As the NFL regular season winds down, it’s time to look ahead to possible playoff results. Of particular interest is speculation on who will be playing for Super Bowl Odds berths in the conference championship games. For the first time, seven teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs.
The team with the best record in each conference will be the top seed and receive a bye in the first round. That’s a significant change from six teams qualifying with the top two seeds receiving a bye. It adds a ton more importance to having the best record in the conference, with that team getting a week off and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With NFL futures odds, online betting is available for those who make it to Tampa for Super Bowl LV. In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers share the best record at 11-1. They both lead the 9-3 Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns by two games. The Steelers hold the tiebreaker edge over the Chiefs due to an 8-0 conference record.
The 10-2 New Orleans Saints are on top of the NFC by themselves, followed by Green Bay at 9-3 and the Los Angeles Rams at 9-4. The Saints have been able to continue winning despite a rib injury to starting quarterback Drew Brees. The NFL’s career passing leader could return as soon as December 15, when his team hosts the Chiefs.
Most sportsbooks have Super Bowl LV odds posted on which team will emerge from the conference title games and make it to Tampa. At time of writing, even though the Chiefs have no guarantee of home-field advantage, they are big favorites at -125. The Steelers are next at +300, followed by the Bills at +700.
The Ravens are currently outside of the top seven teams in the AFC but are still in fourth place in the betting odds at +1100. They were the betting favorites to win the conference in preseason futures wagering, but at 7-5, they’ve dropped as the season has progressed.
In the NFC, the Saints lead the way with odds of +175, with the Packers right behind them at +325. The Rams have won two in a row and have jumped up to a close third at +350. The 8-4 Seahawks and 7-5 Buccaneers are both at +600 with no other NFC team better than +2200. With the growth of sportsbooks, online betting is more convenient than ever.
Fight for the Top Seed
The bye that comes with the top seeding might be more critical than the home-field advantage, particularly in a season with limited or no fan attendance. Getting to the conference championship game may hinge on having that week off to rest up following the regular season. In the past 45 seasons, 25 Super Bowls have been won by one of the two conference winners.
Although it might look like the AFC’s top seed will either be Pittsburgh or Kansas City, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns still have a say in the matter. Among the top four AFC teams, the Steelers and Bills have the most challenging schedules. The Bills just beat the Steelers on December 13th, and they could very well meet again next month.
The Browns have the easiest slate and finish with what could be a crucial game against the Steelers. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they’re behind in all the tiebreakers with the other three top seed contenders. The Steelers are undefeated in the division and would need to lose to the 2-9-1 Bengals to give the Browns much life in a head to head tie with Pittsburgh.
A pivotal game for both conferences will be the Saints vs Chiefs Week 15 matchup in Kansas City. Not only will it be a possible Super Bowl LV preview, but the winner will also have cleared a significant hurdle on its way to the top seed. The Chiefs end the season with games against the 4-8 Falcons and the 3-9 Chargers. Neither figure to give Kansas City much cause for concern.
In the NFC, all three top contenders each have only one game remaining against a team with a winning record. Week 16 has Green Bay taking on 8-4 Tennessee, which is battling for the AFC South lead and the Rams face 8-4 Seattle in a critical game for the top spot in the NFC West.
Down the Stretch
The Steelers’ schedule and their inability to put teams away will hurt their chances to beat out the Chiefs in the AFC. Kansas City is the most complete team in the NFL with a very good defense to complement their explosive offense.
Behind the Chiefs, it could be a logjam to determine who meets them in the AFC Championship game. The Browns and Dolphins are hot, the Steelers are still dangerous, the Bills can play with anyone, and the Colts can play very tough defense. In the end, Roethlisberger’s experience at quarterback for the Steelers will likely be the difference.
In the NFC, the Saints have shown how good they are by continuing to pile up victories without the services of Brees. However, their 37-30 loss to the Packers in Week 3 could end up being the difference if the Saints can’t get by the Chiefs and run the table. Green Bay’s favorable schedule could give them the top seed, but they will still need to get past the Saints in the NFC title game.
There are a ton of sports betting milestones left in the National Football League! Enjoy it!