As you might expect, setting odds for a football season is not an easy task; nor is it an exact science. You will have the finest actuaries in the world inputting the numbers and stats before the season gets underway to meticulously come up with the odds, and then some teams make a mockery of it within a few weeks.
Indeed, as pointed out by statistics experts, FiveThirtyEight, a couple of years ago – the preseason favorite rarely wins the Super Bowl (you can count on one hand the number of teams that won the Vince Lombardi as favorites over the last 25 years).
In saying that, there is some sense to preseason odds, and it’s not as if they pluck them out of thin air. While the preseason favorite doesn’t often win the Super Bowl, they do tend to make the postseason. And, the vast majority of Super Bowl winners tend to make the postseason (the 2008 New England Patriots are the last betting favorite to miss the Playoffs).
Some market movement early in the season
Of course, odds will also shift throughout the season, although it does take a while for drastic shifts as bookmakers tend to allow for a bit of early season rustiness. Which teams, if any, then, have moved after the initial games of the 2020 season? Very few, to be frank. But the slight shifts we have seen are interesting, and they can tell us a little bit about how sportsbooks view the early action.
The best place to start is with the Baltimore Ravens, a team who were second-favorites on the eve of the season. They are still in that position now, but almost every major sportsbook has shaved off some of the odds and put the John Harbaugh Ravens right on the shoulder of the Kansas City Chiefs. The price from Mbet, who has a really excellent NFL game previews blog, comes in at 23/4; just a smidgen behind the Chiefs’ 11/2.
Why have the Ravens moved (they were about 7/1 a couple of weeks ago) and the Chiefs stood still? Well, it basically comes down to the fact that the Chiefs did what they were expected to do in the early season, whereas the Ravens really impressed against a half-decent Cleveland Browns team and took it to the Houston Texans in Week 2. It’s still early in the season, but there was enough of a differential in the performances for the bookies to turn up the dial a notch on the Ravens.
Pittsburgh fans happy to see a healthy Roethlisberger
Another mover, and perhaps the most interesting in NFL, is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Again, it’s nothing spectacular, but a shift from 30/1 to 22/1 is significant. The reason, of course, was the return of Ben Roethlisberger. The quarter-back looked his old self after a year off through injury, and he was impressive in the Steelers back-to-back wins. It’ll take another few sterling performances from Big Ben to really put them into contention, but sportsbooks will be watching intently.
Are the Buccaneers more hype than anything?
On the other hand, we have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was all too predictable that the side would lose its opening game against the New Orleans Saints as the new-look starting lineup was always going to take a while to gel. It wasn’t a disastrous performance against one of the NFL’s better sides, though. Sportsbooks have reacted only slightly, increasing the Buccs’ odds from 14-1 to 16-1. While the Buccaneers weren’t great in a Week 2 victory over the Carolina Panthers, they did look better on offense and have enough talent to be a contender. Expect their Super Bowl odds to come down again if Tom Brady & Co. can string a few wins together.
What about the Brady-less Patriots?
And finishing up with Brady’s former employers, the New England Patriots. You can’t tell much about the Patriots’ Super Bowl hopes after an opening day win over the Miami Dolphins, but there was plenty to like about the performance, especially the contribution of Cam Newton. The quarterback was even better in a Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, in which he threw for 397 yards and had 3 total touchdowns. The Pats’ Super Bowl odds haven’t changed all that much, however, and still sit around the 20/1 mark. In this case, sportsbooks seem to be having a ‘wait and see’ approach.