With the playoff picture set, it’s time to take a look at Vegas’ Super Bowl Futures. I’m going to take an “analytics vs. narrative” perspective for this column to find my favorite Super Bowl Futures bet. All lines are from Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas and are current at the time of publication, but there will be line movement as more wagers are made throughout the week. After this weekend’s four games, I’ll have an update on next week’s odds.
|Westgate Odds||To Win SB||Implied||Wild Card||Time|
|Bears||+1000||9%||vs. PHI||Sun at 4:40|
|Ravens||+1600||6%||vs. LAC||Sun at 1:05|
|Chargers||+1800||5%||at BAL||Sun at 1:05|
|Cowboys||+2500||4%||vs. SEA||Sat at 8:15|
|Seahawks||+2500||4%||at DAL||Sat at 8:15|
|Texans||+3000||3%||vs. IND||Sat at 4:35|
|Colts||+3000||3%||at HOU||Sat at 4:35|
|Eagles||+4000||2%||at CHI||Sun at 4:40|
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|Westgate Odds||To Win SB||Implied||DVOA||Sports Line||538|
These three analytics firms have ran playoff simulations and released the percentage of times each team won the Super Bowl. These simulations are usually ran 5,000 to 40,000 times, and the variables put into the models are extensive. While they aren’t perfect, they are often more accurate than most analysts will be over the long run, so it’s at least worthwhile to pay attention to them.
The most notable takeaway from the simulators is how juiced up the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl odds are. The current +200 odds equate to 33.3% implied probability, but the simulators are multiple percentage points beneath that. Football Outsiders’ DVOA model gives the Saints a 25.8% chance to win the Super Bowl, and the rest are even lower. For this reason, I’m not going to be buying the Saints at these odds, despite believing the Saints have the best chance at winning the whole thing. The Rams, Bears, Cowboys, and Texans are fades as well based off the simulations.
The Chiefs appear to be the best bet on the table based on the simulators, and it’s not even close. The DVOA model and the Sports Line model give the AFC’s No. 1 seed 25% and 23% odds of winning respectfully, but the betting markets imply just 18.2% odds. Assuming these models are predictive, that’s a +EV bet.
The models and the implied Vegas odds are pretty similar for the remaining teams, but here are a few other +EV bets. The Sports Line model gives the Patriots 2% more credit than Vegas, the FiveThirtyEight model gives the Eagles 2% more credit, the DVOA models gives the Colts 1% more credit, and then there’s the Ravens. The DVOA model doesn’t like the Ravens as much as Vegas, but the Sports Line and FiveThirtyEight models are more bullish. With the Ravens looking like a new team with Lamar Jackson, it’s not surprising that models have more variance when projecting the AFC’s No. 4 seed.
Favorite Super Bowl Bet
The Kansas City Chiefs (+400 to win the Super Bowl)
The two obvious advantages for the Chiefs (9-6-1 ATS) are the bye week and the home field advantage. While both are factored into the odds, I’m skeptical they’re factored in enough. Arrowhead Stadium is among the loudest and toughest places to play, and it’s going to be even crazier in January as the No. 1 seed. Two of the three teams eligible to play the Chiefs in the divisional round -- the Ravens (4), Chargers (5), and Colts (6) -- don't play in cold environments often, and Weather.com projects the temperature to be in the low 40's when the Chiefs play next. That makes the home field advantage greater.
The Chiefs’ offense has been light years ahead of the other teams according to DVOA, and it’s pretty obvious while watching the games. There are very few answers to Tyreek Hill’s speed, especially when Travis Kelce is a mismatch both underneath and downfield. With the Super Bowl being played indoors at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the downfield shots coming from Patrick Mahomes’ golden arm will be on full display.
The Chiefs’ defense has been bad this year -- they are No. 26 according to DVOA -- but it’s not nearly as bad as how good the offense has been; Only the Saints have a better point differential this season (151 to 144). One reason why the models give the Chiefs better odds than the Vegas odds is the market’s willingness to bet on the “defense wins championships” narrative. I, of course, want to fade as many narratives as possible when there is numerical evidence to counter the narrative.
Lastly, the Chiefs could get two key players back after the bye week. Sammy Watkins (foot) has been out since Week 11, but the Chiefs never placed him on injured reserve suggesting he will be making a return. Perhaps a more impactful player to the Chiefs based on roster construction, Eric Berry (heel) is expected to play after the first-round bye. Each player is worth about 0.25 to 0.5 points to the spread, so getting them back would be a nice bonus for picking up a Chiefs futures bet early.
Where I’m nervous: The Chiefs are 2-4 against playoff teams, but three of the four losses were close ones on the road and the Chiefs now have home field advantage. … Patrick Mahomes is already a top-5 quarterback in the NFL, but he has zero playoff experience. … Andy Reid has also been a disaster in the playoffs, but that’s also why we are getting a discount on the odds. Once again, that’s a narrative that is likely just small sample variance.
Honorable Mentions: The Seattle Seahawks (+2500) and the Indianapolis Colts (+3000).