Thursday sees the start of the NFL 2017 and for those looking to have a bet now’s the time to start thinking about where your pre-season money is going. As ever, we at Intense Gambling will do all we can to assist. Let’s start by taking a look at each team on a division-by-division basis (each team’s Bovada’s odds on winning Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis in brackets):
New England Patriots (+325)
Miami Dolphins (+7500)
Buffalo Bills (+15000)
New York Jets (+30000)
The Patriots have won the AFC East for the last eight seasons – an NFL record for consecutive divisional titles – and there is little to suggest that streak will end this season. In the AFC East the defending Super Bowl champions don’t appear to have much competition.
The Jets will likely suffer for not having either a reliable quarterback or number one receiver, while the Bills are in the process of rebuilding. The Dolphins, New England’s biggest challengers, also have plenty of question marks about their offence heading into the new season, especially after losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the season with a knee injury.
Miami signed Jay Cutler to replace Tannehill and he has looked good in pre-season but his tendency to offer up turnovers will be tested once it all starts for real.
The Patriots had their own major injury to contend with this pre-season when wide receiver Julian Edelman tore his ACL but they still have Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as head coach; the perfect pair to lead the Patriots through any adversity.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1000)
Baltimore Ravens (+5000)
Cincinnati Bengals (+6600)
Cleveland Browns (+30000)
The Steelers are in pole position here having won the AFC North in two of the last three seasons. For them another divisional title beckons in 2017 and possibly more. They have, on paper, the most talented offense in the division; the only question marks are around them possibly not having a defence to match.
The Ravens are likely to be Pittsburgh’s biggest challengers and have perhaps the best defence in the division but as an offensive unit they have struggled in pre-season without injured quarterback Joe Flacco. If they can get him on the field and healthy they can push the Steelers all the way.
For their part, the Browns have improved significantly from a lowly base but don’t look yet ready to compete again for a play-off spot. The Bengals too are without momentum although their odds don’t necessarily reflect this.
Houston Texans (+2800)
Indianapolis Colts (+4000)
Tennessee Titans (+4000)
Jacksonville Jaguars (+10000)
The Titans are the only team in this division without any real question marks over their quarterback position heading into the 2017 season and that is a definite advantage.
For the Colts, quarterback Andrew Luck has not played, or even trained, this summer while recovering from off-season surgery although they still hope to have him for the season opener against the Rams. But even a healthy Luck may not be able to compensate for a roster devoid of any genuine flair or talent.
The Jaguars meanwhile are struggling to find a number one quarterback, while the Texans have Tom Savage keeping the position warm just until rookie Deshaun Watson is ready to take over on a permanent basis.
The Titans however have Marcus Mariota, who threw 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last season despite missing the final game of the season because of a broken leg. He has recovered quickly from that injury and could lead the Titans to their first divisional title since 2008.
Oakland Raiders (+1000)
Kansas City Chiefs (+2500)
Denver Broncos (+2800)
Los Angeles Chargers (+5000)
This is regarded as the best and most competitive in football and is definitely the toughest to call. The Chiefs and Raiders were both 12-4 last season with the Chiefs winning a tiebreaker for the divisional title. This time round it could quite easily turn into a four-way fight for the title and a direct route to the play-offs.
Last year the Raiders were on track to win the division until quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg in the regular season’s penultimate game. They then lost their regular-season finale to the Broncos while the Chiefs beat the Chargers to claim the divisional crown.
But with a healthy Carr back, the Raiders will feel they have some unfinished business. First of all they must hold off the Chiefs for the divisional title, but next in their sights will be the Patriots who they will try to unseat as AFC champions.
Dallas Cowboys (+1400)
New York Giants (+1600)
Philadelphia Eagles (+4000)
Washington Redskins (+6600)
The Cowboys went 13-3 to take this division last season but it wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds. All three of their regular-season losses came within this division, including both games to the 11-5 New York Giants.
But that’s to be expected in the one of the most competitive, high-profile divisions in the NFL. And now Dallas is now trying to do something no other team in the East has done since the Eagles in 2004 — which is win back-to-back divisional championships.
Since 2011, when the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, all four teams have claimed the title, with Dallas and Washington winning two each. Will this chopping and changing continue, or can the Cowboys claim it again? It seems sure to be one that will capture the football watching public’s imagination.
Green Bay Packers (+900)
Minnesota Vikings (+3300)
Detroit Lions (+5000)
Chicago Bears (+15000)
With Aaron Rodgers as QB, who’s won five of the last six divisional titles, even if the Packers are not the Pack of old they still look good enough to win this division, especially with Kevin King providing thrust in the secondary. Yet with Matthew Stafford at the helm of the Lions, they too have a quality quarterback to lead them through the season; the only question being does he have the same level of team support that Rogers has.
Ironically, if Stafford had been healthy at the end of last season, the Lions might have been good enough to pip the Packers to the divisional title but this time round they need to solve the problems with their defensive live in order to be competitive. They’ve added Jarrad Davis but that may not be enough.
Chicago are, in truth, slowly improving but QB Mitch Trubisky will need at least a year to adapt and make them a force, while Minnesota – who on the face of it appear competitive – will need to fill the void left by the injured Teddy Bridgewater to justify their place as second-favourites in the division.
Atlanta Falcons (+1200)
Carolina Panthers (+2800)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3300)
New Orleans Saints (+5000)
The Falcons are looking to use the bounce from January’s 28-3 Super Bowl lead as fuel for the 2017 season, as opposed to be it being yet another hurdle of disappointment to overcome. And they will need to because every team in this division is equipped to challenge them.
Much will depend on how the Falcons are able to adapt to the ideas of their new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, who has taken over from Kyle Shanahan – now head coach of the 49ers. QB Matt Ryan will need to shake off an under-par pre-season, and they will hope to hit the ground running when the season begins.
The Buccaneers look well placed to challenge and are regarded as a team on the up. All eyes will now be on QB Jameis Winston, now they have provided him with a couple more targets in DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard.
After a Super Bowl loss of their own in 2015, the Panthers looked a shadow of that team last season but Cam Newton now has a new arsenal of offensive weapons surrounding him, and their defence still remains solid. 2017 could be a good one for them. For the Saints it looks likely to be a tough one and they still rely heavily on the passing of veteran QB Drew Brees.
Seattle Seahawks (+1200)
Arizona Cardinals (+3300)
Los Angeles Rams (+20000)
San Francisco 49ers (+30000)
While the AFC West is considered one of the most balanced divisions in the NFL, the same cannot be said of the NFC West. For three of the last four seasons it’s a division that has belonged to the Seahawks and despite a changed offensive line that has already lost tackle George Fant, they should comfortably retain the divisional title again in 2017.
The Cardinals are likely to be their closest challengers and will be looking to their ageing core of offensive talent, led by 37-year old QB Carson Palmer, to steer them towards a shot at the play-offs.
Meanwhile, the 49ers and Rams will both benefit from the bounce of having new coaches – Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay respectively – but both look to be at least a full season away from being back in play-off contention.
FANCY A BET?
If you’re looking for a decent value bet then the Steelers at +1000 with Bovado to win the whole thing looks a very decent shout; so too the Raiders at identical odds with the same online bookmaker. Both have a chance of end-of-season glory.
The same bookmaker is offering what looks a generous +1800 for the Titans to win the AFC and +1400 for the Panthers to win the NFC; both worthy of consideration.