Who’s the best team in the NFC?
It’s quite a conundrum because so many playoff contenders are currently evenly matched. VSiN’s Jonathan Von Tobel and Matt Youmans discussed this topic earlier this week on “The Edge.” Is there a way to separate the Packers from the Eagles…from the Seahawks…from the Vikings…etc…?
One way to take a crack at it is through a good-faith effort creating “market” Power Ratings. You regulars know we’ve presented these before. Jonathan and I use current point spreads (adjusting three points for home field advantage) to build a scale that represents how the sum “intelligence” of betting markets would rate the teams. It’s kind of like asking every sports bettor in the world what they think, and summarizing the vote.
Here’s how we have the NFC this week…
▪ NFC: Rams 84, Packers 83, Eagles 83, Cowboys 83, Vikings 83, Seahawks 83, 49ers 83, Bears 82, Saints (Bridgewater) 82, Panthers (Allen) 81, Lions 80, Falcons 79, Buccaneers 79, Giants 76, Cardinals 74, Redskins 71.
The Rams stay on top because they keep covering spreads! Yes, the defending NFC champs have been a disappointment. They don’t look like a Super Bowl team at the moment. Yet, they’re 4-1 ATS (an 80% cover rate), and are laying -3.5 points to undefeated NFC West leader San Francisco this Sunday.
If sharps would bet the Rams at -3, which is safe to deduce given early-week betting, the Rams need to go one rung higher than the Niners on the ladder. Current (and recent) point spreads don’t point to another obvious choice to sit immediately beside them.
What about the New Orleans Saints? They’ve been winning games despite the loss of Drew Brees. Last week vs. Tampa Bay was the first time the offense looked great doing so. New Orleans outgained Tampa Bay 457-252 on 6.8 to 4.6 yards-per-play. But, the market only had them laying a field goal in the Superdome. And, “the Saints with Bridgewater” were priced clearly below Dallas and Seattle the prior two weeks.
VSiN is confident in saying that “the Saints with Brees” will jump to the top of the NFC ladder when the future Hall-of-Famer is ready to go. That’s where they were at the beginning of the season. No reason for the market to anticipate a fall from grace. We’ll probably see them at 86, maybe 87 when Brees comes back.
Because Brees is expected to return in time to make a championship run…and because Bridgewater’s done such a great job of maintaining potential seed positioning…the Westgate in Las Vegas still has New Orleans as the top NFC team on its Super Bowl futures board.
▪ Westgate Super Bowl Odds: Patriots 2/1, Chiefs 5/1, Saints 8/1, Packers 14/1, Eagles 16/1, Cowboys 16/1, Seattle 16/1, Rams 20/1, Bears 20/1, Vikings 20/1, Niners 20/1.
That’s right…only two AFC teams in Westgate’s top 10! Nobody looms over the NFC the way New England looms over the AFC. Here are VSiN’s current estimated “market” Power Ratings in that conference…
▪ AFC: Patriots 90, Chiefs (w/injuries) 85, Texans 83, Ravens 82, Bills 81, Colts 81, Titans 80, Jaguars (Minshew) 80, Chargers (w/injuries) 79, Browns 79, Raiders 79, Broncos 79, Steelers (Hodges) 75, Bengals 74, Jets (Darnold) 73, Dolphins 64.
Kansas City is coming off a bad home loss to Indianapolis, a shaky win at Detroit, and a tight home win over Baltimore that looks worse now than it did at the time. They will be a force again when enjoying better health.
Even when losing, young quarterback Gardner Minshew and the Jacksonville Jaguars have impressed in recent weeks. They will provide this Sunday’s test for Bridgewater and the Saints (CBS, noon). Jacksonville will likely close around a -1 or -1.5-point favorite (which is why we have the Power Ratings at Saints 82, Jags 80). Though, game-day money could come in on the hot Saints to flip the favorite.
At 4-1 straight up (3-2 ATS), the Saints are still on pace to clear their market-assessed Regular Season Win Total of 10 victories. Jacksonville is 2-3 straight up (3-2 ATS), and should make a run at its lower projection of 7.5 wins.
▪ Carolina still trails New Orleans by a game in the NFC South standings (3-2 straight up and ATS) after beating Minshew and the Jags 34-27 last week. Jacksonville moved the ball better (507-445 yardage edge) but lost the turnover category 3-0. This Sunday, Carolina will likely close as a -2 to -2.5-point favorite over divisional rival Tampa Bay (2-3 straight up and ATS) in an early Sunday kick in London, England.
▪ Division straggler Atlanta may be out of the playoff picture after a horrible start (1-4 straight up and ATS). Last week’s 53-32 loss was a historic low point defensively. Atlanta allowed 592 total yards and six touchdowns on drives of 60 yards or more. The Falcons will likely close as a -2 to -2.5 point favorite on the road at inexperienced Arizona.
▪ A bad week all around for the city of Atlanta. The Braves were humiliated this past Wednesday night by the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of their divisional round playoff. Bettors will have plenty of baseball to handicap in coming days. Saturday brings Game Two of the NLCS, and Game One of the ALCS. Be sure you tune into VSiN on game days for market perspective on the championship chase through the Fall Classic.