Bookmakers Tab Patriots as Favorites in the AFC

The sportsbooks have spoken: New England is favored to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, offering odds between +350 and +400 for a Super Bowl victory and even-money odds to make it to the big game. The Packers are the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs with odds ranging from +160 to +180.

So is a futures bet of +400 on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl a sound wager? That’s a tricky question.

For that bet to pay off, the Pats would have to have at least a 25% chance of winning the Super Bowl. They should be favored by around six points in the Divisional Round and three or four points in the Conference Championship. That equates to moneylines around -350 and -150 for those games, meaning bookmakers give the Pats about a 73% chance to win their first game and a 60% chance to win in the AFC Title Game. That leaves the Pats with about a 45% shot of representing the AFC in Indianapolis, very close to the even-money odds that Vegas is offering.

However, it is unlikely that the Patriots will be even money or favored in the Super Bowl. It’s more likely that they end up a 3- or 4-point underdog to their most likely Super Bowl opponent (Green Bay) and wouldn’t be much better than even money against any of the other NFC playoff teams unless an unlikely team like the Lions or 49ers knock off the Saints and/or Packers. Given the most likely scenarios, the Patriots odds to win the Super Bowl right now are probably around 18-20%. That would make the +350 line a bad wager and the +400 line firmly in the questionable category.

If you are going to make that bet, you are actually better off betting the New England moneyline in each game and letting your winnings ride until the Super Bowl. In the most likely scenario, your payoff on a $100 wager at -350 in the first round would be around $128, and wagering that amount on an AFC title game moneyline wager at -150 would leave you with around $237. If the Patriots are favored by three or fewer in the Super Bowl, you’d still net close to $400 for a Super Bowl win. If the Pats go into the Super Bowl as a 3-point underdog, your wager would pay out nearly $600. That offers you a payout that is much closer value of the very real possibility of New England hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.

And for what it’s worth, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put a futures bet on the Packers. Their chances of making the Super Bowl are very good, and that wager offers you an effective hedge against a New England loss in the Divisional Round or Conference Championships. For the purposes of score-keeping for my Opening Lines piece, I would add a two-unit bet on Green Bay to win the Super Bowl and double all my bets on all of New England’s games in the playoffs.