NFL best bet: Top must-wager weekly


No matter what you call it – Pick of the Week, Lock of the Week, Best Bet, etc., a regular column delineating the one must-bet wager weekly is a staple of any NFL prognosticator in any medium. On this page we present only the cream of the crop, *the* bet you’ll want to make in a given week. In addition, we promise complete transparency: We’ll leave up our past picks, win, lose or push so you can judge for yourself whether or not to take NFLbets’ advice (but we think you will).

As we’ve stated elsewhere, a primary rule within the NFLbets dogma is this: Don’t force your bets. There is absolutely no requirement to make a minimum number of wagers weekly. Heck, the ideal situation would be to throw down as much money as possible on those three to five occasions in any given NFL season when the outcome is crystal-clear obvious days beforehand. But where’s the fun in that? After all, one or two bets are always worth making.

NFLbets’ “Pick of the week” is primarily for the conservative NFL bettor, because the truth is that in gambling, conservatism is the way to go. We stake our reputation on our best bets, so let’s enjoy making some money this year!


Our Picks of the Week take advantage of early hype, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (with special guest Flavor Flav)

Friday, 14 September 2018 14:08 EST

DonOverreaction week? You bet! Thanks to outlier performances in week 1, NFLbets counted about a half-dozen teams as overrated based on a single win: Most importantly for our purposes were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but also the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Washington and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Admittedly, yours truly took the Bengals for chumps and Cincy instead made NFLbets the chumps on F@^%@^%ing Thursday Night Football. But we’d dare to suggest that not one of the aforementioned teams will be making the playoffs except Cincinnati, who are pretty clearly playing in the league’s worst division this season.

Not only this, but of the teams between by the aforementioned six in week 1 (the New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts) perhaps one – the Saints from the wacky NFC South; we’ll see what they do against the Cleveland Browns this week – is a serious playoff contender.

In short, let us say that the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers just aren’t that good. NFLbets’d go so far as to say that the current line of Philadelphia Eagles -3½ at Tampa Bay is bulletin board material for the Eagles. (Why ae the sportsbooks trolling the defending champs so much? They collectively must like Nick Foles even less than NFLbets does…)

Who are these Buccaneers?

One of *the* headline stories of week 1 was the masterful 417-yard, 4-touchdown show put on by Ryan Fitzpatrick against the New Orleans defense which appeared to have reverted to 2016/early 2017 form. A closer look at Fitzpatrick shows no one you’ll be wanting to wager on when facing an above-average side.

Don

Last season, “Fitzmagic” was 2-1 SU/ATS in starts, with ATS wins against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. For the Jets in 2016, he was just 3-8 SU/ATS in starts, winning ATS at the Jets, at Buffalo and against the ultimately 8-8 Ravens. Even in 2015, his last full season as a starter, Fitzpatrick's 10-6 SU record falls to 7-7-2 ATS, with just a 1-1-1 mark ATS against playoff teams that year. Yikes.

Setting Fitzpatrick aside, as the Buccaneers are likely to do in favor of the flawed Jameis Winston, a consideration of the Tampa Bay offense doesn’t exactly wow despite the 42 points last week.

All of the “skill players” who contributed more than 10 total yards in week 1 – Peyton Barber, Mike Evans, DeSeaon Jackson, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries – are holdovers from last season, when the Bucs were 18th in points scored and 26th in turnovers surrendered. Blame as much of that as you’d like on Winston, but the truth is that Barber wasn’t enough to keep the Buccaneers rushing in the bottom five or six in most statistical categories.

As for the Tampa Bay defense, well, you saw last week’s outcome, right? A Foles-led offense will hardly score the points that Brees and his Saints are capable of, but we figure Jay Ajayi should do enough damage alone against a Buccaneers D that was dead last in yardage allowed in 2017.

It all adds up to a pragmatic choice for the NFLbets Picks of Week 2: Take the Philadelphia Eagles -3½ at Tampa Bay and, as always when low-watt offenses play in inclement weather, take the under on an O/U of 44 points.

And for those who have forgotten about letting a single game run away with sanity, we’ll put in an old classic with a salient message here. Enjoy!


Pick of the Week: NFLbets despises betting in week 1, but loves the L.A. Rams -4½ at Oakland

Monday, 10 September 2018 12:06 EST

Aaron Donlad football cardWhat do you call a gift given way too early? This week, we’re calling it “Los Angeles Rams -4½ at Oakland Raiders.” Just about the only thing keeping NFLbets from plunking down the entire bankroll on this one is – you guessed it – that it’s week 1, the most gamblingest week of the NFL season aside from the last.

But whoa, is it tough to resist this one…

Come on: You’ve got the prospective NFC Champions, including four or five add-ons who weren’t even around last year, who are acting with the swagger of expectations, the valedictorian of the school of Hard Knocks. On the other side, you’ve got a team deflated by the reality of sudden rebuilding.

On one sideline is Sean McVay, the 2017 NFL Coach of the Year, along with his sidekick (!) defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, also acknowledged as at least a top-3 guy at his job. McVay has both the cajones and confidence enough in his plans and personnel to sit his superstars through the meaningless (for the Rams, anyway) preseason. Across from this, you’ve got Chucky*, a head coach who hasn’t had a winning season since W. was POTUS and who, after years of apparently mindlessly praising Khalil Mack as an absolute force, didn’t even take a meeting with the very popular in-house franchise player.

(*NFLbets has previously noted that this is a dated reference and also that we don’t care. Chucky-era Gruden was awesome…)

The Rams offense features the 2017 Offensive POY/2018 vogue fantasy football pick in Todd Gurley, a more experienced OL and have added WR Brandin Cooks from the New England Patriots. And the defense? Well, you know. DMVP DE Aaron Donald is back after his holdout and what was perhaps the NFL’s most exciting defense in ’17 merely added Ndamokung Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Incidentally, the Rams bring perhaps the greatest punter of the 21st century, Johnny Hekker.

Chucky Gruden pokemon cardAcross from this stands a Davis with his empty pockets turned inside out. Lack of cash flow (NFLbets rule #!: Know your budget and stick to it) is rumored to have precipitated Mack’s departure and could lead to the jettisoning of Cooper soon, too. No major free agents joined the Raiders this offseason despite the “lure” of Gruden taking over a 6-10 team. As in the post-Rich Gannon (and, come to think of it, post-Gruden) days of the mid-2000s Oakland Raiders, these guys already resemble 53 dudes playing out their contracts on a roster as fluid as a Turkish basketball team’s.

Seriously, the 2018 Oakland Raiders – especially after inevitably trading Ameri Cooper – will go down as the league’s second-worst.

