: the Patriots, Ravens, Packers and 49ers—due in part because of having to play less games, favorable matchups and past experience.
The weakest of the two, by average two teams with a BYE lose, would be the Patriots and 49ers.
Ultimately, a Ravens vs. Packers Super Bowl would prove to be the least fruitful—especially if the Packers were to win. Both teams hold low payouts for conference and Super Bowl victories.
This is the risk a punter takes, however—by percentages—the top two seeds meeting in the Super Bowl are low and have already happened just two years ago with the Saints and Colts.
So, a Patriots vs. Packers Super Bowl seems less likely by percentages, but the odds are high one of those teams will make it. They both possess high-powered offenses in a passing league, both in cold weather and both weak defenses that have high turnover potential.
If one was to make the big money through playing the odds, another good bet would be the Texans winning the AFC and the 49ers winning the Super Bowl.
The Texans winning the AFC would stand at 23-1 and the 49ers winning it all would stand at 13-1.
The reason this matchup would be most profitable is because of the high payouts and because both teams—although not favorable—have potentially easy roads to the championship.
If the Texans were to beat the Bengals, they would automatically go on to face the Ravens—who, although would be favored, would not posses a daunting mismatch due to their passing game. They would, with a weaker pass defense, be susceptible to a surprising Houston passing attack.
Playing either the Steelers or Patriots in the AFC Championship would also not be as big of a mismatch.
Meanwhile, with the 49ers, there is a strong possibility the Saints would travel to San Francisco. Although they would and should be heavily favored, they would face a strong run defense which could serve to push the Saints to pass almost exclusively. Although this may seem like a cakewalk for the Saints passing offense, it would probably serve to drain the clock more due to short passes and lack of a run game that could decimate red zone offense.
The Saints, defensively, could also be gashed by the 49ers renewed West Coast offense with a powerful run game.
Ultimately, this scenario comes down to the chances of the 49ers beating the Packers in Green Bay. The wild card in this would be the Giants, who would be relatively mismatched against the 49ers defensive schemes.
If a 49ers vs. Texans Super Bowl came to be, it would favor the 49ers.
So on top of the previous bets made, it would serve an individual to put some stock in the Texans coming out of the AFC—if even a little.
My conclusion? The Ravens, Packers, Saints and Patriots losing opens the floodgates for tremendous payouts if you got the winning underdog.