Our NFL expert Tommy Newbery gives us his picks for each of the AFC divisions.
AFC North – Baltimore are clear favourites for this division at 13/8. This is due to the terrible pre-season Pittsburgh have gone through. The Steelers (9/4) have lost their starting center and two kickers, along with an added suspension to their second best WR. Cincinnati are third favourites at around 5/2, and I think they miss the playoffs this year for the first time with Andy Dalton under center. Cleveland prop up the betting for the AFC North, and are available at up to 12/1 in places. I will not be having a bet on this divison, as I have no idea how Pittsburgh are going to perform, particularly in the first 6 weeks of the season. Baltimore should win it, but the price is too short for me.
AFC East – This division took a turn last Thursday, with the suspension of Tom Brady being rescinded. New England were as big as 5/6 in places for the division, but since the news are now as short as 8/13 in places. I really like Miami (9/2) this year and think their defence will be solid and Ryan Tannehill is set to have his best season as a pro. The Dolphins aren’t playing the Patriots in the first four weeks, so were not due to benefit from a Brady-less offence, but Buffalo were. This makes the Bills schedule that bit tougher, and despite their defence being great I couldn’t back them at 11/2 to win the division. The NY Jets are the outsiders for the AFC East, and are available at 12/1, which isn’t big enough in my opinion. I think New England will be dangerous this year, no team plays better with a chip on their shoulder than the Belichick/Brady Patriots, and this year could be a 12 – 13 win season. The price of 8/13 is the biggest New England have been in the past few seasons, and I don’t see this being a more difficult season than previous years. Take the Patriots at 8/13.
AFC South – Indianapolis will win this division, but are un-backable at odds of 1/5. You are only ever one missed assignment away from serious injury, so it makes no sense for me to lock up any bankroll on such a short price. Houston will be more of a contender this year than they have the last two, and them featuring on Hard Knocks keeps the Texans fresh in everyone’s minds. They are available at 9/2, but I think they will fall short for the top spot but maybe could grab a playoff spot. The Jaguars and Tennessee are both available to back at 25/1 and like I have said before, this is nowhere near big enough. Both teams will improve, but are still a class below both Houston and the Colts.
AFC West – I cannot touch the Denver Broncos to win the AFC West at 1/2. Peyton Manning is another year older, learning another new offence, and has lost his tight end target, and also WR Wes Welker. Their offence has still looked good in the pre-season, and their defence is set to be great, but 1/2 is too short for me. I look to the Chargers, and have backed them at 7/2 to win the division. The Chargers have locked up Phillip Rivers to a long term contract, and have some real threats in the skill positions. Kanas City are 5/1 for the division, and I think they are limited on what they can do on the offensive side of the ball. The defence will keep them in games, but I don’t think the offence can back them up all that well. Finally the Oakland Raiders are currently 35/1 in places, they have no chance for the division. They will be better though, Derek Carr will be more confident in his second year as a pro, and has a solid offensive line to help him out. The improved targets of Michael Crabtree and rookie Amari Cooper will do no harm either and I think they will win more game than the 3 they managed in 2014.
AFC East – New England – 8/13 (Bet Victor)
AFC West – San Diego – 7/2 (Bet Victor)
Indianapolis – 5/1 (Skybet, each way top two ½ odds) ***
Miami – 14/1 (Bet Victor)
San Diego – 14/1 (Bet Victor)
NY Giants – 20/1 (Skybet, each way top two ½ odds)
** Hedge opportunity. You can back both sides of the market, and guarantee profit.
*** Biggest future of the season for me. Each way rules mean you can get half the odds on the top two. This means as long as the Colts make the AFC Championship game, you are guaranteed half your bet at odds of 5/2. I think they have the best record in the AFC this season, so really means winning one home playoff game, but getting at least 5/2. If they make the Super Bowl, you get a double win, half your stake at 5/2 and half your stake at 5/1.