Betting team over/under bets, part 10: New England Patriots, 9½ wins

Tuesday, 31 August 2021 18:04 EST

Right: It’s high time to discuss the elephant in the room – or is that the former elephant? Maybe the once and future elephant…?

Metaphor and phraseology aside, this line is looming large in NFLbets’ thoughts:

New England Patriots, over/under 9½ wins (+105/-125)

Sad Cam NewtonThroughout the preseason, NFLbets has personally informed anyone who’ll listen that 9½ wins is seriouslylow to start the betting on the 2021 New England Patriots in a 17-game season. The Pats had a league-topping eight players opt out of ’20 due to Covid concerns, among them Dont’a Hightower, who looked pretty good back in ’19 with 71 tackles, 8 for loss and 5½ sacks. And you may have heard about the Patriots’ unprecedented near-$160 million splurge in free agency.

Since the NFL Draft, NFLbets was figuring that 1) the Patriots would be armed with a solid (if not brilliant) 1-2 combination at quarterback no matter which way the internal competition sorted itself, and 2) that if Bill Belichick decided to run with Mac Jones as starter, thus deeming him NFL-ready, the rest of the NFL was in some proper trouble.

For about a week prior to today, NFLbets knew that Cam Newton’s shenanigans involving him dodging team Covid-testing protocols would more or less kill his chances of keeping the starting QB job. At least until the US is Covid-free, which will be approximately forever.

Then this morning:

Chances are Belichick might’ve started Jones regardless of Cam Newton’s status, but Newton’s flat-out jettisoning from the team muddies the waters around Jones. Maybe Belichick wants to know immediately if Jones is a bust, though not even the NFL’s Dark Emperor would be allowed to throw a potential $12.4.5 million at Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to test a theory.

NFLbets’ premise begins with Jones as an average quarterback for the Patriots in 2021, which is more than they got out of Newton in ’20: Cam ranked 18th in completion percentage, 34th in TD passes, 23rd in yards per attempt and 30th in QBR, just to name a few telling metrics. To help Jones along, the Patriots added the aforementioned TEs and WRs, and are apparently happy enough with rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson to go with James White and Damien Harris that they could afford to let go of Sony Michel.

The New England defense in 2020 was quite the dichotomous beast: The pass D incredibly faced the fewest pass attempts in the NFL, but ended up tops in interceptions. Overall, the Pats D ranked 7th in the league in scoring allowed, but the front seven were a bottom-10 unit in virtually all significant running D stats. To this end, the springtime splurge of the Patriots welcomed in LBs Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy, DTs Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy, and DE Henry Anderson. Coming over in the draft were DT Christian Barmore and DE Ronnie Perkins. Together with Hightower, the Patriots could literally go with an entirely transformed front 7.

The 2021 New England Patriots schedule

The already Most Hyped Game of the Season takes place in week 4, Tampa Bay at New England. But while all eyes are on this probably ultimately mostly inconsequential game, few are noticing what a number of winnable games the Patriots get early on in 2021.

The schedule starts with vs Miami Dolphins, at New York Jets and vs New Orleans Saints. Week 5 begins a second triad running at Houston Texans, vs Dallas Cowboys and vs the New York Jets. For NFLbets, the sole loss that might be expected is the Cowboys game when presumably we’ll see how good the run defense is against Ezekiel Elliott. (Note, too, that three of the Patriots’ first seven come against bottom-5 teams in the Jets and Texans.) We’d say New England goes at very worst 4-3 in these games.

The schedule makers seemed to stuff week 8 through 16 full of potential playoff teams (if not necessarily bona fide Super Bowl contenders) for the Patriots: They’ll go at “Los Angeles” Chargers, at Carolina Panthers, vs Cleveland Browns, at Atlanta Falcons, vs Tennessee Titans, at Buffalo Bills, bye, at Indianapolis Colts and vs Buffalo

Even the eight-game gauntlet should be manageable for a would-be playoff contending team, however. NFLbets has difficulty imagining that the Bills can push a winning streak against the Patriots beyond three games or that Belichick’s team will lose coming out of a bye week. The game in Los Angeles will certainly have a Pats-favorable crowd and kicks off at 4:30pm ET. And if the Titans continue getting more one-dimensional, they’ll likely have run Derrick Henry into the ground before week 13.

Playing this conservatively, we’ll pencil the Patriots in for a 4-4 run over this stretch, giving them a cumulative mark of 8-7 going into the final two games of their season vs Jacksonville Jaguars and at Miami.

