NFL Picks: NFC Future Betting Odds

Jason Lake

Sunday, March 23, 2014 1:38 PM GMT

If the numbers hold up this year, the Seattle Seahawks could be celebrating again in February. But the San Francisco 49ers are a distant second on the NFL futures market when it comes to claiming the conference title.

On the surface, it may seem like things went a little haywire in the NFC last year. Sure, the Seattle Seahawks had the best team in football for the second year in a row (according to efficiency) and parlayed that into a Super Bowl victory. And sure, the San Francisco 49ers were right there in the mix again. But who would have expected the Atlanta Falcons to fall from grace? Or the Carolina Panthers to rip it up?

Nerds, that’s who. Anyone who was willing to look at Pythagorean Wins and Estimated Wins could have seen it coming. Regression is the Word of the Day in NFL betting, so let’s turn the prognosticative powers of advanced football data loose on the 2014 campaign and see what we can expect from the NFC this time around. If you need brushing up on this approach, check out our AFC preview and head on back once you’re done. We’ll keep the kettle on for you.

2014-15 NFL Futures & Super Bowl Odds

I Predict
Let’s start by looking at the top favorites to win the NFC this year as we go to press:

Seattle Seahawks                    9-4

San Francisco 49ers                4-1

Green Bay Packers                 10-1

New Orleans Saints                12-1

Carolina Panthers                   12-1

As is often the case with the NFL futures market, last year’s division winners will be carrying those expectations into the new season – with the popular Saints joining the fray after their quick recovery from the Bountygate-plagued 2012 campaign. But what if I told you that of the five teams on this list, Seattle’s the only one that didn’t underperform in 2013?

It’s a fact. Here are those same five teams, with their Estimated Wins (as calculated by Football Outsiders) alongside their Actual Wins:

Seattle Seahawks (13.0 EW, 13 AW)

San Francisco 49ers (10.6 EW, 12 AW)

Green Bay Packers (7.3 EW, 8 AW)

New Orleans Saints (10.0 EW, 11 AW)

Carolina Panthers (11.0 EW, 12 AW)

Of these five teams, Seattle’s the one you would most expect to repeat its success from 2013. And that’s even if you didn’t know about how the youthful Seahawks roster features star players who were also inexpensive late draft picks, allowing them much more flexibility under the salary cap than most teams. So much for parity.

 

The South Shall Rise Again
Now let’s get to the meaty stuff. Here are the NFC teams with the biggest gap between their Estimated Wins and Actual Wins last year:

Atlanta Falcons (6.5 EW, 4 AW)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6.3 EW, 4 AW)

New York Giants (5.5 EW, 7 AW)

San Francisco 49ers (10.6 EW, 12 AW)

Looks like it’ll be a very competitive year in the NFC South. One of the reasons Carolina and New Orleans were able to waltz into the playoffs was the very poor performance of the other two clubs in the division. We expected the Falcons to struggle; they only played well enough to register 9.1 Estimated Wins in 2012 despite posting a 13-3 record. The Buccaneers (7.8 EW, 7 AW), on the other hand, were a special kind of awful. Replacing head coach Greg Schiano with Lovie Smith should help matters considerably.

As for the teams most likely to fall back in 2014 – hey, it’s the Niners again. They plowed through injury and off-field drama last year to nearly bounce the Seahawks from the NFC title game, but there’s already enough pessimism for the new season that head coach Jim Harbaugh was reportedly within inches of being traded to the Cleveland Browns. And the Giants? It’s hard to imagine them doing much worse in 2014. Perhaps Eli Manning (69.4 passer rating) will regress closer to his career 81.2 passer rating and rescue the G-Men, as he has so many times before. But would you bet them to win the NFC? At least they’d pay out nicely at 25-1. Go Blue!