- The Patriots and Rams are the favorites to earn the top seeds for the 2020 playoffs
- The Rams’ schedule is harder than it looks at first glance
- The Patriots have won at least 10 games in 16 straight seasons and captured 10 straight division titles
The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are viewed as the top teams in their conferences, according to the odds. Both are favored to enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seeds.
Who Will Be the No. 1 Seeds in the 2020 NFL Playoffs?
|Team||*2019 NFL Playoffs: No. 1 Seed Odds at Bovada|
|New England Patriots||+240|
|Los Angeles Rams||+275|
|New Orleans Saints||+300|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+333|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+650|
|Green Bay Packers||+900|
*Odds as of 02/08/19.
Is there value betting either the Rams or Patriots to be the No. 1 seed come playoff time?
Rams Face A Tough Schedule
The Rams won the NFC last year with 13 wins, marking the second straight season they’ve won at least 11 games. With a regular-season win total of 10.5 games, the expectation is that this team will be back in that neighborhood.
My concern with the Rams locking up the No. 1 seed is that they face a more challenging schedule than New England. By some calculations, the Rams and Patriots are tied for the second-easiest schedule this year. But the proper way to analyze the 2019 NFL strength of schedule shows that the Rams’ slate is significantly tougher than New England’s.
The SOS calculations that say the Rams’ schedule is extremely easy go by records from last season. But remember that the 49ers went 4-12 last year thanks to losing Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3, while the 3-13 Arizona Cardinals have completely overhauled their horrendous offense.
Both will be better this year.
The Rams also play Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta – each of which was below .500 last season and is likely to be improved in 2019. After that, the Rams get the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and the AFC North teams. This schedule is deceivingly difficult.
I’m expecting a solid season from the Rams – they’re not going to be a Wild Card team – but not 13 wins and not the top seed in the NFC.
Can The Patriots Win 11 Games Again?
There’s now a generation of people who have never see the Patriots be a bad team. They’ve registered at least double-digit wins in 16 straight seasons, while winning 11 games or more in nine straight campaigns.
Last year’s 11-win regular season was their first non 12-win season in nine years.
I like the Patriots to finish with the top seed for the same reason that I’m fading the Rams: their schedule. By old methods, it’s the second-easiest. By more realistic methods, it’s the easiest.
Their easy slate is largely thanks to playing in the AFC East, where the Miami Dolphins are expected to be the worst team in the NFL. As for the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, they’re likely to be slightly improved, but .500 would be a success for both teams.
Beyond that, the Patriots will play the NFC East — which has two above-average teams (Philadelphia, Dallas) and two also-rans (NYG, Washington) — and the AFC North, which is admittedly a tough division.
Their remaining games are against the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Patriots should get five wins in the division and, from there, I see six or seven more, which will give them a solid chance at the top seed in the AFC.
What’s The Best Bet?
Of these two teams, I’d say the Patriots are the better bet to finish with the top seed thanks to a softer slate. Their NFL divisional odds show just how far ahead they are in the AFC East.
In the NFC, I’d bet the New Orleans Saints at +300 before the Rams at +275.
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