- NFL bettors have less than a week to wager on the NFL make/miss playoff odds before the regular season starts
- The LA Rams are listed as huge longshots to reach the postseason despite winning the Super Bowl just two years ago
- Below, see my favorite picks to make and miss the NFL playoffs
The NFL make/miss-the-playoff odds are out at all North American sportsbooks and a few of the lines look particularly ripe.
The table below lists my favorite picks in the NFL playoff odds ahead of Thursday’s regular-season opener between the reigning-champion Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.
Best NFL Make/Miss Playoff Picks 2023-24
|Atlanta Falcons to miss the playoffs||-120|
|Los Angeles Rams to make the playoffs||+270|
|Miami Dolphins to miss the playoffs||-115|
The picks above are listed in alphabetical order. (It is not a confidence-based hierarchy.) On the whole, I like to fringe playoff contenders (Falcons and Dolphins) to miss out and one sleeping giant (Rams) to awaken.
Pick #1: Atlanta Falcons to Miss the Playoffs
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a 7-10 season in which they missed the playoffs by a full three games and finished with a -21 point differential. While PFF graded their offense third-best in the NFL, they will be rolling with largely-untested Desmond Ridder at QB (who replaces Marcus Mariota). In limited playing time as a rookie, Ridder finished with a 55.9 grade at PFF, which would have put him deadlast among QBs if he’d had enough snaps to qualify.
Desmond Ridder's best throw of the night followed by the volleyball set INT on a bang-bang play.
Ridder does get some points for covering the turnover and getting the tackle, though. pic.twitter.com/aibGIa9G5G
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) August 20, 2023
Atlanta’s defense, meanwhile, ranked an abysmal 27th while surrendering 22.7 PPG. General manager Terry Fontenot did make some splashy offseason acquisitions – including defensive ends Calais Campbell and David Onyemata, along with run-stuffing safety Jessie Bates – but he curiously took offensive players in the first two rounds of the draft (RB Bijan Robinson 8th overall and guard Matthew Bergeron 39th overall).
The Falcons do have the benefit of a comparatively-weak schedule. Only one team (NFC South rival New Orleans) has an easier schedule per SBD’s NFL strength-of-schedule rankings. But Atlanta’s NFL win total is sitting at 8.5 with the over slightly favored. Since the league switched to a 17-game schedule in 2021, no team with fewer than nine wins has made the playoffs and only 50% of teams who won exactly nine games managed to qualify.
Across the board, New Orleans is listed as the sizable favorite to win the NFC East and earn the division’s automatic playoff berth (+105 at DraftKings Sportsbook with Atlanta second at +200). With the offense likely to take a step back and the defense expected to be middle-of-the-road at best, I’ll take Atlanta to miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Pick: Falcons miss the playoffs (-120)
Pick #2: LA Rams to Make the Playoffs
Two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, the Rams are listed at +270 just to make the postseason. Yes, last year was a disaster, but that was almost entirely due to injuries. LA headed into the 2022 season as heavy -250 favorites to make it back to the playoffs. But all three of their superstars – QB Matt Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, and DT Aaron Donald – missed at least six games, and combined to play 29 out of a possible 51.
The Rams do have a tough schedule (sixth-hardest in the league) and have to contend with the mighty San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West, but they also have the luxury of playing two games against the rebuilding Arizona Cardinals and an overrated Seattle Seahawks side.
Also please remember who is at the helm in Los Angeles. Last season notwithstanding, Sean McVay remains a top-tier coach. Still just 37 years old, McVay has a 60-38 career record (.612 win percentage) and has finished at least two games over .500 in every season except 2022. In the two-year history of the 17-game schedule, every team that’s finished two games over .500 has made the postseason.
If the Rams can stay healthy – and that is a huge if – they have one of the most-talented rosters in the league. At +270, bettors only need a 28% probability for this wager to have positive expected value (+EV). That’s an extremely generous price for this combination of savant coaching and on-field talent.
Pick: Rams to make the playoffs (+270)
Pick #3: Miami Dolphins to Miss the Playoffs
Miami squeaked into the postseason last year at 9-8, winning the AFC’s last Wild Card berth in a tiebreak over Pittsburgh thanks to a head-to-head victory. They were the only AFC team to make the postseason with a negative point differential (-2). This season, Miami will have to contend with a difficult division, which now includes Aaron Rodgers, and the fifth-most difficult schedule in the NFL, overall.
Entering his fourth year in the league, starting QB Tua Tagovailoa has yet to play more than 13 games in a season and has missed a total of eight games over the past two seasons due to injury.
Sadly, it happened.
Tua Tagovailoa is in the #concussion protocol after reporting symptoms today, likely from this play in Q2 ⬇️. Missed by team again, despite poor play & 3 INT's after. 3rd concussion of season-no doctor in their right mind can clear him this year. Season over. https://t.co/qbZLlgvk5S pic.twitter.com/NcMb5ZGOf4
— Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. (@ChrisNowinski1) December 27, 2022
Offseason acquisition Mike White provides a high-risk, high-reward option at backup. In minimal appearances with the Jets in 2021 and 2022, the Western Kentucky gunslinger had an ugly 8:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a 75.4 passer rating. He’s a complete 180 from last year’s backup, the hyper-conservative Teddy Bridgewater, and there figure to be significant speedbumps if injuries thrust him into the starting role.
Miami starts its season with three of its first four games on the road (Chargers, Patriots, Broncos) and its lone home game coming against the Bills, who ran away with the AFC East last year (13-3) and finished with the best point differential in the conference (+169). There is a very real chance the Dolphins start the season 1-3 or even 0-4, at which point bettors would be able to hedge a miss-the-playoff bet by betting the over on a depreciated Miami win total. (The Dolphins’ preseason win total of 9.5 would drop to 8.5 or even 8 flat after a 1-3 start.)
Pick: Dolphins to miss the playoffs (-115)
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