Premium on balance in new-look AFC East

By William Hill  () 

The AFC’s most lopsided division over the last two decades is now its most balanced. Only 2.5 games separate the top of the AFC East from the bottom in season win totals. Co-favorites Buffalo and New England are projected to win only nine games each, as low as any division favorite on the board. For the first time in a decade, New England’s division odds bear a plus sign (+ 130). According to sportsoddshistory.com, the 2010 Patriots were + 135, slightly ahead of the ground-and-pound New York Jets, who were + 140 and fresh off a trip to the AFC championship game. The last time the Patriots failed to get hats and T-shirts recognizing them as division champs was 2008, when Miami at + 2500 stunned the football world and took advantage of a team lacking an injured Tom Brady to steal the division. New England (-900) was coming off the only 16-0 regular season the league had seen, while Miami improved from 1-15 to post the biggest one-year turnaround in NFl history, winning the division on a tiebreaker.

 

New England has won an astounding 17 of the last 19 division titles, but what gets overlooked is that in the two years the Patriots didn’t win, they had the same record as the division champs. They are just a couple of tiebreakers from winning 19 in a row. In ’08, their 11 wins weren’t enough, and in ’02 they were on the short end of a three-way tie for first at 9-7. The 2002 AFC East final standings are remarkable, as the Brady era was just beginning, and I believe they offer a preview of life in the division post-Brady. In ’02, the three-way tie at 9-7 was just one game better than last-place Buffalo at 8-8. While that season is the most extreme example of a balanced division, I believe the upcoming season will be similar. This division sent two teams to the playoffs last season, but before the clock struck midnight on wild-card Saturday, both had been eliminated. New York and Miami have reason for optimism, while oddsmakers anticipate regression for Buffalo and New England.

 

The lack of sports due to the pandemic has forced sportsbooks to be clever and think outside the box. To lure action, many books have expanded their menus to offer original propositions, such as odds on where teams will place in the division. Also available are win-range bets, in which you can wager on which tier a team will finish the season, such as 0-4 wins or 5-8 wins. These are fairly popular and widely available, and they offer additional opportunities to capitalize. Here are a few I like. 

 

Buffalo to win between 5-9 games (-130). Most books have the Bills at nine wins for their season win total. If you can get a 9.5, I recommend playing the Under. But if you can find only nine, I think this win-range bet is the better way to go. If they win exactly nine, you win instead of push. Even the most ardent Buffalo skeptic would admit there’s no real danger of winning four or fewer, so it’s a way of getting an extra half-win of value. The Bills are likely to be in close games most of the season. Their running and defense are too good to let them get blown out, but their offense is not good enough to pull away. Ten of their 16 games have spreads of a field goal or less. Last year’s 10-win season was largely because of a pillow-soft schedule and good luck in close games. They will hover at or below .500, with the two teams that finished behind them poised to improve. 

 

Bills to finish fourth in the division + (800). Hate to pick on them, as they have one of the most loyal fan bases in the league and it’s fun when they’re good, but this is a great value. Miami had 14 picks, has an excellent young coach and won five games when the front office didn’t care if it won any. Miami will be better. New York had a season from hell and still won seven games. New England’s sideline is still patrolled by Bill Belichick. Not much separates Buffalo from any of these teams. The 26th-hardest schedule last year will turn into the fifth-hardest schedule. In a passing league, the Bills have virtually no deep passing game. Josh Allen did not complete a pass that traveled more than 30 yards until Week 12 last year. He is more athlete than quarterback, and perhaps an extra year of defensive coordinators studying his weaknesses will help drop Buffalo to the bottom of the division. 

 

New England to win the division (+ 130). After they got throttled in Kansas City on “Monday Night Football” early in 2014, I said it, and I will continue to say it: I am always going to assume New England will win 11 or more games every year until they don’t. The next week the Pats destroyed Cincinnati as home dogs, and they went on to win the Super Bowl. Coaching, continuity and culture will take on an even greater significance this year due to all the uncertainty. They still have the best coach, the best culture and the best defense among the four teams. New England is favored in 10 games. It will likely adjust to its personnel and lean on a run-heavy offense and elite defense. It has a stable of capable running backs in Sony Michel, James White and Damien Harris and will likely use all of them to control the clock and the pace of the game. In a division in which the games and the race will be tight, I will take the team that expects to win at plus money. 

