With one last breach unto the NFL matchups, AFC playoff betting standings are still up in the air. The sportsbook is still waiting on NFL news for what teams might be motivated to play starters or backups. Most of the AFC will be scoreboard watching on Sunday, and in-game and pre-kickoff sports betting will hit a frenzy like a bunch of NFL teams truly will be playing like there’s no tomorrow.
Here is a look at the latest Super Bowl Odds
AFC Playoff Betting Picture Breakdown
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have nothing left to prove to you mere mortals. They’ve dominated the AFC West, locked up the top seed in the conference, and flat out plan to rest starters Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"There's certain guys that will have an opportunity to rest.
I've done that in the past. I've rested players, yes."
— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) December 28, 2020
Expect to see a heavily deflated line in favor of the Chiefs once this NFL matchup gets posted.
Before the odds went down prior to Monday night’s game, the Chiefs were -150 to win the AFC Conference championship game.
Once the leader for the season’s MVP, Patrick Mahomes took a bit of a hit in popularity over the past couple of weeks to a surging Aaron Rodgers. Mahomes is now priced at +150 to win the regular-season award. His chances aren’t aided by a probably shortened game and Rodgers on the other side in need of a win.
After clinching the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills celebrated by boat racing the long-dominant New England Patriots, putting them in the lead for the second seed in the AFC. They hold the tiebreaker over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That can clinch that secondary home-field advantage with a win this Sunday over the Miami Dolphins.
We’re still waiting for odds on that game to be posted. Expect the Bills to be favored by around a field goal. They’re up against a Dolphins team looking to secure their post-season place. While Miami could still earn a playoff seed with a loss in this game, so too could the Bills. For the Bills, the difference between a win and a loss here depends entirely on what happens to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
An in-game NFL betting opportunity to be aware of: If the Bills are scoreboard watching, and the Steelers collapse in their game against the Cleveland Browns (kicking off at the same time) the Bills have nothing to play for. Conversely, if the Steelers appear as if they’ll defeat Cleveland, the Bills may have more motivation.
The NFL provided some great evidence on Sunday against conspiracy theories that claim they orchestrate outcomes. If there was a game in which a playoff narrative was ruined, it was the New York Jets beating the Cleveland Browns, giving the Pittsburgh Steelers the division title.
Now the Steelers can do no worse than the third seed in the conference. That’s even if they sleepwalk through their season finale against the Browns. (Had the Browns beat the Jets, this game could have represented the stand-alone fight for the division title.) Along with the Steelers’ upsetting run offense, this explains why Pittsburgh is a huge underdog to the Browns this Sunday, catching nearly a touchdown.
As noted above with the Bills, if Buffalo is commanding their game, the Steelers may have even less motivation. If the Bills are losing to the Dolphins, it could motivate the Steelers to win and clinch that second seed. (The net result of which would be the right to host, presumably, the Bills in a later playoff round — instead of the other way around.) If memory serves, coach Mike Tomlin has, in the past, shut in-house scoreboards off in circumstances like these.
The Steelers already added intrigue as they decided to rest Ben Roethlisberger against the Browns. That means Mason Rudolph starts against Myles Garrett and the Cleveland team that had an ugly incident happen with the quarterback in November 2019.
The Tennessee Titans can still make the playoffs even with a loss in their upcoming game against the Houston Texans. The sportsbook has them as a 7½-point favorite, which reflects Tennessee’s desire to win. They would need help getting in with a loss.
This is one of the few situations in which early games will have an effect on later ones: If any of Baltimore, Cleveland or Miami lose, that clinches a playoff spot for the Titans (even if they don’t win their later game). The only way for the Titans to be eliminated is for them to lose and have all three of those teams (Ravens, Browns, Dolphins) win.
That said, the motivation for Tennessee to win gives them the right to host at least one playoff game. A loss leaves their seeding up to whichever one of those other teams loses. Effectively it’s random. However, there’s a very good chance they already have a playoff berth by the time their game kicks off.
Facing off against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday, the Miami Dolphins could also lose their way into the postseason. A win gives them the #5 seed and a trip to play the winner of the AFC South. A loss would leave them watching the scoreboard to see if Baltimore or Cleveland were losing. Either of which would bump them into the playoffs. Failing that, they could then become the biggest Jacksonville fans in the world. That’s as an Indianapolis loss would also get them there.
If Cleveland routs the Steelers on Sunday, and the Bills see they have nothing to play for, there’s also an outside chance the Dolphins play a demotivated Buffalo team in the second half.
The Baltimore Ravens face a similar scenario in which a win earns them a wild-card seed, and the outcome of other games dictate which one that will be. That’s a good part of the reason they’re laying 11½ points against their season-finale opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s also possible Baltimore backs their way into a wild card with a loss. They too could be scoreboard watching early Sunday, since a Browns’ loss gives them a playoff berth. If that doesn’t happen, they too could go on to become the biggest Jacksonville Jaguars fans too, since a Colts’ loss would also give them a wild card.
The likelier scenario of a Ravens’ win would give them no worse than the #6 seed. Which would improve to the #5 seed if Miami loses.
Now here’s where AFC playoff betting gets tricky.
The Cleveland Browns still control their destiny to earn that playoff spot to end their 18-year long drought. Win and they’re in. That’s most likely as the #7 seed, but some permutations could also have them at #5 or #6. They catch a big break with news Mike Tomlin is resting the Steelers’ QB, Roethlisberger.
It gets messy if they lose. In that case, their ticket to the postseason rests with the Jacksonville Jaguars (who suddenly have a good chunk of the AFC rooting for them) beating Indianapolis. They also have one other path.
Let’s say the Dolphins beat the Bills and the Ravens beat the Bengals in the early games. And, at the same time, the Browns choke and lose to the Steelers. In that case, the Browns have two outs: the Colts lose to the Jaguars (as noted just above) OR a Texans’ win over the Titans.
In other words, a losing Browns team will be in front of a TV postgame cheering on Jacksonville or maybe Houston. Hey, the Jaguars are catching two touchdowns, so maybe the Texans as 7½-point underdogs is a better desperation hope.
The Indianapolis Colts are the team on the outside looking in. But despite being the only AFC team with postseason hopes that still needs other teams’ assistance, they could still leapfrog into hosting a postseason game.
Their matchup against the Jaguars (possibly much anticipated by a number of other teams) kicks off in the late slot at the same time as the Tennessee-Houston match. The two games are correlated because the Titans clinch the division with a win, where the Colts would need both to win and have the Titans lose in order to earn the AFC South title and its #4 seed.
All of the potential interest in cheering on the Jaguars could be for naught if Baltimore, Cleveland, and Miami all win. Odds are pretty heavily in favor of one of those three losing. But, if they don’t, the only path the Colts would have to the playoffs would be through that AFC South title.
Should it play out one of the Ravens, Browns, or Dolphins do lose, expect the Colts’ point spread against the league’s officially worst team, the future London Jaguars, to go up above two touchdowns when planning your AFC playoff betting picks.