We are five games into the 2011 NFL regular season and while most of the eight division races have gone according to script, there are a couple of teams that are making an early run at bringing in a hefty return on investment for anyone who put a timely wager on their odds to win their division. This week will take a close look at the NFC to see how perception has been able to mirror reality in all four division races.
Starting in the NFC East, one of the most prohibitive favorites in any of the division races has stumbled out of the gate, thus opening the door wide open for the other three teams. Before the season started, Bodog opened Washington at +2000 to win the East and at 3-1 it has an early half-game lead over the N.Y. Giants (3-2), who were tied with Dallas (2-2) at + 300 to win the division. Philadelphia’s shocking 1-4 start has put the ‘Dream Team’ in an early hole, but things may not be as bad as they seem. There is a good chance that a 9-7 record may be good enough to win the East this season. The Eagles are still the most talented team in the division and more than capable of going 8-3 from this point on if they turn things around. One thing that is for sure, the East will not be decided until the final week of the season as all four teams should be in the hunt until the bitter end.
Everyone expected Green Bay to win the North at -220 and so far at 5-0 it has held true to form. Detroit was the third favorite at + 550 and has been able to match the Packers win for win with a surprising 5-0 start as well. These two still have to play each other twice which keep things squarely in Green Bay’s favor, but a small wager on the Lions was not the worst idea in the world. Chicago was a distant second-favorite at +450, but at 2-3 it would take a miracle for the Bears to jump back into this race. Minnesota was the longshot at +850 and for good reason after a 1-4 start.
Atlanta was a slight +120 favorite to win the South, but so far the Falcons have been a mere shell of the team that won 13 games last season. At 2-3 they still have time to turn things around, but New Orleans at +130 appears to be the solid play in this race. The Saints are 4-1 and looking much like the team that won the Super Bowl in 2009. Tampa Bay is currently 3-2 but, right now, miles away from catching New Orleans despite only trailing the Saints by a game. The opening odds on the Buccaneers were +450. As expected, Carolina (+2000) is off to a 1-4 start and already out of the race, but this is the kind of team that could play the role of spoiler down the road with three division games in the final four weeks of the season.
The NFC West that was expected to be the tightest race in the NFC, but San Francisco has already opened-up a two-game lead with a surprising 4-1 start. The 49ers were opened as co-favorites with St. Louis to win the West at +185, but early season injuries have decimated the Rams, who remain winless at 0-4. Seattle is currently in second-place at 2-3 and still capable of making a run, but an opening-day loss to San Francisco has it in an early hole. The Seahawks were opened as the fourth-favorite to win the West at +500. Arizona was the third favorite at +275 and has already taken itself out of the race with a 1-4 start. This division still has a good chance of tightening up down the road, but at this point of the season, the 49ers are clearly the best team and should be able to prevail in the long run.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.