(The worst? Let’s just say that NFLbets didn’t need more than a couple of quarters to realize the probability of an 0-16 Buffalo Bills team is very real.)

Those who were prescient enough to take the Rams pre-Mack trade, when the line was a mere -3, are certainly patting themselves on the back and banking on a nice early win. So get in now and bet the Los Angeles Rams -4½ at Oakland. Just don’t bet the house: Remember that this is week 1, and week 1 in the NFL is evil…


CFL Betting: Best bets and picks for week 12

Friday, 31 August 2018 15:53 EST

CFL Labour Day Classic bettingAs it’s Labor Day weekend in the U.S., it’s Labour Day weekend in Canada. And up there, Labour Day means CFL football! And for football bettors south of the border, who are otherwise bereft of proper betting, Labor Day weekend means another good opportunity for betting on CFL football. Think of it as getting reps for NFL season.

For those not in the know, a super-brief primer. Labour Day weekend CFL games are highlighted by three ages-old now-interdivisional rivalries playing it out once again: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs the Saskatchewan Roughriders; the Calgary Stampeders vs the Edmonton Eskimos; and the Toronto Argonauts vs the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. As natural geographic rivals, the Ottawa RedBlacks and Montreal Alouettes may also play on Labour Day, but can we really call this a tradition when these franchises in their current incarnations are just four and 22 years old, respectively?

History aside, all three traditional games are crucial for the teams involved: The heating-up Riders look to leapfrog not only the Bombers but also the Eskimos in the West. The currently second-place Esks have the unenviable task of having to take on the Stampeders, who are looking to wrap up homefield advantage for the West finals early. As for Toronto and Hamilton, well, one of them must finish second in the East this season…

NFLbets’ picks for the Labour Day weekend CFL games are as follows.

 

Montreal Alouettes -15½ at Ottawa RedBlacks; over/under 52½ points. Earlier this week the ’spread was 16½, editor Os Davis appeared on the WoodCookieCast in his guise as an Alouettes fan and picked RedBlacks 38, Montreal 11. The sole detraction to betting the Ottawa minus the points here is that the currently smooth-running RedBlacks simply don’t get the ball into the end zone, as dogged this offense the first third of the season. The safer bet here is to take the under on an O/U of 52½ points.

•••••

Winnipeg Blue Bombers +3½ at Saskatchewan Roughriders, over/under 54½ points. Duron Who? The Riders may become the first team to win the Grey Cup with a single bona fide WR on the roster, because the Green-and-Whites’ defense has been just wreaking havoc the past few weeks. If the Stamps’ line couldn’t hold off the Riders’ pass rush, how will Winnipag’s? Take the Saskatchewan Roughriders -3½ vs Winnipeg.

•••••

Edmonton Eskimos +7 at Calgary Stampeders, over/under 54 points. Typically, “game notes”-type columns at a league’s official site are full of trivial historic curiosities, but whoa are there a couple of doozies for this game.

• [Stamps QB] Bo Levi Mitchell is 4-0 in Labour Day Classic games, while [Eskimos QB] Mike Reilly is 0-3.

• Edmonton has not had a lead in the Labour Day Game since 2012. In the last five games, Calgary has built at least a 12-point lead in each game.

Nothing indicates that anything will make this Labour Day any different. The Esks are thin at receiver still thanks to various injury bugs, and fairly imperatively needed a win that they did not get last week.

Meanwhile, NFLbets swears Calgary is still smarting from the beatdown the Stamps administered two weeks back. Take the Calgary Stampeders -7 vs Edmonton.

•••••

Toronto Argonauts +7½ at Hamilton Tiger-Cats, over/under 51½ points. All things being equal, the rational choice between two stumbling teams would be to pick Hamilton, the home team coming off a shocking win. But very little has been rational about these Tiger-Cats in all of 2018.

Over the past four weeks, Hamilton has gone 2-1. Against Winnipeg, the Ticats somehow limited the Bombers offense to *270 total yards* and lost, 29-23. Two weeks later, that same D nearly let one slip away in the second half despite a 467-yard performance by QB Jeremiah Masoli.

So, not being able to make heads or tails of the Ticats, we’ll advise CFL bettors to take the Toronto Argonauts +7½ at Hamilton -- after all, that’s a lot a points for a team who’s just 1-3 at home ATS this season to be giving...

NFLbets’ best bets for CFL betting in week 12:
•  Montreal Alouettes at Ottawa RedBlacks under 52½ points
; and
•  Saskatchewan Roughriders -3½ vs Winnipeg.
Best bets record to date: 3-5.

NFLbets’ recommendations for CFL betting in week 11:
•  Calgary Stampeders -7 vs Edmonton
; and
•  Toronto Argonauts +7½ at Hamilton.
Picks-of-the-week record to date: 5-2.
Overall record: 8-7.


CFL Betting: Best bets and picks for week 11

Thursday, 23 August 2018 17:45 EST

Bullwinkle wins the CFL gameAfter two weeks’ worth of CFL betting columns, all NFLbets has managed thus far is to go 4-4 in combined “best bets” and “picks of the week.” At least we’ve made back some of the vig: Thanks to the +125 on a Toronto Argonauts money-line (ML) bet last week, we’re down just M65 (where M represents Moneys, the favored currency of NFLbets) for the 2018 CFL season.

NFLbets knows that’s a bit of a disappointment, particularly since we were on a 16-0 run for the year prior to beginning these columns – as far as you know.

As the halfway point passes, week 11 presents four games of all sorts of challenges. NFLbets considers the slate for week 11 as we attempt to earn back our money out there.

Edmonton Eskimos +3½ at Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Hamilton is tops in passing yards allowed per game and last in rushing yards allowed per game. C.J. Gable returns for the Eskimos after practice-squad player Shaquille Cooper went for 148 total yards and a TD in his first-ever CFL game as his team ran up 40. Of course, that was against the utterly hapless (hapmore?) Montreal Alouettes.

Hamilton topped Edmonton SU and ATS in week 2, 38-21, but are just 1-4 SU/ATS in their last five, in all four losses scoring 23 points or fewer. Until the Montreal game, the Eskimos offense hasn’t exactly been deep of depth chart (hence Cooper’s callup last week) recently, either; nevertheless, NFLbets thinks the Eskimos win this one outright, simply outscoring the puzzlingly self-destructive Tiger-Cats. Take the Edmonton Eskimos -3½  at Hamilton and take them to win SU at +145.

