This time of the year when the NFL playoffs are starting creates a lot of great value for smart bettors who know how to hedge and are willing to take a few gambles that can pay off relatively quickly for the futures market. The current betting odds to win an AFC Championship, NFC Championship or the 2019 Super Bowl can be interesting to study, and thanks to our friends at VSIN they do a great job of painting the general picture of expectations for favorites and longshots. You can see below how current numbers from William Hill (percentage equivalents in parenthesis) give the best chances to bye teams who had better records this season than the wild cards with only one anomaly in the futures, even in a season with dangerous floaters all over both conference brackets.

New Orleans Saints +170 (37%)
LA Rams 5/1 (17%)
Kansas City Chiefs 5/1 (17%)
New England Patriots +650 (13%)

There’s a 100% certainty that somebody’s going to win the Super Bowl and it’s a Zero Sum Game where there is only one winner. The four bye teams gobble up 84% of the win expectation all by themselves. The value however comes in where you can wager on a wild card team who can get past the first round with the following betting odds:

Chicago Bears 8/1 (11%)
LA Chargers 15/1 (6%)
Baltimore Ravens 18/1 (5%)
Dallas Cowboys 25/1 (4%)
Seattle Seahawks 25/1 (4%)
Houston Texans 25/1 (4%)
Indianapolis Colts 28/1 (3%)
Philadelphia Eagles 30/1 (3%)

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The dangerous dozen add up to 124% in win expectation. Sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge but if you like the Cowboys or Texans at a 25 to 1 futures a $3,000 bet and then you can hedge the rest of the way betting against them with a $75,000 pay off if they win you are in prime position to cash in.

Now the rest from VSIN’s newsletter: A minor head scratcher in there. The Chargers pay off worse than the Ravens, even though the Chargers are underdogs head-to-head with the Ravens Sunday. Sports books are known to shade “current” futures prices based on prior exposure. Nothing way out of whack.

What IS out of whack is the fact that bettors would earn a much better return by backing their preferred teams on a “rolling parlay” through the postseason rather than betting futures prices. Let’s say you believe that Indianapolis has a great chance to shock the world as a wild-card team running the table. And that 28/1 return appeals to you because it seems like a jackpot. Risk $100, win $2800. Dream payoff!

Not really. If you bet Indianapolis on the money line this week to beat the Texans (say, risking that same $100 to start things off), then re-invest your return each week through that hoped-for four-game sweep through Houston, Kansas City, New England, and probably New Orleans in the Super Bowl…you’d end up with something closer to $4500 at the end. Though 28/1 looks great, 45/1 is even better.

Also, the “rolling parlay” approach gives you more flexibility. Let’s say Andrew Luck suffers a season-ending injury in the final minutes of a victory. Any futures tickets would be virtually dead. You can stop right there and pocket your profit. Sequential bettors can adjust to any new information as it becomes available. If you’re the conservative type, you can also choose to lock in a profit along the way. That lowers your ceiling, but makes it more likely that you’ll actually pocket some sort of return on your longshot.

Bottom line, if there’s a team that appeals to you on the futures board, you’re much more likely to be better off backing that team on the money line week-by-week. If you do it right, same exposure…better return.

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