The best betting advice I ever received was simple: if you absolutely hate your bet, you’re probably on the right side. That nugget of wisdom really only pertains to picking sides of a game, not trying to invest in futures bets. But as a long-suffering Titans fan who has never won the big one, I’m really going to hate what I’m about to say, so it must be a winner: lay the little bit of juice and take the Titans to win the AFC South this season.
Nothing is ever guaranteed in the NFL, but pricing often tells you a lot about the landscape. Finding a mild favorite at a reasonable price helps promote more sustainable ROI over large sample sizes. A common pitfall for novice bettors is to either chase big favorites under the assumption that they win more often than they lose, or back big dogs with hopes of big paydays that will equalize win rates under the all-important 55 percent.
But what many gamblers fail to recognize is that odds serve a greater purpose than just implying win rates: because sportsbooks want balanced books, they adjust odds based on hold percentages to give themselves the best chance of making a profit regardless of outcome. Why is that important? Because it means that heavy favorites do not necessarily mean fool-proof win rates, just heftier price tags to encourage more diverse bets across the board.
The key to sport betting is to find value in numbers based on your own handicapping, and that value is most often (not always, but often) found hovering around the -110 range. If you feel that a team has any sort of statistical edge and can back them at a price that hasn’t been inflated much because of hold percentage, then you’re really only on the hook for the juice (the right to make the bet), instead of any hype-based inflation. It’s in these relative coin-flip games, in which Vegas has no idea, really, who will win, that you can grind out that 55 percent win rate and make a profit long-term. Paying only the juice on those other 45 percent of bets becomes extremely important; even a few “chases” of inflated numbers can wreck the entire delicate ecosystem if they lose. Catch a little bad luck, and suddenly you’re in a big hole, wondering what happened; after all, you bet on the favorites!
Futures betting is a different animal, but the principles remain the same. We’re looking for value without much juice if possible. Out of the eight NFL regions, four of the other favorites have higher price tags than the Titans. The Bills (-140), Chiefs (-270), Packers (-155), and Buccaneers (-195) all require a bigger investment than the Titans (-130) for their respective divisions. After Tennessee, the remaining three favorites of the other divisions all pay positive vig for the gambler, which implies that they aren’t really favorites at all, but rather lottery tickets. (Mathematically, that last assertion isn’t necessarily true, but I’m trying to explain a general set of guidelines for newer players.)
The Titans sitting nicely in the middle of the spreadsheet without much juice implies that they are flying soundly under the radar at an affordable price. No bets are ever a guarantee, but this analysis is a nice first quality check. All that remains is to evaluate the actual division and determine whether enough statistical advantages exist to explain the spread. If so, then we pull the trigger.
This analysis is really what separates the pros from the joes, and I won’t claim to handicap games with the precision of a professional. Even if I could, I certainly wouldn’t be giving it away for free. But we can still dive into some details. As far as outlook goes, the Titans could not be in a better pole position heading into the season. The Texans are embroiled in a messy QB divorce, and are expected to be the worst team in the league. The Jaguars will start a rookie quarterback and will be led by a rookie head coach, too. If some serious growing pains don’t happen in Jacksonville and the Jags play really well, it will be the storyline of the entire league. So best to play the odds there. Finally, the Colts were expected to give the Titans the toughest competition for the division, but after a slew of preseason injuries, they, too, might be facing a tough road to secure even a winning 9-8 record. Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson both suffered foot injuries with 5-12 week recovery times. Darius Leonard will need ankle surgery, Ryan Kelly suffered an elbow injury that could easily nag, and Xavier Rhodes is missing precious preseason time with COVID. Again, the NFL is nothing if not unpredictable, but in terms of finding value, you can do a lot worse than backing the Titans to win the division right now.
Head over to the FanDuel Sportsbook and study the odds for yourself. The Titans at 13-1 to win the AFC also passes the eye test, but I really like the divisional odds best. And since I hate betting on my own team, you’ll have the added bonus of good life advice at your fingertips, too, if you take the Titans. Good luck.