Toronto Argonauts -5½ at Montreal Alouettes. Johnny Manziel’s not playing for the Alouettes in week 11, thus making this game slightly more difficult for football bettors – but not that much more. After all, Antonio Pipkin is the starter for the Als, for an offense that went 3-of-15 on second downs last week. The Mighty Pipkin has one somewhat legitimate receiver – B.J. Cunningham – to throw to, and RB Tyrell Sutton may not go this week. And the defense … have you heard what Shaquille Cooper did to them last week? Just imagine what James Wilder Jr. might do (CFL daily fantasy players note). Take the Toronto Argonauts -5½ at Montreal.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers +8½ at Calgary Stampeders. Two teams whose bubbles burst last week: The high-risk defense of Winnipeg was torched for 44 points by Trevor Harris and the Ottawa RedBlacks fleet of WRs. Calgary gave up 40 (including one TD each from the Riders’ D and special teams) on the way to their first loss of the season. We’re willing to call that one a fluke and reckon the Stampeders win SU, but 8½ points is a lot to cover against a side recent-historically fond of the late-game comeback. We’re staying away from this one.

Saskatchewan Roughriders +2½ at BC Lions. A must-win: The Riders gain another game in the playoff hunt and are looking to surpass Winnipeg in the standings before long; BC cannot lose and fall two games behind the Riders. BC is trending down, while Saskatchewan is looking up after last week’s win.

But then there’s that late-night West Coast factor. NFLbets has been truthing about this BC Lions side for a while now and was a bit obsessed about the Lions’ inability to win under any other conditions – they’re 3-0 as such this season, 0-5 in all other games. So we went back to the 2017 results and noted that … these essentially same BC Lions (though currently without former CFL Most Outstanding Player Solomon Elimimian) were just 2-5 in Vancouver night games.

Our conclusion: BC Lions are set to regress to the mean. Also, the Riders are a better football team right now. Take the Saskatchewan Roughriders +2½ at BC and take the Riders +120 to win SU.

NFLbets’ best bets for CFL betting in week 11:
•  Edmonton Eskimos +3½ at Hamilton Tiger-Cats
;
•  Toronto Argonauts -5½ at Montreal Alouettes; and
•  Saskatchewan Roughriders +2½ at BC Lions.

NFLbets’ recommendations for CFL betting in week 11:
•  Edmonton Eskimos win SU at Hamilton at +145
; and
•  Saskatchewan Roughriders win SU at BC Lions at +120.

And check out this podcast. You’re still here? Great – yours truly can get in a shameless plug for the Rouge, White & Blue CFL Podcast, the American show about Canadian football. Download the latest episode directly below, or at iTunes and all those other podcast-download places online.


CFL betting, week 10: Best bets & picks on point spreads, over/unders

Thursday, 16 August 2018 15:34 EST


As a hobby, our editor co-hosts a podcast on CFL football – not to mention engages in CFL betting whenever possible, i.e. weekly from June to end of November. Both of these involve speculating on next week’s lines, so here’s what Os came up with (brief, due to time constraints) to chase his push of 2-2 overall last time out.

Ottawa RedBlacks +6½ at Winnipeg Blue Bombers, over/under 53½ points. Believe in the Bombers: They're averaging 33.5 points per game, clearly getting it done on offense, while the defense is ruling the big-play board (they’re tops in the CFL in quarterback sacks and interceptions). 

On the other side, the 2018 Redblacks are getting a reputation for playing down to the level of competition, e.g. running up 601 yards of total offense yet still needing a last-minute touchdown against the league’s worst team. Here’s to thinking, however, that Ottawa can hardly keep up with the Big Blue Machine and that Trevor Harris will throw more than one pick. Take the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -6½ vs Ottawa and consider taking the over on the O/U of 53½ points. 

BC Lions -2½ at Toronto Argonauts, over/under 50.5 points. I’ll call this the “upset” special of the week. I’ve been a BC truther since the Lions blew consecutive games SU and ATS in weeks 6 and 8. Naturally, NFLbets went against biochemistry and BC last week, giving the Lions 3½ against the Edmonton Eskimos. 

Grrrrrr.

So here’s the truth on the BC Lions: They’re 3-0 at home SU and ATS, 0-4 SU and ATS away – note, too, that BC’s wins have all come in night games. So what if the Argonauts are starting a third-string quarterback? In this case, it’s the lion that’s wearing no clothes.

NFLbets believes taking the Toronto Argonauts SU at +125 against BC is a decent bet, and we’d more strenuously advise taking the Argos +2½ points.

Montreal Alouettes +16½ at Edmonton Eskimos, over/under 52½ points. Antonio Pipkin was released by the Alouettes in mid-June. Pipkin played for four years in college ball with the Tiffin University Dragons. Tiffin U. is an Ohio school of 1,600 undergraduates and plays Division II football. Why do you need to know all this? Because Antonio Pipkin of Tiffin U. is the Alouettes’ starting QB for this game in lieu of the maybe-concussed Johnny “Johnny Canadian Football” Manziel, Montreal’s fifth starting QB in the 2018 season. 

Add in the fact that three weeks ago, these teams played when Vernon Adams was getting his turn in the rotation at QB; Mike Reilly went for four TDs, Kwaku Boateng went for three sacks and his teammates contributed three more, and the Eskimos won by 21. 16½ points is still a tough bet to make even in these circumstances, particularly when the Eskimos’ offense has been underperforming a bit lately. Simpler to just take the under on the O/U of 52½ points.

Calgary Stampeders -7 at Saskatchewan Roughriders, over/under 48 points. Yes, this game is in Regina, but these Stampeders are just too good. Calgary’s already dominated the Riders once here this season, winning 34-22 (it wasn’t that close) in week 7. With Riders head coach Chris Jones certain to have at least a handful of unhappy players in the wake of the ineffable release of Duron Carter during the bye week, NFLbets can’t imagine a better result for the Green-and-White this time out. Take the Calgary Stampeders -7 at Saskatchewan.

NFLbets’ best bets for CFL betting in week 10:
•  Winnipeg Blue Bombers -6½ vs Ottawa RedBlacks
;
•  Toronto Argonauts +2½ vs BC Lions;
•  Montreal Alouettes at Edmonton Eskimos under 52½ points.; and
•  Calgary Stampeders -7 at Saskatchewan Roughriders.

NFLbets’ recommendations for CFL betting in week 10:
•  Ottawa vs Winnipeg over 53½ points
; and
•  Toronto SU vs BC Lions.


NFC North proposition bets

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 10:55 EST

The optimist would say we’re only about three weeks away from NFL Opening Day 2018. The pessimist would say the preseason has barely begun. NFLbets says the time is ripe for speculating on 2018 NFL futures and proposition bets. So today, we’re presenting part five of NFLbets’ division-by-division look at the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” NFL futures offered at online sportsbooks.

