August is here and that means that NFL training camps are shutting down, final cuts are being made and the NFL will be back in business in just one week! And with the MLB season slowly withering down to its conclusion, there is no better time than the present than to start diving into some NFL division futures. That’s precisely what I’ll be breaking down a little bit today and I’m starting by grouping two divisions together in the AFC that should see minimal competition (barring significant injuries) from those trying to dethrone last year’s winners.
Quick Division Futures Picks
AFC East Odds: New England (-260), Miami (+600), New York (+850), Buffalo (+1000)
AFC West Odds: Denver (-300), Kansas City (+650), San Diego (+650), Oakland (+2500)
Denver and New England are the two biggest favorites (Carbon Sports will also give you a $100 FREE BET to prove it) to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, so it’s no surprise to see them as heavy chalk to win their divisions. There is a strong chance that one (or both) end up with a first round bye when the playoffs begin and given that both teams were division winners a year ago they’ll have some stiff competition to earn those spots.
For New England and the rest of the AFC East, have the NFC North and AFC West on their schedules so we will see another Brady/Manning showdown in Week 9 (we would have anyways since division winners play each other the next season).
But the AFC West is actually much deeper than the AFC East, and the NFC North is full of good teams (Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay), so it’s going to be near impossible for teams like Miami, New York and Buffalo to make up ground on the Pats in these non-division games.
Buffalo is in the 2nd year of a rebuild with QB E.J Manuel, and the Jets aren’t that much further ahead although they have made some noise with some free-agent signings. Miami is the most talented team of the trio chasing New England and have the continuity on their roster to make some noise if they get a couple of bounces.
But the AFC East is New England’s for the taking as they’ve got the best team in the division by far and should claim it with a few weeks left. New England’s success does hinge on Tom Brady’s health though and should he miss significant time with an injury, the Pats could be in some trouble. At -260 though, there isn’t much value in taking them now, especially with a road game @ Miami Week 1. If New England were to lose that, the odds should come down quite a bit on the Pats and it would be then that I would pounce.
In Denver’s case, many will remember how the Chiefs pushed them all season last year and how deep the Chargers went into the playoffs and look for a reason to play both of those teams. Health concerns with Manning are a little more worrisome than with Brady since Manning’s got that neck problem, but John Elway and the Broncos management went out in the off-season and upgraded at positions of weakness to make another run at the big game.
A big reason why the Chiefs had such a good record and why the Chargers even got into the playoffs last year, was because of the soft schedule the entire AFC West had. That won’t be the case in 2014 with the AFC East and NFC West on the docket. KC will regress quite a bit with a much tougher slate of games to go through, Oakland doesn’t have a chance, and San Diego will likely tread around that .500 mark again. That won’t be good enough to beat Denver in this division unless Manning is lost, and even then I think the Broncos have too many playmakers elsewhere to not take down this crown.