NFL Division Battles: Underdogs In Position To Pounce Down The Stretch

With just three weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, the playoff field is beginning to take shape with four teams — San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles — having already punched their tickets to the postseason.

Bettors won’t be surprised that those four powerhouses will be battling it out for a spot in Super Bowl LVII in February, but there are several teams on the playoff bubble that weren’t expected to be contenders when the season began back in September.

The battles for both the AFC South and NFC South division titles are going to be intense down the stretch. in the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, and Houston Texans all have identical 8-6 records and are tied for the top spot in the division. In the NFC South, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints are tied atop the standings with identical 7-7 records, while the Atlanta Falcons are sitting at 6-8 with a chance to leapfrog both teams for the division title.

Jacksonville Jaguars to win AFC South


Let’s take a closer look at the stretch run for these teams and a look back at where their division odds stood heading into the season.

AFC South

Prior to the season, the Jaguars were a popular dark horse pick to win the Super Bowl (+2800) and to win the AFC South Division (-160). But three straight losses have allowed the Colts and Texans to get back into the division race and even threaten Jacksonville’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs.

Here’s a look at the futures odds for the AFC South teams before Week 1:

To win Super BowlTo win divisionTo make the playoffs
Jacksonville Jaguars+2800-160-200
Tennessee Titans+6600+320+205
Indianapolis Colts+10000+600+360
Houston Texans+17500+800+500

All odds courtesy of

The Jaguars are still favoured to win the division (-135) despite their recent struggles and have a key clash this week with the Buccaneers, who are also fighting for a division title. The Colts, meanwhile, have won five of their last six games (5-1 ATS during that span) to surge up the standings. Houston was also rolling through the middle portion of the season, but rookie quarterback sensation C.J. Stroud is suffering from a concussion and is unlikely to play this week against the Browns. His health will be a concern for the remainder of the season.

Remaining schedules:

Jacksonville: @ Tampa Bay (7-7), vs. Carolina (2-12), @ Tennessee (5-9)

Indianapolis: @ Atlanta (6-8), vs. Vegas (6-8), vs. Houston (8-6)

Houston: vs. Cleveland (9-5), vs. Tennessee (5-9), @ Indianapolis (8-6)

Here’s where the teams in the AFC South Division stand now from an odds perspective:

To win Super BowlTo win division
Jacksonville Jaguars+4000-135
Tennessee TitansN/AN/A
Indianapolis Colts+10000+275
Houston Texans+6600+300

All odds courtesy of

NFC South

The Buccaneers entered the season with the longest odds (+700) to win the division, but they now have the inside track (-150) according to oddsmakers. New Orleans, as predicted by oddsmakers, is right in the thick of things thanks to its stout defence, and the Falcons still have a path to surprising everyone and claiming the division crown. The Week 18 showdown between New Orleans and Atlanta could be huge in deciding the division winner.

To win Super BowlTo win divisionTo make the playoffs
New Orleans Saints+3300+120-180
Atlanta Falcons+6600+220+110
Carolina Panthers+6600+400+180
Tampa Bay Buccaneers+8000+700+390

All odds courtesy of

Tampa Bay’s Week 17 clash with New Orleans will also likely go a long way in deciding the division. The Bucs do have the advantage of playing the miserable Panthers in the final week of the regular season, but sometimes the teams with absolutely nothing to play for thrive in the spoiler role.

Remaining schedules:

Tampa Bay: vs. Jacksonville (8-6), vs. New Orleans (7-7), @ Carolina (2-12)

New Orleans: @ Los Angeles Rams (7-7), @ Tampa Bay (7-7), vs. Atlanta (6-8)

Atlanta: vs. Indianapolis (8-6), @ Chicago (5-9), @ New Orleans (7-7)

Here’s where the teams in the NFC South Division stand now from an odds perspective:

To win Super BowlTo win division
New Orleans Saints+10000+180
Atlanta Falcons+15000+650
Carolina PanthersN/AN/A
Tampa Bay Buccaneers+8000-150

All odds courtesy of

What about the Bills?

Ontario’s adopted NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, have revived their chances of solidifying a playoff spot (now -200 odds) with huge wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs in consecutive weeks. This week, Buffalo gets a bit of a breather against the lowly Los Angeles Chargers before a showdown with the New England Patriots in Week 17. A tough game against the Dolphins in Miami will round out Buffalo’s schedule on Jan. 7.

Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl


At 8-6 straight-up and 6-7-1 against the spread, Buffalo is currently the No. 9 seed in the AFC and is in a poor position in regards to tiebreakers with the teams in front of them. The conference-record tiebreaker advantage is currently being held by Indianapolis (No. 7) and Houston (No. 8) and the Bills would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Cincinnati (No. 6).

Heading into the season, the Bills had short +850 odds to win the Super Bowl, and +120 odds to win the AFC East Division. Their season win total was set at 10.5, a number they can still exceed if they can sweep their final three games.