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Bettors load up on Lions, long shots to win NFC, AFC titles

The NFL produced two long shot conference champions the past two seasons after the Bengals opened at 50-1 to win the 2021 AFC title and the Eagles opened at 20-1 to claim the 2022 NFC crown.

Bettors are banking on several teams with double-digit odds to win their conferences next season, none more so than the long-suffering Lions.

Detroit, which went 9-8 last season for its first winning record since 2017, hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. But that hasn’t stopped gamblers from loading up on the Lions to represent the NFC in the 2024 Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.

Detroit is the 12-1 fourth choice at Caesars Sportsbook, where it leads the way in tickets and handle while drawing more money than the top three favorites (49ers 3-1, Eagles +340, Cowboys +650) combined.

“With the way the Lions finished last season, hopes are high in Detroit,” Caesars assistant director of trading Adam Pullen said. “I like the leadership they have under (coach Dan) Campbell. This is another team that showed big improvement last season.

“We’ll see who the Lions add in the offseason, but they are trending upward. The NFC is pretty wide open, and at 12-1, those are still decent odds. People like to latch onto some of the long shots in the offseason compared to the favorites, so I can see why the Lions are enticing to bettors at 12-1.”

The Lions, who won eight of their past 10 games, are tied for the ticket lead at BetMGM with the Niners and are tied with the Cowboys at Circa Sports for the third pick to win the NFC at +725.

“They’re a team that’s definitely on the come,” SuperBook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “They have a strong offensive line, a really good run game and some good receivers. They should have the Alabama kid (wideout Jameson Williams) next year.

“It’s just a matter of cleaning up their defense if they’re going to be a real contender.”

Detroit is 9-1 at the Westgate after opening at 12-1.

“We’ve seen a lot of Lions money for the conference,” Salmons said. “They kind of feel like the Eagles of last year. We’re high on the Lions.

“There’s so much uncertainty in that (NFC North) division, and the NFC certainly looks like the easier of the two conferences to get to the Super Bowl.”

Jets bets

The Jets have had seven straight losing seasons and haven’t been to the Super Bowl since Joe Namath guaranteed their upset win over the Colts in 1969. But they’re the ticket leaders to win the AFC at Caesars, where they’re 16-1 after opening at 20-1.

“They’re always going to be a popular bet because of the market they’re in, but now add the fact that they’re improving and it makes sense,” Pullen said. “Obviously their biggest weakness is the most important position. But if they make a splash there, then there’s no reason not to think that they’re a playoff team next season.”

Bettors have pounded the Jets and Raiders, who are 20-1 to win the AFC, in the hopes that they acquire four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Packers.

“They won’t quit the Raiders,” Salmons said. “Davante Adams tweets stuff about Aaron Rodgers like he knows he’s coming, and people like to bet decent odds.”

Florida frenzy

The Dolphins (18-1) are the ticket leaders at BetMGM, and the Jaguars (14-1) lead the way at Station Casinos.

“They know they had some success last year, and they’re still getting a decent price on them, especially in that (AFC South) division,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “Trevor Lawrence had a phenomenal second half of the season, and now they look to add (receiver) Calvin Ridley to the mix.”

Let Sean cook

The Broncos (22-1) are the largest liability at South Point.

“We got money on the Broncos. I wasn’t really expecting that,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said. “But with (Sean) Payton in there as head coach, he figures to improve Russell Wilson.”

The Bengals, the 5-1 third choice behind the Chiefs (3-1) and Bills (+380), are also a popular bet and the money leader at Caesars.

South Point also took action on the Seahawks and Bears. They’re both 40-1 at Circa.

“The Bears are actually pretty interesting,” Andrews said. “They have a lot of draft capital and are very much under the salary cap. They could be a team that could make a move next year.

“There’s always somebody that comes out of nowhere.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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