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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 11:00 AM

I never imagined I’d be typing that headline this season. Sure, the Carolina Panthers had improved. But…with Week 13 of the NFL season in the books, Cam Newton’s team is now the betting market’s Super Bowl FAVORITE. Sharps are back on the Newton bandwagon!

We’re long past the time when New England and Green Bay seemed like virtual locks to represent the AFC and NFC respectively. Green Bay continues to struggle, though they scored a miracle win over Detroit their last time out. New England has now lost TWO straight games to fall from a near certainty to earn a bye to being a question mark. New England, Denver, and Cincinnati are all 10-2 in the AFC. But, Denver owns a tie-breaker edge over the Pats because of their heads-up win two Sundays ago.

Remember, the market doesn’t price based only on won-lost records. Futures prices are based on the best available assessments of teams to go all the way based on their talent…as well as the talent of the other contenders...and the likely pathway through the brackets. It’s not just that Carolina is 12-0 and New England is 10-2. The market sees Carolina as having the best combination of talent and pathway…

(If this is your first time reading one of my Futures articles, these are based on $100 bets. So, a $100 bet on Carolina would win $350 if they win the Super Bowl…a $100 bet on Pittsburgh would win $1,800)

 

ODDS TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL

Carolina +350 (only undefeated team, up from +500 two weeks ago)

New England +400 (was +200 just two games ago)

Arizona +550 (up from +600…continuing to gain respect)

Cincinnati +750 (Patriots loss is there gain, Bengals were +1200 two weeks ago)

Denver +800 (gaining respect with Osweiler after win at SD)

Seattle +1000 (up from +1600 two weeks ago, really looking good again)

Green Bay +1000 (stood pat…but very lucky to do so)

Pittsburgh +1800 (big jump after impressive blowout, Seattle’s strong showing)

I was worried more than a month into the season that this Tuesday project was going to be a dud. We were looking at one of the most boring, obvious championship races ever! Now…things are getting very interesting.

*Carolina is combining a great defense with a clutch offense that keeps finding ways to get the job done. It’s still easy to be skeptical because there are lulls in many of the wins. But…we’re probably looking at the #1 seed in the NFC given that 12-0 record with a month to go.

*Arizona and Cincinnati seem much more dangerous now that New England and Green Bay turned mortal.

*Denver is playing just as well with Brock Osweiler as they were with Peyton Manning (because Manning was struggling so badly!). They can win “Seattle-style” with a fantastic defense and a game manager quarterback.

*Seattle has changed its stripes a bit, with a much more wide-open offense that allowed them to survive Pittsburgh and humiliate Minnesota. They’re finally playing to early season expectations.

*Pittsburgh is back in form with a mostly healthy Ben Roethlisberger. That close loss at Seattle started to look like a big positive halfway through Seattle/Minnesota. The way the Steelers played Sunday night vs. Indianapolis, they’re very much in the discussion.

You obviously can’t afford to rule New England out. If Rob Gronkowski is at full strength in the playoffs, then this team can win anywhere. The point today is that they’re no longer anything close to being a sure thing. We’re talking about a team that barely beat the struggling New York Giants, lost at Denver, and then self-destructed against what had been a horrible Philadelphia Eagles team of late. And…we may also be talking about a team that has to go to both Cincinnati and Denver to make it out of the brackets. Time will tell.

Green Bay? Their offense has disappeared because of injuries. Nothing in their form of the past six weeks suggests they’re a playoff threat. The good result at Minnesota was outclassed (particularly in the stats) by what Seattle did on that same field. One month to get back on track.

Moving down to the possible spoilers…

 

POTENTIAL SPOILERS

Kansas City +2500 (another win, and a move up from +2800)

Indianapolis +3300 (can still win their division, but can they win in January?)

Minnesota +3300 (plummeting from +1800 after getting blown out at home)

NY Jets +5000 (up from +6600 after the overtime win over the Giants)

Philadelphia +6600 (early darling of the sharps back on the radar with upset of Pats)

NY Giants +6600 (big fall from +4000 with loss to Jets and Eagles win)

Houston +6600 (didn’t impress in Buffalo, and fell hard. Can still win division)

Washington +6600 (tough to respect after home loss to Dallas Monday night)

Dallas +8000 (climbing up a class even with 4-8 record because of lousy division)

Buffalo +1000 (still alive for a Wildcard with .500 record)

Looks like we’re going to have a bad team win the NFC East, and another one win the AFC South. The market has to give spoiler respect to all the contenders in those divisions…even if they’d be true longshots to string together wins in January. The other teams listed just above are Wildcard threats who could peak at the right time. Kansas City and the NY Jets in particular have a chance to be interesting playoff obstacles for the powers.

 

DISTANT LONGSHOTS

Tampa Bay +15000 (big jump from +25000 with another victory)

Atlanta +20000 (still in a free fall)

Chicago, Miami, Oakland +25000

Tampa Bay continues to be a very interesting story with a 6-6 record in what was supposed to be an “expansion” caliber season. Lovie Smith can coach a defense…and Jameis Winston has been rising up the learning curve very quickly. Otherwise, mostly bad news…as Chicago took a huge step backward with a blown game vs. San Francisco…and Atlanta continued to fall off the map.

 

NO SHOT

Detroit, Jacksonville +40000

Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis, Tennessee +50000

San Diego, San Francisco +75000

Cleveland is 2-10…which means 6-10 is the best they can do

Now that we know the Final Four in college football…it’s easy for the market to lock in solid Futures prices. The latest composite numbers...

 

ODDS TO WIN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

Alabama even (a slight favorite in some spots)

Oklahoma +275 (odds improved when they dodged ‘Bama in first round)

Clemson +400 (odds worsened when they didn’t get Michigan State in first round)

Michigan State +750 (tough draw!)

Alabama is currently -10 over Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma is -3.5 over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Both of those games will be played on December 31. The winners meet a week-and-a-half later in the National Championship game. Alabama will be a favorite over the OU/Clemson winner. Many in the markets are thinking Alabama near “even” makes sense because beating MSU feels like “a sure thing,” and then the Tide will be more than a coin flip to win in the finals. I’ll keep an eye on pricing for you. Just remember that Ohio State won both of its playoff games last year as underdogs! No sure things in sports betting.

Back with you in a few days with our regular “sharps” reports…

Thursday: How Sharps are Betting Vikings/Cards plus more market notes

Lunchtime Friday: How Sharps are Betting Sunday/Monday NFL

There are no major college football games this week. I’ll begin a fairly intensive series of bowl discussions next week beginning with that first big Saturday of action (December 19).

You can purchase my top selections all sports through the college bowls and NFL Playoffs right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

Thanks for sticking with me through these Futures reports all season. The Super Bowl chase is starting to get much more interesting than many had expected. See you again in a couple of days.  

 

Be sure to follow:

Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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