NFL Futures Betting: Are the Bills the Best Bet to Dethrone the Chiefs in the AFC?
The AFC has been dominated by three quarterbacks -- Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger -- over the last decade. But a new era of quarterbacks is here, and the group is led by Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes and 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.
The early bird gets the worm first, and betting futures in the NFL right now is likely the best value you will get on these lines all season, especially for the teams with Mahomes and Jackson under center.
The Kansas City Chiefs (+300) are the obvious frontrunners to reach and win the conference championship, but there are two sleepers outside of the next favorite -- the Baltimore Ravens (+420) -- that could put together successful playoff stretches. Both of these teams made offseason moves locking up key players, and one franchise aggressively went out and traded for a playmaker for their franchise quarterback.
Let's take a look at the best bets -- other than KC -- to win the AFC Championship in 2020, starting with Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens (+420)
The Ravens have the easiest strength of schedule -- based on opponent win percentage in 2019 -- heading into the 2020 NFL season, and what better team to have that luxury than Baltimore with Jackson heading into his second season as a full-time starter off an MVP campaign.
The Ravens ended the regular season on a 12-game winning streak before shockingly losing to the Tennessee Titans at home in the Divisional Round for their first loss in over 100 calendar days. There will be a bad taste left in Baltimore's mouth heading into this season, but with a league-low three games versus teams that had 10 wins or more last season -- Baltimore should be right there with Kansas City in terms of AFC title odds, yet they're just +420, compared to +300 for KC.
The Ravens' defense finished fourth in total yards allowed (300.6) and third in points per game (17.6). After their bye week (Week 9), Baltimore allowed one team to score more than 17 points, and the Ravens put up 28 or more in seven of nine games during that stretch. This squad was smashing teams.
Baltimore's rotational opponents for this season had a combined record of 56-72 last year, and their three division opponents finished 32-64, though the Steelers should be improved in 2020. The Ravens have a great shot to win the division and should be one of the NFL's premier teams all season long. Given the discrepancy in odds between the Ravens and Chiefs, I think Baltimore is the best bet in the AFC.
Buffalo Bills (+1000)
Josh Allen made me -- and lots of of others -- a believer last season. While he wasn't elite with his accuracy, he finished the year with 3,089 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He added 510 rushing yards for nine scores, becoming one of the more dynamic threats in the league under center.
It was the second-straight season he rushed for more than 500 yards, and his passing touchdowns doubled from his rookie season. Throw in Stefon Diggs after a trade with the Minnesota Vikings, a stifling Buffalo defense and Brady leaving the AFC East, and you have a lot of reasons to love the Bills this season. Now is the time for Buffalo to make the leap after last season's Wild Card loss in which the Bills led the Texans 16-0 with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
The Bills' D was a staple of their success in 2019. Counting the postseason, they held 16 of their 17 opponents to 24 points or fewer last season. The Bills' defense will have to bring that level of play once again as the AFC East has a tough schedule this year, with all four teams in the division ranking among the five toughest schedules, based on opponent 2019 win percentage. The Bills' schedule is the easiest of all AFC East teams, but it's the fifth-toughest (.525%) in the league. The division received a tough draw with AFC West and NFC West matchups on tap.
Buffalo finished 6-2 last year and went on two separate three-game road winning streaks, so maybe they'll thrive despite the difficult schedule.
The division title futures at FanDuel Sportsbook have New England and Buffalo both at +120 to win the AFC East. Getting a winter home game in Buffalo in the postseason could help the Bills make a run in the playoffs. Looking at teams other than Baltimore and KC, I like the Bills as a good bet.
Tennessee Titans (+1600)
The rest was history.
The Titans reached the AFC Championship by beating Brady in New England and Lamar Jackson in Baltimore before the magic ran out in the second half versus Kansas City. Tannehill led the Titans to a 7-3 regular season record as a starter, and he went 2-1 in the playoffs, which resulted in him hitting the jackpot this offseason, receiving a four-year deal worth $118 million ($62 million fully guaranteed).
Rather than paying Derrick Henry, their workhorse running back who has played on a rookie contract for four seasons and led the NFL in rushing last season, the Titans franchise tagged him. He was a difference maker down the stretch, particularly in the playoffs, as Tennessee beat New England and Baltimore despite Tannehill throwing just 15 combined passes in the two games as they rode Henry.
The Titans' defense finished 21st in yards per game (359.5) and 12th in points per game (20.7). They'll likely need to improve on that side of the ball to truly contend in the AFC, since runs like what the Titans went on last year -- winning back-to-back road playoff games to get to the AFC Championship -- just aren't very common.
It'll be a tough road to get back to the AFC title game, but anything can happen in the NFL. If Tannehill can continue doing what he did in 2019, Tennessee has a solid shot to win the AFC South, even with the Indianapolis Colts adding Philip Rivers. If they can win the division, you never know.