Today, we’re considering the NFC North, which in 2018 features a returning Super Bowl contender, a potentially dissolving perpetual contender, a will they/won’t they upstart and the good ol’ Detroit Lions. We’re talking the NFC North today; click on the appropriate link below for NFLbets’ takes on these proposition bets for other division

AFC EastAFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West

•••••

The NFC North should be one, let’s say, challenging division for NFL bettors in 2018. Two serious contenders for a Super Bowl LIII appearance head up the division’s odds tables: The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. But the former is uncharacteristically riddled with controversy and question marks, while the latter has a long history of tragic late-season exits (not that the proper NFL bettor should rarely, if ever, consider history as part of week-to-week calculations for betting; just sayin’). The lines in the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” prop bets are listed below.

NFC North

NFC North O/U wins to win div. (oper) to win div. (current)
Minnesota Vikings* 10 +125 +115
Green Bay Packers* 10 +125 +150
Detroit Lions 7.5 +600 +600
Chicago Bears 6.5 +700 +900

 

Note the separation between going on between the Vikings and Packers. The smart money – literally – is on the Vikings right now, and NFLbets’d guess that these odds will only get shorter as the line approaches +100 by opening day kickoff.

Does defense win championships (if you straight-up ignore Super Bowl LII)? Sure, and therefore if you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan, you’re liking your team’s chances. Dt Sheldon Richardson joins a defense that was top-3 statistically in allowing total yards, first downs, passing yards, passing TDs, net yards per pass attempt, and rushing yards. The average quarterback was reduced to a QB rating of 71.1, just 0.3 lower than Tom Savage in ’17 – against this Vikings D. With all starters and key third-down subs back aboard, the Vikings have an early claim to the best defense in the NFL; about the only argument would come from Los Angeles Rams land and two of their main studs (Ndamokung Suh and Marcus Peters) are newly acquired.

If you’re a believer in a Minnesota team newly armed with Kirk “You Like That Meme” Cousins at quarterback to at least win the division, as is NFLbets, you’ll want to cover the Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC North, preferably as part of a parlay involving an odds-on favorite (likesay, the Rams and/or New England Patriots) to beef up the potential winnings.

Minnesota going over 10 wins – three fewer than in the 2018 Vikings’ regular-season romp – might also be worth a bet. The schedule in the early going isn’t easy: The Vikings will play vs San Francisco 49ers, at Green Bay, vs Buffalo Bills, at Los Angeles Rams, at Philadelphia Eagles; a game at the New England Patriots comes in December. If you’re taking the Vikings seriously as a contender, however, then you’re figuring this group of games is worth at least a 3-3 record, and finding four more losses for Purple People Eaters 2.0 seems quite implausible. Take the Minnesota Vikings to go over 10 wins.

•••••

In Green Bay, Aaron “R-E-L-A-X” Rodgers is not chill early in the preseason over his lamely constructed receiving corps. Jordy Nelson is gone, but Rodgers’s favorite targets in 2017, Randall Cobb and Devante Adams, are still around. That was the bad news and good news, respectively. The terrible, all-too-familiar news is that the Green Bay brain trust did typically little to pump up the roster in 2018 free agency. 

So Rodgers, who’s suddenly staring at getting slapped with the “franchise player” tag in back-to-back seasons for a team he’s sick of quarterbacking, will (possibly) be throwing to some members of a rookie quartet who may have been chosen showing for memorable monikers: J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and DeAngelo Yancey.

Beyond this, Rodgers has got to be concerned about his offensive line – again, little improved from 2017 – which ranked a paltry 28th in pass protection last season, per the awesome Football Outsiders.

NFLbets cannot say with assurance that Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy have done more with less, as the 2018 Green Bay Packers appear to have less than at any point since probably 2008 (ironically, Nelson’s rookie season), a year in which the Pack went 6-10.  NFLbets simply cannot buy this team winning more than 10 games as constructed. Take the Green Bay Packers to win under 10 games.

•••••

When the tale of Matt Stafford’s career is written, the inferiority of the Detroit Lions will play as huge a part as it does in those of Dominic Raiola, Calvin Johnson, and of course Barry Sanders. Sure, NFLbets’d love the 2018 Lions to win over 7½, but as Os Davis’s original piece in this series indicated, bookmakers are accounting for a total of five wins more than losses league-wide, meaning that when in doubt, bet the under.

On the Lions, we’d probably bet the under, but we’re not recommending such. The Packers and especially the Bears are big question marks for this season, and the four games against these two teams are likely to determine the pendulum of this Lions team. Essentially, we’d stay clear of these Lions – at least until Stafford goes down, at which point bet the opponent minus the points all Sunday long…

•••••

The Chicago Bears for 2018 are pushing a lot of young talent and old faces on the sidelines. Someone off the playing field has apparently decided that the direction to head in for wunderkind RB Jordan Howard and rookie TE Adam Shaheen to grow and develop is to begin the season with Mike Glennon at quarterback, with the Damocles Sword of Mitch Trubisky hanging over head. Nice – for the NFL bettors.

With so much of the offense handed over to youngsters (‘Member the days of Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall?), the coaching staff is remarkably unchanged: Beyond head coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is still here along with general manager Ryan Pace. One or more of these dudes thought it was a good idea to a) sign Glennon; b) draft Trubisky with little extant infrastructure; and c) both, and NFLbets believes that all three may stick around until someone else in the front office realizes little good will happen under the watch of this trio.

Since more pieces must be added to the roster (and Pace’s acumen is mostly in dispatching veterans) and sidelines, NFLbets figures these Bears are at minimum two seasons from contention. And while winning 6½ games is a fairly low bar for Vegas et al to set, we wouldn’t wish having to hope for seven wins from these guys – with five likely to be needed in the season’s second half – on any NFL bettor.

NFLbets’ best bets for NFC North betting:
•  Minnesota Vikings to win division at +115
(or anything over -150, really); and
•  Vikings to win over 10 games.

NFLbets’ recommendations for NFC North betting:
•  Green Bay Packers under 10 wins
.


AFC North proposition bets

Friday, 10 August 2018 18:09 EST

As of this writing, the first full week of NFL preseason games has been played, with each team getting at least one (fake) game in the books. NFLbets meanwhile continues our division-by-division look at the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” NFL futures offered at online sportsbooks.

