Unlike in the crowded NFC, there aren’t a whole lot of teams that could be labeled as a “sleeper.” There are the two powerhouses, and then the field, however there are a few members of the AFC field that could have staying power and great NFL Odds value.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC +1200)
Right after the Colts at +800, who seem pretty fairly priced, are the Steelers sitting at +1200 to win the AFC. Those are the fourth best AFC Odds from Bovada sportsbook, and I consider the Steelers as the #1 sleeper team in the AFC. Not only did their season end prematurely last season, but for some other reason, people are overlooking Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have revamped their defense, and their offense is even more undervalued after a seemingly solid statistical year. Sure Pittsburgh couldn’t stop the run or run the football last season, but now that Le’Veon Bell will be there to start the season, and with the defense healthy, the Steelers have nowhere to go but up. It would not surprise me to see them as a ten-win football team, and a divisional champ by December. If that’s the case, the NFL Odds of +1200 are a solid wager.
San Diego Chargers (AFC +1800)
The Chargers aren’t as big a sleeper as the Steelers. Even though their NFL Odds are worse than Pittsburgh’s, the Chargers also made the playoffs last season and won their wildcard game against the Bengals. I don’t know if anyone could sleep on a team that won a playoff game just a season ago, but it seems to be happening, as five teams have better NFL Odds to win the AFC than the Chargers.
San Diego’s defense should be pretty solid this season, but if their skill players can’t come through for Phillip Rivers, than they are valued right where they should be. In any case, San Diego looks like a boom or bust team from an NFL betting picks perspective, and unless their receivers have a huge year in 2014, I fear they may be more bust than boom. However even if that’s the way it plays out, I still think the Chargers could be a solid ATS bet during the season. Including the postseason, they were fourth in the NFL at 11-6-1 ATS last season, making them a much better ATS sleeper than a future odds sleeper.
New York Jets (AFC +2800)
The Jets might be another team that is more of an ATS sleeper than a futures sleeper, however New York might have better players than the Chargers at almost every position except quarterback. On defense this is especially true, and with a deadly pass rush and a solid running game, the Jets could find themselves in the playoffs. They have miraculously made it to the AFC Title game twice before, and now they have Geno Smith running the show.
I am going to stop short of recommending a unit wager on the Jets to win the AFC, however I am going to recommend wagering on them as much as you can stomach in 2014. New York finished the season 9-6-1 ATS (3-1 ATS in their last four games) and I could easily see them surpassing that both SU and ATS. Their division is weak outside of the Patriots, and while their strength of schedule is tough, that might play into Jets’ bettors hands come the regular season.