In last week’s column, I looked at three popular playoff simulators and compared their results to the current Super Bowl Futures from Vegas, which led me to the Kansas City Chiefs (and to a lesser degree the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks). With new models and new odds for the Divisional Round, it’s time to repeat the process. But before we get there, I want to discuss betting Super Bowl Futures versus the moneyline parlay (betting the same team’s moneyline week after week).
While appearing on the Rotoworld Football Podcast last week, I mentioned that we really should be parlaying a team week to week instead of betting a team’s Super Bowl Future. To show you why, I need to use a parlay calculator and predict what the moneyline would be for future games.
For our example, let’s pick the Indianapolis Colts and use last week’s +3000 Super Bowl Future. If we bet $100 using the Futures bet and the Colts did win the Super Bowl, then we’d profit $3,000. But what would happen if we instead bet the Colts’ moneyline against the Texans in the Wild Card Round, then used the winnings from that game to bet the Colts’ moneyline against the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round, then used the winnings… until the Colts won the Super Bowl?
To find that answer, we need to estimate what the moneyline would be for each game. Here’s what I think: against the Texans (+110), against the Chiefs (+200), in the AFC Championship (+160), and in the Super Bowl (+200). This is when the math kicks in, so hang with me for just a second. … And if you want to earn brownie points, then follow along using this parlay calculator and just add the “Parlay Payout” to the “Bet Amount” for each week below, or recreate the spreadsheet in Warren Sharp’s video.
If we bet $100 on the Colts against the Texans (+110), we’d have $210 with a win. If we bet that $210 against the Chiefs (+200), we’d have $630 with another win. If we bet that $630 in the AFC Championship game (+160), we’d have $1,638 with another win. And finally. If we bet that $1,638 in the Super Bowl (+200), we’d have $4,914 with another win. … That’s a $1,914 difference in returns compared to the Super Bowl Future.
But that’s not all. By going game by game, you have more freedom since the money is in your hands after every week and not tied to a futures ticket. If you want that money to bet another game or to use that money for DFS, you are able to. If you feel less optimistic about a certain game and want to make a smaller bet, you are able to. If you want to take your earnings from the first three playoff games to actually go to the Super Bowl, you are able to. These are just other minor advantages of parlaying a team week after week instead of betting the Super Bowl Future.
Now, there are some reasons to bet on Super Bowl Futures, they just aren’t as good of reasons as what we just outlined. The first one is obvious. It’s just so easy to grab a ticket, instead of betting three or four different times. If you don’t want to go the extra mile to make more money, then knock yourself out. Owning a Super Bowl Future ticket is also fun to talk about and it can be memorable to have one printed, especially if they win. If my USC Trojans can ever figure their football program out, I’d surely want to have a National Championship Futures Ticket, and hopefully Kliff Kingsbury can help make that happen for me. Lastly, there are some scenarios where a Super Bowl Futures ticket can be more profitable than the moneyline parlay. If a team like the Colts play the Eagles in the Super Bowl instead of the Saints or Rams, then my projected +200 moneyline would be way off. The same argument can be made if the Chargers beat the Patriots. But if you go back and do the math in those scenarios, you basically come back to what the current Super Bowl Future is set at. So it still makes sense to parlay from an ROI perspective.
The probability listed above can be calculated here, but it’s simply just converting the Vegas odds into a percentage probability, otherwise known as “implied odds.” The four home teams rightfully have the highest implied odds of winning the Super Bowl, but let’s check to see if three popular playoff simulators agree with the betting markets.
The betting market is still multiple percentage points more bullish on the New Orleans Saints than the playoff simulators, and the same can be said about the Rams, Patriots, and Cowboys. Just not to the same degree. It’s at least interesting that those four teams have some of the biggest fan bases in the NFL, which could explain why Vegas has bumped their odds up.
On the flip side, the Chiefs remain the bet with the most expected value according to the simulators. In fact, the Chiefs are still the only team with all three simulations suggesting to take the Chiefs’ futures bet. Of the three models, the FiveThirtyEight model is the least bullish (20%) but that’s still more than the 18% implied odds. There’s 7% of value according to the DVOA and FPI simulations.
