Quinellas aren't just for horse racing. You can also make football picks on which teams will finish first and second in each of the NFL's eight divisions. Let's start with the NFC.
If you happen to be reading this from across the pond, you probably know plenty about dual forecast bets. These bets are typically used in races or tournaments – all you need to do is pick who will finish first and second, in either order. The rest of us might recognize these bets from the horse track, where they're known as quinellas.
Well, isn't the NFL regular season basically a tournament? Each team plays 16 games, and the eight division winners get rewarded with a playoff spot – plus, each conference gets two Wild Card berths. It's a perfect set-up for dual forecast divisional betting. As we go to press, we're still waiting for the first numbers on our official NFL odds board, but there are a few scattered lines at other European outlets that we can use as a guideline to get ready for the new season. Let's kick things off with the senior circuit, the NFC.
NFC East: Eagles and Cowboys (1-1)
These are some of the shortest football odds from any of the league's eight divisions – and the easiest NFL pick of the bunch. Dallas (12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS) and Philadelphia (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) were the class of the NFC East last year, while the New York Giants (6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS) struggled and Washington (4-12 SU, 5-11 ATS) was downright awful.
This year, we expect the Dallas Cowboys to come back down to earth a bit, and for the Philadelphia Eagles to improve. Which team will finish first? Doesn't matter for our dual forecast bet – what matters is whether Dallas will stay competitive enough to fend off whatever challenge New York can muster. We think the Cowboys have enough good things happening on offense to stay in contention for at least a Wild Card spot. Washington? Not so much.
NFC North: Packers and Vikings (2-1)
The Green Bay Packers (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) have won the NFC North each of the past four seasons, and that streak doesn't appear to be in too much jeopardy. Things get a lot more interesting after that; the Vikings (7-9 SU, 10-6 ATS) are on the ascendancy, while the Detroit Lions (11-5 SU, 7-9 ATS) could be on their way down after finishing second last year. The Chicago Bears (5-11 SU, 7-9 ATS) have some work to do.
We're going with Minnesota. The NFL odds have the Packers-Lions quinella pegged at 10-11, but the betting value is with the Vikings now that QB Teddy Bridgewater is establishing himself as a quality starter. Getting RB Adrian Peterson back just might help, too.
NFC South: Saints and Falcons (13-5)
This division is a toss-up. The Carolina Panthers (7-8-1 SU, 8-8 ATS) managed to win last year, ahead of the New Orleans Saints (7-9 SU, 6-10 ATS) and Atlanta Falcons (6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS). You could make a quinella from any two of these three teams at roughly the same odds. Or you could take a long shot and put the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14 SU, 7-9 ATS) in your dual forecast.
For us, the easy choice is with the Saints, who have usually performed well in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era, and the Falcons, who now have former Seattle Seahawks defensive co-ordinator Dan Quinn as their head coach. We saw what happened to the Panthers last year without DE Greg Hardy, and the Bucs are rebuilding. It's an easy choice, but not a deadbolt lock – anything could happen in this division.
NFC West: Seahawks and Cardinals (3-2)
Again, easy choice with Seattle (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) continuing its run of excellence. Arizona (11-5 SU and ATS) has made big strides under Bruce Arians and should hold up well this year. The San Francisco 49ers (8-8 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) have fallen apart as an organization, and the St. Louis Rams (6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS) seem to have hit a ceiling. Moving back to L.A. appears to be their top priority.
Despite all that, the football odds are pretty close in the NFC West. The Seahawks-Rams quinella is available at 7-4, and Seahawks-Niners isn't far behind at 9-4. Not a lot of betting value with those football picks. We'll stick with the status quo, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.