Betting odds in professional sports are an ever evolving thing. Between multiple betting options where odds can differ greatly depending on the bet, the timing when looking at odds is even more of a wildcard. Even when looking at a given game over the course of a week, the swing in the odds could go from one team being favored by a field goal to the other ended up being the favorite by just as much. Because of this, getting pinpoint and defined odds for past events can sometimes be quite tricky.
Keeping this in mind, I was tasked with looking at the odds before the start of the season in terms of the AFC North over the last several years for my Steelers Stat Geek podcast. The timing and source of the odds can make the whole exercise quite difficult, and the best place to find these type of odds is happening to catch an article which posts the odds at the time it was published. When it comes to individual games, places such as Pro Football Reference give both the consensus point spread and the over/under at kickoff for each game. Bu when looking at “team futures” odds for the past, it’s not always the easiest thing.
Regardless, I attempted to answer the question and go back over the last five seasons and look at the odds going into the season which I then compared to the actual results. I will admit I only found one set of odds for each year and did not continue looking, so I will state at what time the odds were recorded to help paint a better picture. The ultimate question came because the Steelers are currently have the worst odds of winning the AFC North and I was asked if that has ever been the case before. Since they were the longest odds last year as well and the odds were much worse, that was an easy answer to the question. But I decided to dive a little bit deeper.
So here are the odds in terms of the AFC North compared to the actual results for each of the last five seasons.
Odds: (August 11th)
It should be noted that this just happened to be when I could find odds for the AFC North. I was surprised it was not the Cincinnati Bengals who were the favorite after appearing in the Super Bowl the year before. Perhaps it was the timing of things based on Joe Burrow‘s appendectomy and the fact his status going into the season was up in the air. Regardless, the reported odds at this time versus how everything played out was slightly off with first and second being swapped as well as third and fourth.
Odds: (May 28th)
This is a prime example of how odds don’t really mean anything. Even though the first and last place team were only separated by a difference of two wins, the odds were in the exact opposite order of how the division finished. But with Cincinnati finishing last place in the division for three straight seasons, it made sense for them to stay at the bottom until they proved otherwise.
Odds: (No date given)
Here the odds were very close as Pittsburgh only beat out Baltimore by one game to win the division. But I don’t think anyone saw the Steelers winning their first 11 games of the season that year only to run into a wall.
Man, did oddsmakers cash in on the Browns winning the offseason. Anyone who pays attention should know better than to take that bet as the Browns were favored to win the division and couldn’t even pull off a winning record.
Odds: (September 1st)
With the Steelers coming off a 13-win season, it made sense for them to be heavily favored to win the division. That half game where they couldn’t defeat the Browns the opening week haunted them throughout the season. It kept them from both winning the division and making the playoffs.
So in looking at the odds I was able to find, not one time over the last five seasons has the team who was favored to win the AFC North actually won the division. So if Steelers fans feel disrespected by the team having the longest odds, it’s really all about the betting and doesn’t actually tell who is going to win the division. But for information’s sake, just remember that since the inception of the AFC North in 2002 the Pittsburgh Steelers have never finished last and the Cleveland Browns have never finished first.
For more on the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, the entire episode can be heard in the player below: