How NFL Playoff Expansion Can Impact Futures Betting

November 10, 2020

The NFL is one of many sports dealing with the complications of playing a season as COVID-19 surges once again in the United States. Because of that, contingency plans need to be put in place in the event that games are cancelled. And the NFL’s contingency plan could be one that changes the way that futures betting in the NFL is done.

Potential Playoff Expansion

It was announced on Tuesday that the NFL approved a plan that would expand the NFL playoffs in the event that fewer than 16 games are played by teams. This plan would expand the playoffs from 14 to 16 teams. Instead of there being seven teams per conference, as was the plan at the start of the season, there would be eight teams from each conference.

The decision to agree to this contingency plan comes just after the offseason agreement to expand the playoffs from 12 teams to 14. That means that a 33% increase in playoff teams is possible if COVID impacts the regular season schedule. It also means that half the league could end up in the playoffs.

There haven’t been any details as to how a 16-team playoff would work. First-round byes in the NFL playoffs are among the most coveted things in all of sports. But with eight teams in each conference, there might not be a place for first-round byes in a 16-team playoff. This is just one way that an expanded playoff would impact futures betting in the playoffs.

Impact on Futures Betting

Without first-round byes, the favorites to win the Super Bowl would have to play one more game than they normally would in the playoffs. That would make the road to the championship just a little bit more arduous. It would also reduce the value of a team like the Kansas City Chiefs this season, who NFL betting odds have at +350 to win the title. Without a first-round bye, their path to the title would be much more difficult.

The playoff expansion would also make it worthwhile to take a chance on more ambitious futures bets. In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears sit in the seventh and eighth places in the NFC. If there is to be an expanded playoff, the Rams’ 25/1 odds could be a tremendous value given that they have already proven they can get to the Super Bowl.

In the AFC, the same logic applies. The Cleveland Browns currently sit in eighth place in the AFC standings. They are currently at 60/1 odds to win Super Bowl XLV. With their defense and running game suited nicely to play in the cold, they could make a run if they get into the dance. While you would be less likely to consider them in a 12-team postseason, they are at least worth a look in a 16-team playoff.

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NFL Betting FAQ

How many games would need to get cancelled to expand the playoffs?

Right now, the threshold for expanding the playoffs is unknown. Commissioner Roger Goodell did not specify this when he announced that this backup plan was going into place. One would think that there would need to be a decent number of games cancelled, but that is purely speculation at this point in time.

Is the NFL likely to stop playing this season?

That remains to be seen at this point. COVID cases are surging to an all-time high in the United States. That has trickled into the NFL, as team personnel are contracting the virus at a higher rate than the players themselves. Either way, it can’t be ruled out that COVID messes with the schedule in some way.

Are there going to be fans at the Super Bowl?

There are supposed to be a limited number of fans at Super Bowl XLV. But that could always change depending on the impact that COVID is having on society around when the game is played. Just like everything else in life today, the situation is fluid and subject to change based on the public health needs of the world.

Jay Sanin
Jay Sanin is a sports writer and broadcaster from Albany, NY. He has covered sports betting and the gambling industry since 2013.