 

Dolphins to make the playoffs + (400). Ryan Fitzpatrick has played for a quarter of the league’s teams in his 15-year career. One team he’s never played for is a playoff team. Until now? “Tanking for Tua” is catchier than “Playing hard as hell and still landing Tua at 5,” but either way, here we are. After beating New England in Week 17, coach Brian Flores congratulated his team on its hard work and firmly told his players: “There are more of these moments coming. Trust me.” I trust him. The 5-4 finish was remarkable. At one point last season, the Dolphins were only + 250 to go winless. To put that in perspective, Jacksonville, the league’s worst team according to oddsmakers, enters this season about + 2500 to go 0-16. Miami’s porous offensive line was addressed in the offseason with first-, second- and fourth-round draft picks spent on linemen in addition to signing guard Ereck Flowers as a free agent. A ground game for which Fitzpatrick led the team in rushing spent none of its 14 picks on a running back. Instead, the Dolphins chose the committee approach, trading for Matt Breida and signing Jordan Howard. The emergence of wide receiver DeVante Parker and the return of impressive undrafted second-year wideout Preston Williams from injury make Miami better at every level on offense. The defense adds Kyle Van Noy and Byron Jones, 8-8 or 9-7 is attainable and, with an expanded playoff field, it could be enough to get Miami a shot at its first playoff win since 2000.

 

back to news

FREE Email Sign-Up

Get the latest sports betting news & VSiN programming updates with this free daily email from VSiN, The Sports Betting Network.

Headlines

View All
  • Lauri_Markanen

    Tuley's Takes Today: Tuesday recaps, Contest Corner, Wednesday play (12/1)

    As we were getting ready for the Tuesday night sports betting action to begin with the NBA, NHL and college basketball, all I could think of is that I...
  • baylor

    Early CFB Conference Championship Sharp Report

    Today bettors have a loaded Wednesday slate to choose from including 9 NBA games, 6 NHL games and 70 College Basketball games. For an updated breakdown...
  • reynolds

    Hero World Challenge best bets

    While the official PGA Tour season is on pause until January, an elite field of 20 players gathers this week for the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas....
  • finocchiaro

    Best bets for Font-Aldo UFC card

    After a week off for Thanksgiving, the UFC heads into its last three productions of 2021 starting with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night from the Apex...
  • USATSI_17242641

    Peterson: Best bet for Nebraska vs. NC State

    The Big Ten/ACC Challenge will be decided on Wednesday and NC State will look to both help its profile, and also that of the ACC, as the Wolfpack...
  • vontobelnfl

    NFL Week 12 lessons learned

    It was an emotional week for me in the NFL, as the Indianapolis Colts’ failed cover cost me a share of the first-place prize in the Westgate SuperContest...
  • vontobelnba

    Three NBA trends to watch

    It was a somewhat quiet week in the NBA with the league taking a night off for Thanksgiving, but there is still plenty to discuss. This week we touch...
  • macneil

    Hockey bettors must beat closing line

    In the end, wins and losses are really all that matters, because every sports bettor’s goal is to make money. However, wins and losses don’t...
  • appelbaum

    Five NFL games wise guys like

    NFL underdogs continued to grind out a profit in Week 12, going 8-7 ATS. Dogs are now 101-77 ATS (57 percent) on the season. A $100 bettor taking every...
  • hill

    NFL capsules for Week 13

    Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints The Dallas Cowboys (7-4 SU, 8-3 ATS) visit the New Orleans Saints (5-6 SU and ATS) on Thursday night as both...
  • moore

    Let's re-examine Gonzaga wagers

    Those predictions we heard about this college basketball season being filled with upsets and uncertainty? Well, they seem to be pretty accurate just a...
  • makinennfl

    Simulating rest of NFL season

    (To view the charts associated with this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly) All NFL teams have either five or six games left in their 2021-22...

custom-banner-3
VSiN Logo Plus

Free Trial

Make a risk-free bet on VSiN!

VSiN+ FREE TRIAL

  • Afternoon subscriber-only email with highlights and best bets from the day's programs
  • Point Spread Weekly, VSiN's digital magazine on sports betting
  • 24-7 Live video stream of VSiN programs plus replays
  • Any special sport-specified betting guides we do
  • All exclusive subscriber-only stories and data on VSiN.com
Sign Up Now
Google Play
App Store
Close