NFL Futures Picks: Ranking Divisions in Order of Difficulty

Kevin Stott

Friday, May 8, 2015 3:34 PM UTC

Friday, May. 8, 2015 3:34 PM UTC

With Divisional & Conference NFL Odds released for the upcoming 2015 Regular Season, let’s rank the league’s eight divisions in order of the Easiest ones to win first.

After looking at some potential Season Team Win Totals Over and Under picks in our last two stories here at Sportsbook Review, let’s now rank the NFL’s eight divisions in order of difficulty to win from the perspective of all four teams in each of those AFC and NFC divisions. The order actually almost ends up being an opposite type list, with the perceived weakest divisions in the NFL near or atop this list and the stronger ones at the bottom because (theoretically) all four teams would have a shot to win. A list of NFL Divisions in terms of overall strength would be a completely different animal, as this one puts weight in the theoretical worst team(s) in the respective divisions actually having a shot to win the divisions. Or another way of looking at this: Which Divisions have the Least Number of Teams that can realistically win these respective divisions, with only one team looking like it has a chance being perceived as the Easiest, as opposed to Divisions where All Four Teams could theoretically have a chance to win the title in this coming NFL Season?

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Ranking the NFL’s Divisions in Order of Difficulty For All Four Teams to Win

1—AFC South
Why? Only the Indianapolis Colts (-400 to win AFC South, Bovada)—which went 6-0 SU against AFC South divisional foes last season (as well as 6-0 ATS)—and QB Andrew Luck have any real shot of winning this somewhat weak division unless the Houston Texans (+400) can somehow win both meetings with the Horseshoes, and take both meetings from either the Tennessee Titans (+1200) or the Jacksonville Jaguars (+2000). And with the Colts adding RB Frank Gore (49ers), WR Andre Johnson (Texans) and WR Phillip Dorsett (Miami (Florida), NFL Draft), expect their Offense to be even more Arena Football-like in the coming 2015 NFL Season. And getting club legend Johnson from Houston has to hurt a little, too.


2—(Tie) NFC North
Why? Only future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers (-300 to win NFC North, Bovada)—have any realistic chance of capturing the NFC North this coming season, with the Detroit Lions (+450) only having an outside chance with their vastly improved Defense, although losing All-Pro NT Ndamukong Suh through Free Agency to the Miami Dolphins has to sting. The Minnesota Vikings (+1200) and Chicago Bears (+1200) and chain-smoking QB Jay Cutler have no chance, especially with the high number of Interceptions the Vanderbilt graduate throws. Next.


2—(Tie) NFC West
Why? Just like the Cheeseheads in the NFC North, the team that rallied to beat them at home in Seattle in the dramatic NFC Championship game, the Seahawks (-250 to win NFC West, Bovada) are pretty much Locks with a capital ‘L’ to win this division, with the Arizona Cardinals (+550) solid Defensively but too challenged on Offense to hang with the team with the best Defense in the NFL, the nearly two-time defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Nearly. (You gotta run the ball there, brother. C’mon now.) The San Francisco 49ers (+750) and St. Louis Rams (+650) probably have as good a chance as the Cardinals do of somehow stealing the NFC West from the champs, but that’s not saying much with Seattle and Head Coach Pete Carroll adding TE Jimmy Graham (Saints) to an Offense which already featured dynamic Russell Wilson at QB and the rugged Marshawn Lynch at RB. Beep, beep, who got the keys to the Jeep? Vroooooom.


2—(Tie) AFC East
Why? The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and legendary superstar QB Tom Brady (9/5 to win AFC Championship, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) are in the same boat as the aforementioned Packers and NFC champion Seahawks—the team to beat in their respective divisions with the other three likely having little shot this coming season, thus the three-way tie for 2nd on this funky-ass list. Those three teams in the AFC East are the upstart Buffalo Bills (23/1 to win AFC), the Miami Dolphins (14/1)—who signed aforementioned and top-ranked Free Agent Ndamukong Suh (Lions, DL) and have made some other big Wheelings and Dealings—and the New York Jets (40/1)—who have also really made some monster moves so far in this offseason, signing All-Pro lockdown CB Darrelle Revis (Patriots), Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals), USC DL Leonard Williams (NFL Draft), Ohio State WR Devin Smith (NFL: Draft) and WR Baylor QB Bryce Petty (NFL Draft), among others. For me, the New York Jets won the NFL Draft. But still, they will likely start out the season with Geno Smith at QB. Such is Life.