Today, we’re considering the AFC North, which in 2018 features two teams easy enough to read, and two real toughies. Click on the below links to read NFLbets’ takes on these proposition bets for other divisions…

AFC EastNFC SouthNFC West

•••••

No division has been so predictable in terms of preseasons odds at the sportsbook than the AFC North. The mundane order of Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Browns in the 20th century seems as preordained as it feels inevitable. Not that such a feeling is unjustified: The Browns have finished fourth in 13 of the last 16 seasons, and but for the grace of Cleveland go the Bengals, a team who last won a playoff game in 1990 against the Houston Oilers. The Baltimore Ravens have mostly stayed competitive (aside from the freakish Super Bowl-winning season of 2012) by dint of starting at 5-1 within the North and beating down the beatdogs of the AFC annually. Finally, the big bad Pittsburgh Steelers have had the league’s top halfback and top wide receiver for five years running now.

As with the AFC East, NFLbets believes radical change may shuffle this division someday soon, but it won’t be 2018. Bookmakers too expect more of the same from these four teams in the upcoming season. The lines in the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” prop bets are listed below.

AFC North O/U wins to win div. (oper) to win div. (current)
Pittsburgh Steelers 10½ -280 -300
Baltimore Ravens 8 +450 +400
Cincinnati Bengals +900 +1000
Cleveland Browns +1100 +1200

 

First reaction: The Steelers at an over/under of 10½ games is a line based purely on reputation and getting the (literally and figuratively0 massive subset of Steelers fans who are also NFL bettors. These bros, believing their guys are good for 12 or 13 wins at least, will certainly help keep this over/under nice and artificially high for the rest. Seeking out a sportsbook offering an over/under of 11 should be worth your time as well.

Those taking the over on the Steelers who are not blind fanboys/-girls are depending on continued dominance over the division’s Ohio teams (at four “guaranteed” wins, the 2018 Steelers would already be over 35% to the target.

The first half of the season certainly looks favorable to Pittsburgh: they'll be at Cleveland, vs the Kansas City Chiefs, at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, vs Baltimore, vs the Atlanta Falcons, at Cincinnati, bye, vs Cleveland. Now the Steelers backers has delusions visions of 7-0 in this first half.

Except that Le’Veon Bell, offensive lynchpin/straw that stirs the drink in Pittsburgh, has notoriously gotten off to slow starts and brings the team down with him. Check out these stats:

•  2015, weeks 3-8, his only six games: 115.33 total yards per game, 3 TDs; Steelers record 3-3.

•  2016, weeks 4-10, after serving suspension: 115.33 total ypg, 2 TDs; Steelers 2-4.

•  2017, weeks 1-5: 102.6 total ypg, 3 TDs; Steelers 3-2.

•  All other games played in 2016-17: 159.5 ypg, 16 TDs; Steelers 15-1.

So? “Great,” figures the Steelers fan, “so they lose a couple early on and steamroll in the second half, voila! 13-3 is easy.”

Except … just look at the second half schedule. What will have been a playground for Bell and the boys becomes a treacherous pit of doom: From week 9, it’s at Baltimore, vs the Carolina Panthers, at the Jacksonville Jaguars, at the Denver Broncos, vs the Los Angeles Chargers, at the Oakland Raiders, vs the New England Patriot and at the New Orleans Saints before closing out against Cincinnati.

We suppose the Steelers could win 11 against this schedule. IF Ben Roethlisberger plays the majority of the season. IF Bell and the entire team can win the games they should in the season’s first half. IF the injury bug doesn’t hit too hard … with this season, for this season, that’s too many if’s. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers to win under 10½ games.

•••••

NFLbets admits to still hating the Baltimore Ravens for taking our money in the “Over/Under Wins” futures bet last season – which brings up some good advice: Never bet on any team or game in which an emotional response is part of the decision. Sounds simple, but admiration, fear and/or loathing have ruined many millions of bets through the centuries.

We’ll probably be avoiding the Ravens altogether in these props, mainly because 8 wins seems just about right for this team. And after the preseason, NFL bettors can be as excited about Lamar Jackson as they want, but how quickly do you think the Ravens front office will put Joe Flacco and his franchise-sucking contract on the bench? Not very is the answer here, and that’s pretty good news because the Ravens will certainly be profitable to bet against game-to-game until Joe Flacco has utterly lost his teammates’ and/or coaching staff’s backing.

•••••

One of the easiest picks in the entire NFL is the Cincinnati Bengals future bet of over/under 6½ wins. Ask yourself the following questions:

•  Is Marvin Lewis still coaching the team?

•  Did the Bengals make any significant progress toward, likesay, improvement this past offseason?

•  Who will the Bengals’ starting QB be?

So yeah. Take the Cincinnati Bengals to go under 6½ wins.

•••••

Finally, everyone’s liking the Cleveland Browns this offseason – everyone except the NFL bettors, that is. NFLbets calls this the Hard Knocks Effect. To wit, the following is the list of Hard Knocks-starring teams and the outcomes in the season following each team’s series.

•  2007 Kansas City Chiefs – 4-12

•  2008 Dallas Cowboys – 9-7

•  2009 Cincinnati Bengals – 10-6 won the AFC North

•  2010 New York Jets – 11-5 and a wild card spot

•  2012 Miami Dolphins – 7-9

•  2013 Cincinnati Bengals – 11-5 won the AFC North

•  2014 Atlanta Falcons – 6-10

•  2015 Houston Texans – 9-7 won the AFC South

•  2016 Los Angeles Rams – 4-12

•  2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5-11

•  2018 Cleveland Browns – ???

 

NFLbets realizes there’s no room in betting for superstition, and we believe there’s a reason behind this. Firstly, let’s all come to grips with the fact that REALITY SHOWS ARE NOT REALITY (unless you’re President of the United States, that is). The narrative on the Hard Knocks teams is always the same: This goofy bunch of characters may not win the Super Bowl, but they’ll improve on last year and therefore should you watch all their games on national TV.

At this point in the show’s run, the Hard Knocks producers have the schtick down cold, doing what the Hollywood/Burbank infotainment industry has always done: glamorize and aggrandize everything. So of course Jameis Winston and Mark Sanchez and Jeff Fisher come off as great leaders of men: the producers and directors have done their job. On top of this, you’ve got certain guys thinking a Hard Knocks series can motivate teammates (as in Winston or this year’s early rah-rah guy Jarvis Landry) or concentrating more on making their locker-room speeches camera-ready (i.e. Fisher). In short, don’t be fooled by the man behind the curtain (or camera).

Yet, dare we believe the 2018 Cleveland Browns might not … suck? Or that they might even be … good?

