Yeah, bandwagons are great and all, but you should hold off from betting on them. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, I’m just forewarning you. Because every season, that one team becomes Super Bowl favorites and you’re often tempted to place a bet on them.
You know the drill. A team starts off with something around 40-1 odds or more during the preseason. Then, their odds start to shrink after a few successful weeks. Maybe they’re cut in half to 20-1, or maybe even 15-1.
You get to the point where you want to place a bet on them before their odds shrink too much. Unless you love to bet on the edge, refrain from this trap.
And this article gives you four important reasons why the endgame here is just that—a trap. And it’s one you don’t need to fall into.
1 – Sports Media’s White Lies
Often, ESPN or another major sports media outlet will talk up a team that wins, wins, and wins no matter what. In 2019, it was Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson was hailed as the NFL’s next big thing and the Ravens, the next dynasty.
And I’m sure a lot of you reading this were tempted to place a bet on Jackson’s Ravens after hearing ESPN proclaim the team to be something out of this world.
Except those of you who bought into the hype forgot something: Jackson and his Ravens fell flat in games where they had to play catch up. Fast-forward to 2020, the Ravens dominated weaker competition once more, only to become fodder to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And also in 2020 and beyond, there’s always that one team who comes out of nowhere often between October and November.
So, if you threw caution to the wind and bet on the Ravens—a team that can dominate often when facing weaker competition—don’t make the same mistake in 2020 when the next team looks to make a run.
Often, these teams face longer odds before the season, as mentioned in the intro, and the media talks them up like they did to the Ravens in 2019. Turn the TV off and don’t buy into the media hype. At the end of the day, it’s just that—hype.
2 – Cinderella Rarely Makes It to the Ball
There’s also the stereotypical Cinderella team that often makes a deep playoff run. But before doing so, they become hot Super Bowl bets often later in the season. In 2019, that team was the Tennessee Titans, the team that ironically beat the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
But you can go back through the last two and a half decades and see the common denominator. Perhaps the only team to make it to the ball and win were the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants, and 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. But you can go on down the line.
Some of you may argue the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. I beg to differ. The Steelers went 15-1, won the AFC North, and made a trip to the AFC Championship the year before. That ain’t Cinderella.
That’s John Cena every time he put his WWE title on the line before he went into semi-retirement and started filming credit score commercials. But hey, I give Cena props! The guy was fun to watch.
Let’s Look at at an Example:
There’s the 1995 Indianapolis Colts, 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, even the 2019 San Francisco 49ers. Some of you may point to the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Okay, you have an argument, I’ll concede. But we’re talking teams who snuck into the playoffs. The 1999 Rams never snuck into the playoffs.
Some of you may argue they were equivalent to the 2019 Ravens. Maybe they were. However, when you look at the roster, this team was positioned to make a leap. They had a stout defense. Torry Holt and Issac Bruce were bound to be a dynamic duo at receiver. Marshall Faulk was in the backfield.
They had Kevin Carter, Orlando Pace, Todd Lyght, London Fletcher, Dre Bly, and a legendary head coach in Dick Vermeil. The team was “stacked,” in other words. They were destined to go places, and half of me thinks you could’ve put Paul Justin or Joe Germaine at quarterback. It wouldn’t have mattered.
The point is, Cinderella rarely makes it to the ball in the NFL. And the teams who were preseason favorites get it together and dominate the NFL landscape. Why? Read on.
3 – The NFL’s Ruling Class Still Rules
As I write this, the New England Patriots are proving this fact to be correct. At the time of this writing, they’re 2-1 and just got done thrashing the Las Vegas Raiders.
And yes, teams enter the ruling class. But they often must pay their dues. Look how long it took the Kansas City Chiefs to reach such a lofty level. Since 2013, the team has had five double-digit winning seasons and four division championships.
They blew three playoff games in dramatic fashion in 2013, 2016, and 2017. They hosted their very first AFC Championship Game in nearly 50 seasons in a loss to the New England Patriots.
With that said, if the hot Cinderella bet or talk of the NFL isn’t yet in this class (like Baltimore) they’re often not a solid bet. So, how do we know our teams are in the ruling class?
Two criteria must be met:
- They must have won the division.
- They must have played in a conference championship game within the last three seasons. If they haven’t done so, they’re not fantastic Super Bowl bets.