5—AFC West
Why? This division almost falls into a tie with the preceding three, but because the Denver Broncos (-200 to win AFC West, Bovada) and returning future-Hall Of Fame QB Peyton Manning are getting a little long in the tooth, and because the Kansas City Chiefs (+350) and San Diego Chargers (+500) do have at least an outside shot at winning the AFC West if either one can find a way to win at Mile High, the division fits in at 5th on this list, which looks an awful lot like it would have before the start of the 2014 NFL Season in all honesty. Think about it. Not that much has changed in overall order. The Oakland Raiders (+1800) signed Free Agent WR Michael Crabtree (49ers) and have a new coach and and new outlook, but the Silver and Black have about as much chance of winning the AFC West as we all do of someday dating Rihanna while riding a Red Unicorn on the Third Moon of Jupiter on Leap Day. Well, probably not that bad.


6—NFC East
Why? This is the point on the list where there is a distinct line drawn between the divisions which look like they just have one team with a real chance of winning it and those NFL divisions with at least two or more teams who should be in the running this season. Here in the NFC East, there are really just two teams—the Dallas Cowboys (+130 to win NFC East, Bovada) and the Philadelphia Eagles (+175)—with the New York Giants (+300) having just an outside chance and the Washington Redskins (+1400) being the division’s longshot. What Washington will have to hope for is a 2014 NFC South scenario with all teams somehow miraculously finishing under .500 and the Redskins squeezing in virtually by default. Okay. Back to Reality.


7—AFC North
Why? Because three teams have a chance to win the division. QB Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens (+160 to win AFC North, Bovada), QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers (+220) and QB Andy Dalton and the much-improved Defensively Cincinnati Bengals (+220) could all win the AFC North, and although they had a good Draft and have made some rooster improvements, the Cleveland Browns (+900) are still extremely hamstrung at the QB position with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel 1-2 on the depth Chart and six rugged games against the three teams written above. It’s no fun being the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. That’s for sure.


8—NFC South
Why? Because if there ever was a Crapshoot of an NFL Division, this is it. And the NFL odds reveal that perception. Head Coach Sean Payton, star QB Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (+225, Bovada), QB Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons (+200), underrated QB Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (+200), and maybe even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+750)—if everyone beats up on each other—who snatched Florida State QB Jameis Winston with the #1 overall pick in last Thursday’s NFL Draft in Chicago—if the stars align. For me, in the end it will be a close race between the Saints and Panthers to win this not-so rugged NFC South, with Carolina getting the lean because New Orleans and Who Dat Nation traded TE Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks (for C Max Unger).


Besides the Divisional and AFC and NFC Conference odds out at Bovada—last year’s Super Bowl losers, the Seattle Seahawks are 3/1 to win the NFC with the New England Patriots probable favorites in the AFC, despite having their odds (likely just temporarily) taken down after the news of Deflategate came down Wednesday and possible (it won’t happen) Patriots suspensions an extremely remote possibility for the AFC and NFL champions. Bovada also has an Early Line posted for Super Bowl 50 (to be held at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in February 7, 2016) up right now with the NFC installed as 2½-point favorites (NFC Money Line -130, AFC +110), with the Total for the NFL’s championship game set at 50½, where it usually is these days 9 months before the Big Game. In all, these numbers could almost all be plugged in as 2014 numbers, with just a few exceptions.

NFL DIVISIONAL FUTURES BOOK PICKS: Philadelphia Eagles to win NFC East +175, Green Bay Packers -300 to win NFC North, Seattle Seahawks -250 to win NFC West (Bovada)

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