Starting at quarterback is either Tyrod Taylor, who helped get a team fighting its own management into the playoffs last year and is set to play with a massive chip on the shoulder or the no. 1 overall the Browns may actually have gotten right in Baker Mayfield. Carlos Hyde will share touches with Duke Johnson, who showed some true flashes of greatness in the second half of last season.

The aforementioned Jarvis Landry was this team’s biggest acquisition of any sort and, along with a second re-signing in Josh Gordon, automatically improves the WR core, which may add more star power, depending on whether Dez Bryant takes up the Cleveland challenge. Given Landry’s Hard Knocks attitude, this team is already leading the league in shoulder chips with or without Dez aboard.

We’re not sure if the signing of E.J. Gaines will turn the tide or if Mles Garrett can take another step (or two, or three steps) forward in 2018, but this Browns offense should score its share of points. We would tentatively advise taking the Cleveland Browns to win over 5½ games – they’ll certainly beat Cincinnati twice, for example – but might be more useful for betting the over in the season’s first half and plus the points in the second…

NFLbets’ best bets for AFC North betting:
•  Cincinnati Beangals under 6½ wins
; and
Pittsburgh Steelers to win division at -300 (preferably in a parlay).

NFLbets’ recommendations for AFC North betting:
•  Pittsubrgh Steelers under 10½ wins
; and
•  Cleveland Browns to win over 5½ games.


CFL Betting: Best Bets and Picks for CFL week 9

Thursday, 09 August 2018 15:32 EST

CFL logoWhat does NFLbets do for betting during the NFL pre- (and even off-) season? That’s easy: We bet on CFL games!

Incredibly, the 2018 CFL season is nearly at its halfway point (or half-over, if you’re a justifiably pessimistic Alouettes fan), so sample sizes are large enough to get a decent idea on short-term results. Trust me – NFLbets editor Os Davis – is pretty hardcore into CFL football betting at this point.

The following, then, and NFLbets’ best bets and picks for the CFL in week 9.

Best Bet/s: CFL week 9

Hamilton Tiger-Cats +5 at Winnipeg Blue Bombers, over/under 58 points. Of all the possible non-proposition CFL bets in week 9, one true NFLbets Best Bet stands out: Take the over on the over/under of 58 points. You'll want to consider covering the Bombers minus-5 at home coming out of a bye week, but definitely go over.

Caveat: NFLbets wouldn’t exactly call over-58 on this bet a lock – as explained directly below, a 58-point result is an exactly 50% probability over seven games for the Bombers in 2018 – but it’s the best bet out there this week. Not to mention the most fun: Never mind the chicks, who *doesn’t* like a barnburner?

Okay, NFLbets can hear imagine what you're thinking: 58 points? For a final score of around 31-26 or 32-27? Isn't that a lot, even for CFL football? It is, but...

The rationale behind taking the over is easy: Winnipeg can score – a lot – on anyone except (maybe) Calgary, and they’re not playing Calgary this week. Only twice this season has Winnipeg been held under 30 points; both were away games, and they’re playing at home this week. The over is 5-2 in Bombers games this season, though the record against a very high over/under of 58 in all games would be – get this – 3-3-1.

Over the past four games, the Bombers defense appears to have improved in allowing 20 points or fewer in the past four games – however, these were all against BC Lions and the Toronto Argonauts, two of the CFL’s three lowest-scoring teams. And they’re playing a team that ran up 50 (including 20 from special teams) on the hapless Montreal Alouettes.

Finally, the last time these teams met in Hamilton, Winnipeg eked out a meager 17 in a 14-point SU loss. They'll be seeing end zone much more frequently against a defense just as generous as the Bombers'.

Pick/s of the week: CFL week 9

Number 9Edmonton Eskimos -3½ at BC Lions. Pragmatic biological body-clock time-zone stuff first: The BC Lions are playing at home in a night game on the West Coast: Big plusses on both counts, to be sure, and the prime reasons why the point spread is so low on this game. 

But o, so much is weighted against BC right now. Three weeks ago, former Most Outstanding Player/defensive pillar Solomon Elimimian was placed on the six-game injury list. Two weeks ago, they blew a game which in hindsight feels must-win due to losing track of he game clock; this led to rumours of “internal dissension”-type stuff, even confrontation between quarterback and head coach. Last week, the Lions went to Calgary, with the expected results. 

That’s a lot of team psychology before even considering what’s left of team chemistry.

More? The Eskimos are meanwhile riding a three-game winning streak, last week asserting their will on a night when Mike Reilly uncharacteristically threw for sub-50% accuracy. In week three, Edmonton torched BC at their last meeting, 41-22. 

Finally, Jeremiah Johnson returned last week against Calgary, only to go out again due to injury. 

Though taking Edmonton Eskimos -3½ at BC Lions might’ve been obvious enough to be an NFLbets Best Bet two weeks ago, after seeing that Toronto comeback against Ottawa last week, NFLbets again recalls the informal credo of the CFL: No Lead Is Safe. Go ahead, take the Esks minus the points; just bet, as they say, responsibly.

Montreal Alouettes +14 at Ottawa RedBlacks, over/under 49 points. After Johnny Manziel's nearly indescribable 11-of-20, 104-yard, four-pick debut performance for the Montreal Alouettes/in CFL regular-season play last week, the bookmakers are just begging CFL bettors to take a stand on Manziel this week with this insane 14-point spread. NFLbets is here to warn you, though: Think long and hard before taking this bait in any direction.

At the risk of boring, the real issue with betting this game is the wildly variable and inconsistent Ottawa RedBlacks. Last week, the RedBlacks rang up 41 points in Toronto and lost SU and ATS. The week prior, the Ottawa O scored zero at Hamilton but the RedBlacks won SU and ATS based on seven (!) field goals by Lewis Ward. Before *that* ... you get the idea.

Sure, the RedBlacks should win this one outright (Note that money lines are not even offered on this game at many online sportsbooks – dammit.) and taking the under on an O/U of 49 seems like a decent play – but with this Ottawa team on one side of the field, safest not to cover too much at all here, whether you dig on Johnny Canadian Football or not. 

NFLbets’ best bets for CFL betting in week 9:
•  Over 58 points (yes!) in Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

NFLbets’ recommendations for CFL betting in week 9:
•  Winnipeg -5 vs Hamilton;

•  Edmonton Eskimos -3½ at BC Lions; and
•  Montreal at Ottawa under 49 points.


AFC East proposition bets

Wednesday, 08 August 2018 11:15 EST

AFC EastWhile the preseason continues and we await the departure of wide receivers from the Green Bay island, NFLbets continues our look at NFL futures and proposition bets for 2018. As we’ve said before, we just love the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” futures/props for the upcoming season. Today, NFLbets ponders the AFC East.