An optional criterion is if the team hasn’t made an appearance in a conference championship for a while or were even serious contenders, yet retained the bulk of their core players and coaching staff. This is like the 2009 Saints, who had Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and a plethora of players from that 2006 team.
With that said, you can name a tiny handful of teams:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Green Bay Packers
- San Francisco 49ers
- Los Angeles Rams
- New Orleans Saints
That’s about it. And from this group, I see three teams I’d be willing to put my money on.
Now, again, if you like to bet on the edge, have fun! Do what you need to do. Just bear in mind that teams yet to enter the ruling class, the NFL’s elite, have a tough time winning when it matters the most.
The next section explains why that is.
4 – Primetime Meltdowns
This is where the Baltimore Ravens fall short. For one reason or another, Lamar Jackson and his crew just can’t win in primetime. Perhaps it’s because hardly a soul on this team has experience in a few important categories, like succeeding in the playoffs. And for teams like the Ravens and quarterbacks like Jackson, it’s hard to do.
Remember when the same thing happened with Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts about a thousand years ago? Yeah, it’s the same exact thing. Manning and the Colts finally had a breakthrough in 2006 when they beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
What often happens is a young team gets good, they win games, and they ultimately win their division and make the playoffs. Sometimes, they even achieve a first-round bye. Although, the latter is now tougher with a seven-team playoff.
Then, reality strikes! The other teams have been there and they have not, as was the case with the 2019 Ravens. Some of you may argue the Tennessee Titans run in 2019. Many of the players were there in 2017. With that said, they have experience even if they missed the playoffs the previous season.
Either way, you have your outliers. But they pale in comparison to teams who have been there and done that. And they can often handle the spotlight much better than the teams who haven’t been in the same situation.
However, there is one huge exception to every heading above. Let’s look at what it is below!
5 – One Exception to the Rule
Some teams build their team correctly. While you don’t want to christen them as part of the NFL’s ruling class, they’ve done almost more than enough to have reached such a lofty standard. Franchises who build from the ground up and become contenders are often an exception to the rule.
One fantastic example is the Seattle Seahawks. When Pete Carroll took over, the team wasn’t that good. They won the division during his first season at 7-9 and miraculously won a playoff game. But 7-9 is 7-9. It ain’t a good record.
They went 7-9 in 2011, which is Year 2 of the Carroll era. Then, they went 11-5 and made a divisional playoff appearance after finishing second to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. After that, they earned a trip to the NFC Championship and won the Super Bowl against an old division rival the following season.
How do you spot teams like the Seahawks?
Often, these teams acquire new coaches and build for the first two to three seasons. And in the Carroll era, the Seahawks finished a meager 7-9, despite an NFC West title. And they were 6-9 that season heading into the Week 17 showdown.
These teams often make a playoff appearance in Year 3 or Year 4 with a winning record and a possible division championship. Finally, in Year 4 or 5, they contend for the Super Bowl.
So, if you look back to teams who follow this formula of building, they’re often decent bets. There are never any guarantees, and the NFL’s ruling class is still among the safer bets; note the 6 teams I mentioned earlier in the article.
But they are the teams who are often there. So, there should be little surprise they made it so far in the NFL playoffs.
Remember to take into account two to three years of building, a playoff appearance in Year 3 or 4, and contention for the Super Bowl in Year 4 or 5, depending on the season they made a playoff appearance.
Some of you may point to John Harbaugh and the Ravens. And as I’ve often mentioned in this article, you definitely will have a few points. However, Harbaugh changed his entire offense around to fit Lamar Jackson’s playing style—a genius move.
But it also took a bit of a roster makeover on offense to find the players to fit that mold.
Take those four warning signs listed and hold off on betting for that Cinderella team who seems to sneak into the playoffs or that team who comes out of nowhere and steals the show.
They’re not always ready for the spotlight, and they’re also teams the media loves to hype up. Sure, there are outliers, no doubt. And if you love betting on the edge, feel free to bet and see if this is one of those years a Cinderella or bandwagon bet makes the big game.
But remember that it’s rare and often teams who have had playoff experience or are part of the NFL’s “ruling class” almost always contend, play in, and win the NFL’s most coveted prize.
And yes, some of these teams will go as far as to make the Super Bowl, like the 2019 San Francisco 49ers. But winning it is an entirely different ballgame.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …