Even with the New York Giants sitting idly at home, we know better than to expect chalk in the NFL playoffs.
Three of the last five Super Bowl champions lost six or more games during the regular season, winning by virtue of getting hot at the right time of the season.
Bookmakers seemed to have taken note in 2013, offering a slate of odds that were, for the most part, stifling to wagerers. But even if most bets don't provide great value in a vacuum, some stand out as providing much greater value than their peers.
If you're desperate to make an NFL futures bet, you'd be well served to dig deep and find out which bets those are. Here's my take on three that could cash out nicely:
*All odds via Bovada.com*
Seattle Seahawks to Win Super Bowl
The Football Outsiders formula has been famously fond of the Seattle Seahawks this year. Even when they had a losing record, the site gave them a high rating, and they finished atop the final DVOA efficiency rankings. So it should come as no surprise that the site also sees them as a value bet to win the Super Bowl—albeit a slight one.
Listed at 10-to-1 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, Vegas ostensibly believes the Seahawks have a 10 percent chance of doing just that. Football Outsiders, however, lists Seattle as having a 10.3 percent chance of winning the big game.
It's not much on first glance, but it's the best you'll find. Sportsbooks don't often give you value equal to a team's actual chances—that's how they make their money.
If you really want to bet a team to win it all, this is surely your smartest option.
Denver Broncos to Reach Super Bowl
Houston's win this evening earned it the right to play the Pats in New England next week. Which means that Denver will host the winner of Baltimore-Indianapolis.
Football Outsiders has charted every season dating back to 1991. And in that fairly large sample size, no team with 10-plus wins has ever finished with a lower DVOA than this year's Colts. The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, HOSTED Denver less than a month ago, and trailed 31-3 after three quarters.
Nothing's a sure thing, but if you assume Denver can handle both of those teams, you're basically getting 5-to-4 (+125) odds on the Broncos beating Houston or New England at home.
That's drastically higher than the number you'll get if you wait two weeks to bet.
Green Bay Packers to Reach Super Bowl
This is a quarterback-driven league, right? Here's the playoff resume of all the NFC starting quarterbacks (not counting Saturday):
|Robert Griffin III||0||0-0|
You read that right. Aaron Rodgers is one of two NFC quarterback's who's ever started a playoff game, and the only one who's ever won one.
Green Bay has some flaws, but at the end of the day, this is still a passing league. It's hard to find a safer bet than Aaron Rodgers > the group listed above.