The draft is in two days, but I will let you in on a little secret: the draft means very little to oddsmakers as they set futures prices and even game lines months in advance. So prior to knowing who will be getting their names called at what times, let’s project the NFL division winners for the entire league. After all, it’s almost May.
This is assuming that Tom Brady does miss the first four games of the season. (To see how the Patriots odds were affected, click here.) Either way, New England is again the favorite to win this division and are currently the favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Broncos were the main antagonist for the Patriots last year, and they lost both of their quarterbacks and key pieces from their championship defense last season which opens the door for New England to get back to the Super Bowl in 2017.
I was honestly surprised by these results as this division seems much more competitive in my mind. The Steelers won the division over 60% of the time and while that number appeared high, I was more shocked by how low the Ravens number was. Baltimore felt like a good bounce-back pick as much of their poor results from last season could be attributed to injuries, including to quarterback Joe Flacco. But the simulation only has the Ravens getting past the Steelers and Bengals 7.8% of the time. The Browns number on the other hand, well that looks about right.
Once again we have a heavy favorite, this time with the Colts winning over half of the time. The interesting part to me is that there is more than a 15% chance that either the Titans or Jaguars will win the division and host a playoff game (although the Jaguars might have it hosted in London).
Despite their quarterback concerns, the defending champions are still the most likely to win the AFC West this upcoming season. However, it’s more likely that the Chiefs or Raiders wind up taking this division than the Broncos as both teams are trending upward. The Chargers bring up the rear, but at a 9.1% chance, they are still a formidable opponent with Philip Rivers still in the fold.
The Cowboys are the favorites in the NFC East, but as always health is the biggest question. I ran the simulation again with Romo getting hurt and their odds of winning dropped to 4% to win the division. Dallas has the talent to win, but keeping Tony Romo upright should be their biggest concern. The Giants, Eagles, and Redskins are all in the 15-20% range and should be ready to capitalize should the Cowboys falter.
The Packers still have the best quarterback in the league and are projected to win their division nearly two-thirds of the time. The reigning NFC North champion Vikings have the 2nd best odds, leaving only around 10% of simulations winding up with the Lions or Bears pulling off the upset and hosting a playoff game.
The Carolina Panthers were not a one-hit wonder according to the simulation. A number approaching 80% seems ridiculous but when looking at season win totals of 7 or less for all three of their division rivals while Carolina’s currently sits at 10.5 wins. However this division has seen some worst-to-first turnarounds so perhaps one of these darkhorses can be this year’s Panthers.
A true 2-horse race between the Seahawks and Cardinals with Seattle having the edge. The Rams made a big splash by trading up in the draft but competing for the division title with a rookie quarterback at the helm is going to be a tough endeavor. The 49ers project to have a rough season of rebuilding under new head coach Chip Kelly.