The models and the implied Vegas odds are pretty similar for the remaining teams, but here are a few other +EV bets: The FiveThirtyEight model is slightly more bullish on the Eagles, giving them an 8% chance at winning compared to the team’s 6% implied odds. This one certainly sticks out because the DVOA and FPI models sit all the way down at 3% and 2% respectfully. … The DVOA model has the Colts as a slight 2% +EV bet. … And then the FPI and FiveThirtyEight models meet the Vegas implied odds of the Rams and Chargers respectfully.
Renee Miller (@ReneeMiller01) has an excellent game-by-game breakdown of this week’s slate from a betting perspective, but this is what it looks like using Football Outsiders’ Weighted DVOA: The Chiefs (No. 1) host the Colts (No. 4), who have a better defense but a much worse offense. I’m expecting Mahomes to carve up the Colts’ zone defense as he’s done all season long. … The Saints (No. 2) host the Eagles (No. 16), who have a worse offense and defense than the home team. … The Chargers (No. 3) travel to the Patriots (No. 8), who have a slightly inferior offense and defense. As someone who worked for the Chargers last season, a lot more praise needs to be given to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who is resposible for a lot of the Chargers success. What he did with the Xs and Os last week to stop Lamar Jackson was outstanding. Anyways, there is some upset appeal with this Chargers team, who are getting it done outside of California, but traveling to the East Coast back-to-back weeks for early kickoffs is worrisome. Just look at Rich Hribar’s tweet below. … And finally. The Rams (No. 6) host the Cowboys (No. 19), who seem to be celebrating a Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks. The Rams coaching staff and offense are infinitely better than the Cowboys.
We have three teams (IND, LAC, PHI) playing their third straight road game this week. Since 2008, teams on 3-straight road games are 23-37 SU, 27-33 ATS. In the playoffs in that spot, they are 2-8 SU, 3-7 ATS. Last such playoff win was by SF in 2013 at Carolina.
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) January 8, 2019
1. The Kansas City Chiefs (+450 to win the Super Bowl)
From last week’s column: “The two obvious advantages for the Chiefs (9-6-1 ATS) are the bye week and the home field advantage. While both are factored into the odds, I’m skeptical they’re factored in enough. Arrowhead Stadium is among the loudest and toughest places to play, and it’s going to be even crazier in January as the No. 1 seed.
The Chiefs’ offense has been light years ahead of the other teams according to DVOA, and it’s pretty obvious while watching the games. There are very few answers to Tyreek Hill’s speed, especially when Travis Kelce is a mismatch both underneath and downfield. With the Super Bowl being played indoors at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the downfield shots coming from Patrick Mahomes’ golden arm will be on full display.
The Chiefs’ defense has been bad this year — they are No. 26 according to DVOA — but it’s not nearly as bad as how good the offense has been; Only the Saints have a better point differential this season (151 to 144). One reason why the models give the Chiefs better odds than the Vegas odds is the market’s willingness to bet on the “defense wins championships” narrative. I, of course, want to fade as many narratives as possible when there is numerical evidence to counter the narrative.
Lastly, the Chiefs could get two key players back after the bye week. Sammy Watkins (foot) has been out since Week 11, but the Chiefs never placed him on injured reserve suggesting he will be making a return. Perhaps a more impactful player to the Chiefs based on roster construction, Eric Berry (heel) is expected to play after the first-round bye. Each player is worth about 0.25 to 0.5 points to the spread, so getting them back would be a nice bonus for picking up a Chiefs futures bet early.
Where I’m nervous: The Chiefs are 2-4 against playoff teams, but three of the four losses were close ones on the road and the Chiefs now have home field advantage. … Patrick Mahomes is already a top-5 quarterback in the NFL, but he has zero playoff experience. … Andy Reid has also been a disaster in the playoffs, but that’s also why we are getting a discount on the odds. Once again, that’s a narrative that is likely just small sample variance.”
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