By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports betting analyst
[Ed. note: Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst and reporter for NESN who has joined FOX Sports as a regular contributor for sports wagering content.]
The NFL betting futures market is about to heat up one last time.
There’s a small moment in time between Week 17 and the beginning of the playoffs when bettors usually make one final push before the games begin to really matter. It’s your last chance to get a relatively decent futures number on a team to win the Super Bowl.
“There are basically three stages to futures betting,” Circa Sports sportsbook manager Chris Bennett told FOX Sports. “You first put the odds out a full year in advance. From that point up until the month of the regular season, it’s fairly slow. From a month out to the season opener, it’s the Wild West.”
Things generally slow down after the first six weeks of the regular season when the best teams rise and their respective prices drop. Remember, Kansas City opened the season as a consensus 6-to-1 favorite to run it back. That price got slashed to 3-to-1 after about a month.
The occasional eyebrow-raiser will seep into the trading room – like a substantial Vikings’ future bet in mid-October – but the future market doesn’t really illuminate again until the playoffs arrive.
“Once you’re actually through Week 17 of the regular season and the playoffs are set and we know the bracket, there’s a lot of activity before those first wild-card games, “Bennett said. “As the playoff games are played, there are obviously fewer teams, so it gets less exciting.”
“It’s justified if you have the bye,” Bennett said of the Chiefs, who have wrapped up the AFC’s lone first-round break. “It’s probably not the worst bet on the board. Their power rating is very high, and they’re going to be more than a field goal favorite to anybody unless there’s an injury to Mahomes or something like that. It’s a three-game parlay with the bye. They’ll be a minimum -250 favorite in all of those games, so it’s not a deflated number.”
A quick parlay calculation validates exactly what Bennett said. A three-teamer with three -250 moneyline favorites pays right around +175.
After Kansas City, the other heavy hitters are Green Bay (+550), New Orleans (+750), Buffalo (+900), Tampa Bay (+1100), Seattle (+1100) and Baltimore (+1300). The longer shots are Pittsburgh (+2500), the L.A. Rams (+2500), Tennessee (+2800), Indianapolis (+3300) and Cleveland (+5500).
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Every sportsbook has different liabilities at their respective future books. Liability builds when a book takes multiple pops on a certain team at a specific price. Some shops were dealing the Raiders at 50-to-1 or higher to win the Super Bowl. If you take a dozen $500 or $1,000 bets at 50-to-1, the liability grows rather quickly.
Raiders fans also love to travel to Las Vegas from California to bet on the Silver and Black, and obviously there was added exposure with the team’s recent relocation to Sin City. You could almost hear the collective cheers from bookies in the desert when the Raiders were finally eliminated last week in that heartbreaking loss to Miami.
“We do have liability on the Saints for the conference, but there’s so much we can do between now and then,” Bennett explained. “Our biggest liabilities were on the Vikings and the Football Team. So with Minnesota eliminated, we just need Washington to fall and our biggest liabilities will be knocked out.
“Somebody bet the Football Team at 300-to-1 with us before the season, and we took another one a few weeks ago,” Bennett reported. “It’s a pretty substantial number and almost guarantees that we would be a loser in the future book. I’m not really nervous about them though, because they don’t have a quarterback.”
I loved the Packers at 10-to-1 to win it all a few weeks ago, but FOX Bet has lowered their odds what with Green Bay’s latest surge plus the potential for them to clinch home field in the NFC this weekend. That’s the biggest challenge when it comes to futures shopping – pegging the right team at the right price.
Bennett still isn’t sure if the Pack are a sure-fire contender or a pretender.
“Can I say they’re both?” he quipped. “They have these stretches where they look like the best team in the league. Look what they just did to Tennessee. [Aaron] Rodgers and [Davante] Adams are such a dynamic combination and seem to be unstoppable. But I can pinpoint several shaky points of this season like that bad loss to the Colts and getting ran over at home by the Vikings. They even let the Lions hang around a few weeks ago without Kenny Golladay. They could win the Super Bowl, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost their first playoff game either.”
One other area of interest in futures betting is the exact Super Bowl matchup market. Our friends at FOX Bet calibrated four hypothetical future matchups:
● Chiefs vs. Packers (+475)
● Chiefs vs. Saints (+565)
● Bills vs. Packers (+1550)
● Bills vs. Saints (+1990)
I just can’t turn away from this blossoming relationship between Rodgers and Matt LaFleur. The Packers quarterback is playing the best football of his career with the best coach he has ever had. They’ve combined to win 26 of 33 games together because LaFleur constantly puts Rodgers in the best possible situations. How’s 44 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 70 percent completion clip for size?
Keying in the Packers with Kansas City (+475) and Buffalo (+1550) could prove to be just what the doctor ordered.
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