There are a few sportsbooks that are starting to release playoff odds for the NFL this season, and there are some nice values in both conferences.
Cincinnati Bengals (-150)
Much like the Arizona Cardinals over in the NFC to make the playoffs article, I was pretty surprised to see the Bengals at NFL odds of only -150. The Steelers are at -300 to make the playoffs from the same sportsbook, and there is no way the Steelers are twice as good as the Bengals. I do think the Steelers are going to win the division, even without Martavis Bryant for the season. However, the Bengals could easily be the strongest team to not win a division this season.
They won it last season thanks in large part to Le’Veon Bell going down for Pittsburgh, but even if the two teams flip-flop this season, the Bengals are still going to have at least a home game in the wildcard round of the playoffs. At -150, that is somewhat of a value, especially if you think they are good enough to win the division yet again. While 12 wins may be a stretch this season after losing Hue Jackson - one of the keys to that offense – 10 wins and a playoff spot are almost the floor for this team.
Indianapolis Colts (-120)
I’ll preface the following by saying that -120 for the Colts to make the playoffs may be a sucker NFL pick with some of the other values on the board, but at the same time, does anyone see the Colts losing this division? Sure, there still have weaknesses. Their they have their newly signed quarterback coming off injury last season, and I’m still skeptical of the level of talent around Andrew Luck, but all the other teams in that division have some problems.
However, the Jaguars finally look like a potential second place upstart in the South, and the Texans might be good if Brock Osweiler is successful, but while I might hedge this one with the Jaguars at +200, the Colts look to be a 10-win team, which should easily win the division.
Oakland Raiders (+130)
Speaking of “is this the season,” talk; the Oakland Raiders are coming back, baby! Oakland has been an NFL laughing stock ever since they lost Super Bowl 37 to the Bucaneerss in embarrassing fashion. They have never finished better than 8-8, but are a total of 63-145 in the last 13 years. However, in the first year of Jack Del Rio, the Raiders showed life last season at 7-9 and with a stout defense and a young and promising offense, the Raiders could be one of the better values on the board.
I think the Chiefs and Broncos will still be better than the Raiders, but the gap between them and the two top teams is not much. Oakland’s offense us once again going to put up points, and their defense is one step below great. Their secondary is replenished with high priced Sean Smith and value signing Reggie Nelson. They also drafted Karl Joseph to go on the other side of Smith, and with one of the league’s best young linebackers, this could be the year of the Raiders getting nine or 10 wins to finally get above .500, and back into the playoffs.