Ah yes, the AFC East. Since the turn of the century, the NFL’s low-risk, low-reward division – unless Tom Brady’s injured for an entire season.Tell you this, though: The dark times are ending for, as the great Sir Charles – NFLbets swears he was the first to declare thusly publicly – Father Time is undefeated.

Nevertheless, the sportsbooks believe the Great Equalizer (no, not Denzel Washington, silly!) will be staved off for one more year, and reckon that the AFC East’s also-rans again aren’t worth the money in the “To Win Division” prop.

AFC East O/U wins to win div. (open) to win div. (current)
New England Patriots 11 -700 -700
Buffalo Bills +1200 +1100
Miami Dolphins +1200 +1100
New York Jets 6 +1000 +1600

 

This is likely to be NFLbets’ shortest of all futures/proposition bets columns, as betting on either the “To Win Division” or “Over/Under Wins” props vis-à-vis the AFC East comes down to two simple questions:

•  Is this the year Brady, Gronk et al (now including, NFLbets supposes, Eric Decker) finally fall to the time reaper’s scythe; and

•  If not the Patriots, then who?

In short, NFLbets would answer “Yes, a bit more” and “the New York Jets.” (No, really.)

The latest revolving door of an offseason for New England included the departures (and subsequent trash-talking) of former Brady fave Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell followed by the additions of Decker and Cordarrelle Patterson. Only Gronk keeps away the comparison to the days when Reche Caldwell was The Man in Patriotland. 

On the defensive side of things, DE Adrian Clayborn and CB Jason McCourty came aboard during the past offseason. Fair enough, but McCourty is just about the only recognizable name among the pool of the 17 cornerbacks and safeties admitted to Patriots training camp. Resetting what was an absolutely abysmal passing defense in 2017 – You wanna know why Malcolm Butler was cockblocked out of the Super Bowl and therefore ignored in free agency? Poor performance, bro! – seems like a decent enough idea, but can Belichick really craft a working machine from this particular lot of spare parts? 

NFLbets just simply cannot go to the overhyped well again. Take the under on the Patriots over/under 11 wins prop.

•••••

The dusk of the Belichick/Brady Patriots will not only be good news for the league’s up-and-comers but is tremendous news for NFL bettors. O, sure, the Belichick/Bardy Patriots have often been swell cash cow during the regular season: In the glory year of 2007, for example, the Pats started the season at an easy 8-0 ATS, followed by a nearly-as-agreeable 3-5 ATS in the second half as the point spreads were set ever-insanely higher. An astute NFL bettor should probably have gone about 14-2 betting on the Pats that year – and woof, until the Super Bowl, did the bookmakers lose money!

In fact, the Super Bowl is the main reason that NFL bettors will be happy to see Belichick ‘n’ Brady depart the scene, as these dudes have f#&^&#^*ed up Super Bowl bets zillions of times. Despite the Lombardi Trophies and all, the New England Patriots are 3-6-1 ATS in Super Bowls; in the Belichick Era, they’re 3-5. The Pats have pulled off the biggest ATS Super Bowl upset and were later victimized as harshly. On three occasions has the ATS outcome differed from the SU outcome in Patriots Super Bowls, and Belichick’s bunch went 13 years (and four appearances) between ATS wins in the big game.

•••••

Sadly, NFLbets would guess the glorious day of Belichick and Brady’s fall from the top is still one year away. In the AFC East, the 2017 Buffalo Bills couldn’t even tank successfully last season and must seriously be considered for the title of Worst NFL Playoff Team of All-Time. 

Over in Miami, head coach Adam Gase brought in his old buddy Jay Cutler down to South Beach to play QB, and thus did the 2017 Miami Dolphins cutler like nearly every Jay Cutlered team before them. These Dolphins were a bottom-5 team in most metrics on both offense and defense, earning Miami its 10th season of the past 12 in which the team played .500 ball or lower.

This season, Ryan Tannehill and his 37-40 career record are back at QB, and the sportsbooks apparently reckon that makes the Dolphins a half-win better than in 2017. Yeeeeeah, not really buying that. NFLbets would half-heartedly advise taking the under on even 6½ wins for these guys.

•••••

This leaves the New York Jets, who, according to the lines on these NFL futures, is about the only AFC East team that NFL bettors are *not* enthused about. But there’s a case to be made – at least for racking up more wins that most expect.

And those expectations are key. The truth is that the Jets are bringing more unknowns into 2018 than perhaps any other NFL side. They’re likely to sport the youngest roster in the league, as just three players over 29 were invited to camp (the oldest, 39-year-old Josh McCown seems unlikely to be around by week 17). By all reports, Jets brass is high – hopefully not literally – on top draft pick/future franchise QB Sam Darnold and ever the flashy add-ons the Jets made this offseason, e.g. Terrelle Pryor and Isaiah Crowell, feel like players of immediate impact.

While the offense should have the element of surprise on their side, the defense can only improve if given a bit less time on the field in 2018. The Jets were a bottom-5 team in time of possession in ’17 and were held to 10 points or fewer four times in the final seven games. Ugly. Nascent superstar Jamal Adams will look even better in his second season if his unit isn’t continually gassed, NFLbets believes.

Whether or not the Jets can top six wins is all down to the schedule. The opening month is reasonable enough, going at Detroit Lions, vs Miami, at Cleveland Browns and at Jacksonville Jaguars. A 3-1 mark would hardly be unbelievable early on and the NFL bettor going over 6 wins on the Jets is already halfway home by early October. 

The rest of the Jets’ schedule is hardly easy at all, but on the plus side they’ve drawn four teams with rookie head coaches (again the element of surprise works in the Jets’ favor) and have games against X-factors such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Tennessee. Thus the six-win mark will likely come down to games against Buffalo and Miami. Last year, the Jets split these series, winning both home games and losing away twice. A mark of 3-1 against these rivals is a must; getting a fourth win within the AFC East would seemingly ice at least six wins for New York. So all signs point to taking the New York Jets to win over 6 games.

As for those 18/1 odds to win the division outright, well, that’s a fan’s bet. NFLbets may be speculative, but we aren’t freakin’ crazy...

NFLbets’ best bets for AFC East betting:
•  New York Jets over 6 wins.

NFLbets’ recommendations for NFC West betting:
•  New England Patriots under 11 wins
; and
•  New England Patriots to win division (preferably in a perlay).


NFC South proposition bets

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 16:55 EST

While the preseason goes on, NFLbets is considering betting NFL futures and proposition bets for 2018. Despite the frustrating difficulty of seeing into the future via metaphorical crystal ball, we just love the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” props for the upcoming season. Today, NFLbets ponders the NFC South.

