The NFL regular season is almost here and the race for Super Bowl LVI will begin.
There are a handful of contenders for the crown this season, and odds attached to every team at BetMGM. Which team has the best odds to win it all? Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab and Scott Pianowski give their picks for the Super Bowl, along with best bets for the division winners this season (previous breakdowns include NFC season win totals, AFC season win totals and our best bets for player awards):
What's your best Super Bowl bet?
FS: The longer the summer has gone on, the more invested I've become in the Buffalo Bills. This team was really good late last season, winning most of its games by double digits, got some playoff experience and even a playoff disappointment to use for fuel. They're going to have a high-level offense and I think the defense is going to play like it did in 2018 and 2019, when it was a top-10 unit. I'm on them +1100 to win it all and will be watching more Bills games than anyone outside Buffalo.
SP: The Browns (+1600) and Chargers (+3000) are wooing me. Both franchises seemed snakebitten for so long, but the Browns finally got the coach right, and the Chargers finally got the quarterback right. What if Baker Mayfield is ready for his close up? Cleveland has everything else you'd want in a contender. The Browns weren't over their skis at Kansas City last January, though the class ultimately won in the end. Justin Herbert's special rookie season came despite a lousy offensive line (since upgraded) and a spotty coaching staff (likely upgraded). This is the Chargers season we've been waiting for.
I'll bet on both Cleveland and the LAC to win the conference and to win the whole ball of wax.
FS: I have a Chargers ticket, for what seems like the 10th straight season. Their talent is enticing, as always, and the odds are good. I also have a Colts ticket at +3500, and I regret that one a bit. They had such a bad August. Hopefully they used up all their bad news in the preseason.
Do you have an AFC division bet you like most?
FS: I'd lean to the Bills (-150) in the AFC East, though I understand the Dolphins (+325) and Patriots (+350) have much better value. I was going to fade the Browns hype and take the Ravens at +115, but I wish Baltimore was healthier coming into the season. Of course I'm on the Colts +150 to win the AFC South. It's probably crazy but Chargers +450 to win the AFC West is my best play. I'll pick the Chiefs but when you include the odds, the Chargers look tempting. I think they'll be in the race until December, then will just need to catch a couple breaks to cash a nice ticket.
SP: Predictably, I'm punching the Browns and Chargers again. Given Baltimore's injury summer, I view Cleveland as the de-facto AFC North favorite, even as the odds don't reflect it. And the Chargers are good value in the AFC West, with Kansas City suffocating that betting market. The Raiders are drawing dead, and the Broncos might as well be given the coaching staff.
I give New England a puncher's chance in the AFC East. Bill Belichick was coaching with his hands tied last year; he's back to a defense with teeth. Mac Jones isn't the buzziest of the rookie QBs, but it wasn't that long ago we thought he might be headed to San Francisco with the No. 3 pick. The skill talent is ordinary, but the line is excellent, the coaching proven. Buffalo would need to hit potholes, but this is the NFL — potholes are everywhere.
I wanted to back Indy two months ago, but I've lost my nerve on Carson Wentz. I'm not sure even Frank Reich can turn around his past protege. Not that the Colts will be a mess, the roster is top deep. But if I don't trust the quarterback, I can't proactively write the ticket.
What division bets do you like in the NFC?
FS: I'll end up with an opinion on every division but the NFC South, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are too chalky to bet (-190) but I can't make a decent argument for anyone else. I think the Minnesota Vikings at +250 have good enough odds to take a shot on them in the NFC North. Then we get to my two favorite division bets this season: San Francisco 49ers to win the West at +190 and Washington to win the East at +220. San Francisco has the NFL's easiest schedule this season and they're set up well to have a big season, especially when Trey Lance takes over. Washington is simply the team I trust most in that division. They have the best coach in the NFC East and a defense that could be the best in the NFL.
SP: I was pitching the Vikings two months ago, figuring Mike Zimmer will at least partially fix the defense and the Packers are regression candidates. But given the state of vax with the Vikings, I've pulled back. I don't have any stake in that division, or the NFC South — though if I can find a good "clinch early" prop on the Buccaneers, I might take it. Everybody's back. Tom Brady won't allow complacency. How can you cover all of that skill talent? The defense might be a monster, too.
The WFT should be favored in the NFC East, but Dallas is forever a public team (and a bit of a tease, at that). The Giants are rebuilding and still might not have their quarterback answer. Jalen Hurts has a wide range of outcomes, which makes me nervous about Philly. Washington hired Ron Rivera at the perfect time, flipped the locker-room culture, stocked up on skill talent. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a YOLO quarterback, but he's a notable step forward from the mess they had last year. And the offense is loaded with playmakers I love.
The NFC West is the best division in football. I consider the Niners and Rams inside-track Super Bowl contenders, and Seattle has a plausible case if a few things break right (OC Shane Waldron comes at just the right time). I can't get behind Arizona until Kliff Kingsbury gives me a reason to trust him. Kyle Murray also needs to step forward as a passer.
Whoever is the third choice in the NFC West, that's your value. Though I can't say your Niners tickets are wrong. Kyle Shanahan got an out-of-division schedule so weak, it would make Jim Boeheim blush.