With the NFL season now at its 3-quarter mark, we now have a very strong idea of who the contenders will be in each Conference. In the NFC, both the LA Rams and New Orleans Saints have established themselves as title contenders. Led by their impressive defences and rushing attacks, Dallas and Chicago have emerged as the favourites for the other two division crowns. In a crowded playoff race, I can also see Seattle and Minnesota taking the two wildcard spots. In this NFC Futures market preview, let’s take a look at our best bets for the conference and division winner markets.
1. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams currently enjoy the NFL’s best record and sit pretty with an NFC-Leading 11-1. Superstar RB Todd Gurley leads the way for this team, averaging over 150 yards from scrimmage and totalling 19 touchdowns this season. QB Jared Goff has also been outstanding so far and is on pace to throw for over 5000 yards. Their dominant pass rush also makes them a huge threat in crucial playoff fixtures. Whilst the Saints currently enjoy the tie-breaker, I can’t see the Rams finishing any worse than 14-2 and would have them as my current favourites for the Superbowl.
2. New Orleans Saints
Whilst they were my favourites for the NFC a fortnight ago, a poor loss in Dallas last week makes things much more difficult for the 10-2 Saints. They also have a very difficult schedule the remainder of the way, having to play Carolina twice and Pittsburgh once. Like the Rams, New Orleans is led by an explosive and dynamic offence. Drew Brees is having another excellent year aged 39 and Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have formed arguably the best rushing duo in the league. Ultimately, I see the Saints ending up as the #2 seed but don’t think they’ll be able to overcome a tough Rams side in LA.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Buoyed by a 4-game winning streak, I expect Dallas to take the NFC East and the #3 seed with a 10-6 record. RB Ezekiel Elliott has been outstanding this season, leading the NFL in rushing and providing a consistent dual-threat in the passing game. This defence is also one of the better units in the NFL. If they can keep up this level, we could be looking at a repeat of the 2016 Cowboys side. Whilst they did manage a big win over New Orleans last week, I don’t see the Cowboys being able to repeat this feat on the road.
4. Chicago Bears
The Bears have surprised many an NFL fan this season, sitting atop the NFC North with an 8-4 record. Led by star pass-rusher Khalil Mack, Chicago boasts arguably the best defense in the NFL. They’ve allowed under 20 points in 6 of their games this season and made life difficult for opposing offences. QB Mitchell Trubisky has also been very efficient in his sophomore campaign, throwing for 20 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions. Whilst I see the Bears winning the NFC North at 10-6, I don’t think they have what it takes to go on a significant playoff push.
5. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have won an impressive 3 straight games and currently sit in the NFC’s #5 seed with a 7-5 record. I expect them to keep this seeding and ultimately finish at 10-6. Russell Wilson has become one of the more underrated QB’s in the NFL, throwing for 29 touchdowns compared to just 5 interceptions so far. The Seahawks strong defence is also improving, pulling off several crucial plays in late victories this season. Although they’ve impressed so far, I just don’t see the Seahawks pulling off 3 straight road wins to claim the NFC.
6. Minnesota Vikings
Currently sitting at 6-5-1, I expect the Vikings to finish the season at 9-6-1 to claim the final wildcard spot. This team is incredibly talented on paper, but they just can’t seem to put it all together on the field. In Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, they have the makings of an excellent passing attack. The defence is also still one of the premier units in the NFL, doing enough to keep them competitive each week. Like the Seahawks, I just can’t see this team winning 3 straight games on the road to win the NFC.
Los Angeles Rams to win the NFC Title at $2.35
Ultimately, I think the Rams are excellent value to win the NFC. With their relatively easy remaining schedule, I see them holding onto that crucial #1 seed. This is incredibly important as it provides home-field advantage in a hypothetical NFC Championship against the Saints. 6-0 at home this season, the Rams have turned the LA Coliseum into a fortress. There just aren’t many defences in the NFL that can halt their high-powered offence. Whilst their defence has largely underperformed this season, I expect them to step things up in the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East Division at $1.30
Whilst most of the NFC divisions have a clear leader at this point, the NFC East does appear well up for grabs. That said, the Cowboys are simply far too talented for me to look past here. With their excellent defence and running game, I expect Dallas to win 3 of their last 4 to claim the division title. They are simply the most talented team in a relatively weak NFC East and are finding form at the right time. This price will only come in further if they manage a home win over Philadelphia last week.