And now, please allow the probably redundant repetition of two old essential truth about betting NFC South props such as “To Win Division” and “Over/under Regular-Season Wins”:

•  Since the NFC South itself was established with the addition of the league’s 32nd team in 2002, only twice has the defending division champion repeated as champion. Both of these instances were part of the 2013-16 threepeat run by Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers, which included both a 7-8-1 SU division-winning year and a 17-1 SU run to Super Bowl 50.

•  Only six of the 24 playoff teams from the NFC South have posted fewer than 11 wins.

Apparently neither fact disturbs the pragmatic resolve of Las Vegas bookmakers and online bookmakers, who reckon the NFC South will turn out something like this:

  O/U wins  to win division  (opening)  to win division  (current)
New Orleans Saints* +187 +180
Atlanta Falcons* 9 +180 +185
Carolina Panthers +300 +390
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +550 +600

 

Add to this NFLbets’ compilation of the sportsbooks’ projected finish for the 2018 NFL season based on over/under wins lines and current lines have the Atlanta Falcons squeaking into the playoffs as the no. 6 seed.

Heck, only in July did NFL bettors flip the lines in the “To Win Division” prop into the New Orleans Saints’ favor.

So what gives? Could this be the year when two 9-win teams from the NFC South both make the playoffs or do these lines merely reflect bookmakers’ willingness to admit the ineffability of this division?

The latter, thinks NFLbets – and we’re willing to put the real-life money where the metaphorical mouth and recommend (*not a best bet, mind you*) taking the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South at +390. We’d also feel pretty good about plunking a few dollars on the Atlanta Falcons going under 9 wins. 

•••••

As for the Saints, hell if NFLbets knows…

Saints fans doubtlessly believe that, in spite of a quarterback turning 40 during the NFL playoffs, their team should be considered among the up-and-coming NFC teams of the future (or present). We’re talking teams combining superstars with nascent young talent like the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

The evidence against these Saints actually maintaining the 11-win total of 2017 for ’18 is somewhat compelling, however. In 2017, the New Orleans offense was lauded for its exciting, scoreboard-spinning nature (their 28.3 points per game average was the NFL’s fourth highest) that also produced Drew Brees’s single-season career high for completion percentage thanks to a fantastic running game of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara (plus Adrian Peterson -- not!).

Despite the accolades, though, the Saints were graced with a relatively easy schedule against which they underperformed: New Orleans was just 3-4 (ATS and SU) against playoff teams in 2017, with all three wins coming against the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons. Thus was the Saints’ playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings, bizarre ending aside, inevitable to the NFL bettor.

The most scintillating of an often-inspired 2017 New Orleans Saints defense, though, was the secondary. The Saints ended up no. 3 in total interceptions, led by NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Mashon Lattimore, 2016 draft pick Ken Crawley, Kenny Vaccaro in his prime and rookie FS Marcus Williams. Oddly enough, the biggest acquisitions the New Orleans brass made this offseason were in this area: Replacing Vaccaro are Patrick Robinson, who played well with the champion Philadelphia Eagles but got his career off to a rocky start with Sean Payton’s Saints in the early 10s; and former Carolina Panthers CB Kurt Coleman, whose best performances have come against the Saints. 

Poor against the run last season – the defense was bottom five in rushing yards allowed and yards per attempt for much of 2017 – the Saints will be no better in this area this season.

Conclusion: 11 wins seems unlikely, but 9½, well … the Saints open thusly: vs Tampa Bay, vs Cleveland Browns, at Atlanta Falcons, at New York Giants, vs. Washington, bye, at Baltimore Ravens. All things being equal and all players staying healthy, that’s 4-2 SU at least and 6-0 is hardly inconceivable. 

But with the Saints’ 2017 success so tenuous (Can Kamara really be that good again? Will the Saints really beat up their division rivals this year to balance out an 0-4 against non-divisional playoff teams? Can Brees really throw for 72% accuracy again?), NFLbets has little faith Payton et al can manage a 9-7 record, much less 10-6 or better.

Plus, there’s something about the phrase “Tom Savage is your backup” that scares money away…

•••••

As for the Atlanta Falcons, don’t make NFLbets laugh! The Falcons’ current down-trending state in the downside of a process common to North American sports. In the offseason after egregiously losing the Super Bowl, the only major personnel move the Falcons chose to make was replacing Kyle Shanahan – the dude who'd built up an offense in his second season as Atlanta offensive coordinator to average a whopping 31.875 points per game – with college coach Steve Sarkasian. 

Sarkasian turned the greatest show since the Greatest Show on Turf into a middling, ho-hum offense as the talking heads mindlessly bleated on about a “Super Bowl Hangover.” (Very mathematically sound, that.) Sarkasian is still Falcons OC for 2018; has anyone noticed…?

Beyond Sarkasian, consider that all the Falcons' offseason moves involved Atlanta on the wrong end of the deal, namely in the departures of DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Dontari Poe and WR Taylor Gabriel. All jokes, stats and history aside, this is right now a team in decline. Take the Atlanta Falcons under 9 wins. 

•••••

Normally, NFLbets would write off the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ chances of winning the NFL South with a pithy throwaway line, but one supposes that the forecasted fourth-place team with the shortest odds should be taken at least a bit seriously and … nah. We’d say take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to go under 6½ wins, joyless as that sounds.

We love the possibility of a lame season by the Falcons, but that nearly 4/1 payout on the Carolina Panthers to win this division is quite the temptation indeed. 
The truth is that Cam Newton is the only starting quarterback in this division that can remotely be considered in his prime. The truth is that the Panthers may be drawing just two playoff teams (the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers) before week 15, when they’ll get a home-and-home against the Saints and a home game against the Falcons. Newton took an injury early in the preseason and is already listed as questionable for game 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, but hey: He’s gonna play.

And what of Kelvin Benjamin, so-called superstar wide receiver? The truth is that, between 2014 and his departure to the Buffalo Bills halfway through 2017, the Panthers were 24-7 including the playoffs without him and just 18-20-1 with him active on the roster. Here’s to thinking Newton appreciated the two-year extension given to TE Greg Olsen, who’s led this team in receiving yards, receptions and targets three times.

In the unpredictable NFC South, we like the just-as-unpredictable Cam and his guys. Take the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South at +390.

NFLbets’ best bets for NFC South betting:
•  Atlanta Falcons under 9 wins.

NFLbets’ recommendations for NFC West betting:
•  Carolina Panthers to win division
; and
•  Tampa Bay Buccaneers under 6½ wins.