One of the most popular futures markets for NFL bettors is whether a team will make or miss the playoffs. While plenty of teams made surprise runs in 2021, like the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, this season might look different with many changes in different divisions.
Can the Kansas City Chiefs still hold the crown in a reloaded AFC West? How will the acquisition of Tyreek Hill impact the Miami Dolphins' playoff chances? Is there a team flying under the radar that bettors should be looking at right now?
Our betting experts answer some of the most pressing questions regarding NFL playoff make/miss futures.
Futures week schedule
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Is there a playoff make/miss prop that you have to jump on right now?
Joe Fortenbaugh, ESPN betting analyst: Miami Dolphins to miss the playoffs (-160). Given the abundance of competition for the AFC's seven playoff spots, I find it hard to believe that the Dolphins will earn their way into the postseason. Head coach Mike McDaniel has exactly one year of experience as an offensive coordinator under his belt and didn't even call plays in San Francisco. Tua Tagovailoa threw just 16 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions last season and won't come anywhere close to maximizing Tyreek Hill's skill set the way Patrick Mahomes did in Kansas City. Throw in the fact that Miami faces a five-week stretch starting in Week 13 that features three straight road dates against the 49ers, Chargers and Bills, followed by a home game against the Packers before a road date with the Patriots, and you have all the makings of failed playoff bid.
Aaron Schatz, Football Outsiders editor-in-chief: New Orleans Saints to make the playoffs (+160). No Sean Payton is no problem for the Saints, as we have New Orleans projected as the No. 1 defense in the league. Can the offense hold up its end of the bargain? I think fans are still too hung up on Jameis Winston's 30-interception season for the Buccaneers in 2019. Winston has consistently been a slightly above-average NFL starting quarterback the rest of his career. Last season, he put up a 13.6% DVOA and 64.4 QBR before he tore an ACL. The Saints' offense should also be getting wide receiver Michael Thomas back, and they've added Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry this offseason. I don't think the Saints are getting past Tampa Bay, but I love their odds of getting a wild-card spot.
Anita Marks, ESPN betting analyst: San Francisco 49ers to miss the playoffs (+180). Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's situation with the 49ers is an interesting one. I believe Garoppolo wants out of San Francisco, and the 49ers gave up the farm to trade up for Trey Lance last year, so I doubt they can afford to sit him for another year. I anticipate Garoppolo will be traded and Lance will struggle in his first season starting. The 49ers will be lucky to go 3-3 in the NFC West and must travel to face the Denver Broncos and host the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tyler Fulghum, ESPN betting analyst: Pittsburgh Steelers to make the playoffs (+310). I'm struggling to understand why the market is so down on the Steelers this season. Their win total is a comically low 7.5. Mike Tomlin has coached 15 seasons in the NFL and never had a losing season. Even if he has his first this year, an 8-9 record cashes over the win total. However, I think they are far more dangerous than that. Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett is an upgrade over 2021 Ben Roethlisberger in my eyes. Their defense is still one of the best in the league with dynamic talent like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Only the Ravens are better (when healthy) in the AFC North, so the pricing on taking a bullish stance on Tomlin and his history is too attractive to pass up.
The New England Patriots are -160 to not make the playoffs and +140 to follow up last season's playoff appearance with another one. What are your thoughts on the Patriots this season?
Doug Kezirian, ESPN betting analyst: Patriots to miss the playoffs (-160). This is my favorite futures bet. As much as I love Bill Belichick and believe he is the greatest coach the sport has ever seen, New England is not a playoff team. First off, it lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Raiders. Mac Jones is a mediocre quarterback, and the entire offense lacks speed and true playmakers. As Aaron notes below, the defense should take a step back too. Additionally, the division has improved. The Bills should win both meetings, given the Pats won last season in a bizarre game that involved high winds. The Jets and Dolphins are no longer punching bags. Outside the division, New England travels to Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cleveland, Minnesota, Arizona and Las Vegas. The Pats might win only one of those games. They also host the Ravens, Colts and Bengals. Last year, all playoff teams lost seven or fewer games. I don't see how the Pats get there.
Schatz: The Patriots look very much like an 8-8 team, except that there are no more 8-8 teams. Their defense is going to take a big step back without J.C. Jackson at cornerback, plus they led the league in takeaways per drive, which tends to indicate a decline the following season. I think the offense outplayed its talent last season, and I don't expect much improvement from Mac Jones because he already played very well as a rookie. Not every second-year quarterback takes a step forward, especially when that quarterback already performed much better than expected. The problem here is the odds given. I would take the Patriots at -120 not to make the playoffs or at +180 to make it again. But the current odds pretty much match my expectations, so I would steer clear.
Is there a team not expected to make the postseason (odds of +200 or longer) that you think can sneak up and give you a nice payoff?
Seth Walder, ESPN sports analytics writer: Give me the New York Giants at +250. If you squint you can see the upside case for the Giants. Coach Brian Daboll ran a very successful offense in Buffalo, and while he won't have the same talent at quarterback, he should be able to get more out of Daniel Jones and maximize his rushing abilities. The offensive line should be a bit better and the receiving corps has potential. And I've got FPI's blessing here, too: It would make fair odds here almost right at +200.
Eric Moody, ESPN betting analyst: The Lions intrigue me at +475. Detroit played hard last season but lost six games by one possession (eight points or fewer). In addition, the Lions added some great young talent this offseason, so it's possible they could be in the running for a wild-card spot. Coach Dan Campbell has set the tone for this Lions team and that was evident in many games last season. This team might surprise people in 2022.
Which playoff team from 2021 do you think will struggle to make it back in 2022? Any good values at 'no' for a 2021 playoff team?
Walder: Tennessee Titans to miss the playoffs (+110). They were a soft No. 1 seed a year ago, have a worse-than-you-think offensive line and are relying on Robert Woods and Treylon Burks at wide receiver. Derrick Henry wasn't particularly good last season. His rushing yards were the product of volume, but his rush yards over expectation per carry (per NFL Next Gen Stats) dropped from over 1.0 in each of the prior three seasons to just .05 last year. The weak AFC South always gives Tennessee a chance, but there's a pretty low floor for the Titans, too.
Kezirian: Kansas City Chiefs to miss the playoffs (+200). Patrick Mahomes is a human cheat code and can win games by himself. However, outside of their elite QB, they probably have the division's worst roster. Losing Tyreek Hill is really going to cost them. Mahomes could make it work, but I think +200 is worth a shot. The defense is still weak, regardless of last year's narrative that it had improved. Things just went their way as they faced poor quarterbacks.
Schatz: Arizona Cardinals to miss the playoffs (+105). The Cardinals have an aging offensive line and will struggle without WR DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games this season. Football Outsiders projects a significant decline from the Arizona defense, which was particularly strong last season in takeaways and had success against short-yardage runs. The Cardinals also have one of the five toughest projected schedules in the league. There will also be more wild-card competition from teams outside the NFC West, including the Saints and Vikings.