We are getting to the point where it is difficult to find much value in the futures market. The Los Angeles Rams (-15000), New Orleans Saints (-3300) and New England Patriots (-5000) are all huge favorites to win their respective divisions with three others, the Houston Texans (-1250), Kansas City Chiefs (-600) and Chicago Bears (-600), all trending that way, too.
Depending on your loyalty there might be some value over in the NFC East, where the Philadelphia Eagles (+450) have moved past the Washington Redskins (+600) as the main threat to supplant the Dallas Cowboys (-300) at the top of the division.
There is also a race heating up in the AFC North, where the Pittsburgh Steelers look to hold off a late push by the Baltimore Ravens.
87 percent chance to win NFC East
The Cowboys, fresh off a 13-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints, took sole possession of the NFC East after Philadelphia’s 28-13 win against Washington on Monday night, putting them in control of their own destiny. A win against the Eagles next week nearly locks them into a playoff spot (91 percent chance they win the division if successful) plus gives them a 30 percent chance at the No. 3 seed, making their road through the postseason a little easier.
Their toughest game remaining, against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15, looks much easier after the Jacksonville Jaguars pitched a shutout against them on Sunday, with the Jags needing just six points of their own to secure the win. And the final two games of the season include matchups against the 5-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 4-8 New York Giants.
Green Bay Packers
Preseason over/under: 10 wins
Now: 6-9-1 projected record
On Sunday, Green Bay allowed 20 points to Arizona, a historically bad offense that is scoring a league-low 1.2 points per drive. Hours later, Coach Mike McCarthy was fired.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t deserve much, or any, blame for this mess. The six-time Pro Bowler has thrown for 3,504 yards, 21 touchdowns and just one interception, earning him the third-highest grade this season from the game charters at Pro Football Focus. Instead, blame the roster turnover and injuries that destroyed any chemistry Rodgers had with his offensive teammates.
For example, Jordy Nelson, one of Rodgers' favorite receivers, was released in March. Randall Cobb, the team’s second-most targeted receiver in 2017, has been limited to six games this season. Geronimo Allison was placed on injured reserve in November with a groin injury and tight end Jimmy Graham, in his first year with the team, has combined with Rodgers for a mere 87.5 passer rating.
The good news is that there are still three winnable games on the schedule: Week 14 against the Atlanta Falcons, Week 16 against the New York Jets and Week 17 against the Detroit Lions. The match up against the Chicago Bears in Week 15 will likely be a loss.
Baltimore Ravens, +240 to win AFC North
The Ravens secured a victory against the Falcons on Sunday, edging them closer to the Pittsburgh Steelers for AFC North supremacy. In fact, it’s the Ravens who have the inside track. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Baltimore couples an average offense (2.1 points per drive) with the league’s stingiest defense (1.5 points allowed per game), which only slides to No. 5 after adjusting for strength of schedule, per Football Outsiders.
The Ravens secondary, in particular, has been strong. Marlon Humphrey, Eric Weddle, Anthony Levine Sr. and Tony Jefferson have helped hold opposing quarterbacks to an 83.4 passer rating against, the second-best mark in the NFL this year, with offenses scoring almost two points per game fewer than expected on pass attempts, per TruMedia. Linebacker Za’Darius Smith has been a force as well: 6.5 sacks, 44 total pressures and 16 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2018.
The caveat, notably, is that there’s the lingering question of whether or not the team continues with Lamar Jackson at quarterback or hands the keys to the offense back to Joe Flacco, when he’s again healthy. We’ll assume that they stick with Jackson for now, but betting on the Ravens is probably a bet on their defense more than their offense, anyway.
The edge for the division still lies with the Steelers, they have a 70 percent chance to finish with a better record than the Ravens, but the remaining 30 percent is at least a glimmer of hope for Baltimore, and about equal to the money line odds you get for betting them to win the division.
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