Most normal NFL fans do not think about games involving the two conferences unless it is the Super Bowl. Those of us seeking a betting edge are keenly aware about this week after week.
There are several generic or over time NFL betting assumptions that are still floating around that have less validity today. Among them are flat spots for teams playing nonconference contests as a "sandwich" game, with division tilts on either side of this game. In theory, this makes sense, as does the fact this could be a higher-scoring affair because the stakes are lower compared to a division or conference clash that carries more weight for tiebreaker situations. However, those setting the NFL odds knew about this a long time ago and have reworked the numbers to fit public perception and consumption.
In the past three years, other than team isolation spots for NFL picks, the competition has been close both straight up and against the spread. Here is who has enjoyed the SU edge.
2016: AFC 33-30 SU
2015: NFC 34-29 SU
2014: AFC 33-30 SU
As you can see, there is very little difference and a far cry from 1996 to 2010, when the AFC did not have one losing season against their league counterparts (14-0-1). The against the spread numbers are equally as tight.
2016: AFC 30-32-1 ATS
2015: NFC 29-31-3 ATS
2014: AFC 31-30-2 ATS
Looking at these figures, it is safe to say that SBR's top-rated sportsbooks the last three years have had an incredible read on nonconference competition.
Does Either Conference Have a Chance to Bust Out?
Of course, what we think in August is not necessarily what the picture will look like in early January, yet on the surface it could be more of the same.
In our first confrontation, the NFC South has three teams that could finish above .500, and New Orleans should be close. It is a given New England will be dominate, yet, the Pats will also face big spreads, and Buffalo and the New York Jets will be overmatched. Have to like the NFC South over the AFC East here.
Next, a more modest advantage to the AFC South over the NFC West. Seattle will have a chance to go 4-0 SU and close to that number against the spread, yet the NFC West also has San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams, and they are both beatable by any club in the opposing division. Houston and Arizona look to be very similar, thus, a nod to the AFC South.
The other two nonconference matchups look extremely close. In the battle of the Norths, the NFC has the slightest of edges, with more favorable home games. In the AFC West vs. the NFC East, good luck on finding a sliver of a difference.
In conclusion, for those betting the NFL, the NFC should come away with the edge both SU and ATS; however, with as close as it will be, being able to isolate specific teams as the season rolls along will be even more important.