At this point, even the most stoic of bettors can see the opportunities inherent in taking the over in this prop: Assuming that the defensive acquisitions and Mac Jones make for the slightest of improvements gets the ’21 Patriots to at least 9 wins. If you believe Belichick, Jones & Co. can do even slightly better than this minimum, you’re getting with NFLbets to take the New England Patriots over 9½ wins. Plus, hedging appropriately on the Dolphins vs a 9-7 Patriots team will help make week 18 a glorious one for bettors…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting team over/under wins, part 9: Baltimore Ravens, 10½ wins

Monday, 30 August 2021 19:00 EST

“Well, that was fun,” said no backer of the Baltimore Ravens as J.K. Dobbins was getting carted off the field in the opening minutes of Saturday’s preseason game against Washington. In fact, in 2021, the Ravens may end up as Exhibit A in a hearing to determine the futility of expecting to win money on team futures in the preseason. Those who waited to bet on

Baltimore Ravens over/under wins totalBaltimore Ravens, over/under 10½ wins (-150/+125)

(or thereabouts) have got to be liking these odds today. Already the odds on under were too long and the win total too high. With Dobbins out of the picture for 2021, covering the over suddenly seems quite the tall task.

But, hey, every NFL team takes hits from injuries, right? And sure, Dobbins was set to fill the no.1 halfback position but this is the 20s and passing offense is everything! Besides, the 2021 Baltimore Ravens, like so often in the past, are supposed to be about defense first…

So go the protestations that might be valid about most any other of the 31 NFL teams – but these Ravens are quite the special case, indeed.

In 2021, the Baltimore defense ranked no. 2 in the NFL in points allowed and no. 7 in yardage allowed; again, quite typical of Ravens teams traditionally: Since Brian Billick stepped in as head coach in 1999, the Ravens ranked in the top-10 in both categories in 16 of the 22 subsequent seasons. Pretty impressive statistically, but note that in the 2012 season prior to winning Super Bowl LXVII, the Baltimore ranked just 12th and 17th, respectively, in the aforementioned statistical categories.

Meanwhile, the Ravens offense is about as unconventional as any we’ve seen in the 21st century. Baltimore is somehow armed with a top-10 quarterback (at very least in terms of name recognition) yet “boasted” the no 32-ranked passing offense in the NFL in 2021 – and this with the *no. 7* offense in scoring. This is of course down to the heavily-imbalanced run-pass option-based offense the Ravens and the singularly uniquely talented Lamar Jackson have been forced to adopt.

Last season, Jackson and Dobbins combined for a 1810 yards and 16 touchdowns on 293 carries – an average of 6.18 yards per carry. With Dobbins going for 6.01 ypc, the Ravens became the first team in the Super Bowl era to have two of the league’s top-3 in the stat. Add in Gus Edwards tacking on 723 yards at a 5.0 ypc clip after taking over the starting HB role for Mark Ingram beginning in game 10, and you’ve got three guys representing over 42% of all Ravens yardage *on the ground.*

Again, the reminder – and this cannot be stressed too stridently – *this is 2021*.

Edwards has signed a two-year extension and will presumably be bumped back up to no. 1 HB on the depth chart, but where will 150 more carries come from? NFLbets is more than slightly skeptical about the hot-take names like LeVeon Bell and Todd Gurley which were bandied about on NFL twitter last weekend.

The sole “skill” players of note added by the Ravens in the offseason were Sammy Watkins, primarily a deep-threat receiver for a QB who threw as many 40+-yard completions as Ben Roethlisberger, Nick Mullens and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman of Minnesota. The OL got rejiggered in losing Orlando Brown, DJ Fluker, Matt Judon and Matt Skura while picking up Alejandro Villanueva, Ja'Wuan James, Michael Schofield and Kevin Zeitler. We’ll see whether the lineside shuffle works (NFLbets didn’t necessarily dig the Orlando Brown trade, but Villanueva and James are probably excellent pickups…)

But the ultra-talented and nearly as unorthodox Lamar Jackson is the alpha and omega to betting this Ravens team and the energies spent on speculation should be directed here. Forget about his so-called choking in playoff games (especially since we’re more interested in over/under wins here, anyway): The NFL bettor should be far more concerned about those 482 carries in 2½ regular seasons’ worth of games. That’s about 193 carries on average per 15 games, a pace that would have placed him 12th among all runners last season.

As it stands, Jackson’s workload was down slightly in ’20 to “just” 159. However, with Dobbins gone and no legitimate no. 2 back on the roster, the conclusion must be either that Jackson gets his totes back up to that 200-carry danger zone or that the Ravens simply fall short on offense.

In fact, as NFLbets sees things, the major improvement the Ravens are looking at for 2021 is the schedule which this far out appears to have five games against genuine Super Bowl contenders scheduled with most in the season’s second half (week 2 vs Kansas City Chiefs, week 12 vs Cleveland Browns, week 14 at Cleveland, week 15 vs Green Bay Packers, week 17 vs Los Angeles Rams) – or maybe six, depending on how you feel about the “Los Angeles” Chargers.

Thinking like this, though, is what puts the “sucker” into “sucker bet.” The NFL bettors who figured pre-Dobbins injury that the Ravens would get to at least 11 wins must honestly have believed that the roster had enough to at least reproduce last season’s results. Today, their thinking should change. Take under 10½ wins for the Baltimore Ravens.

Betting over/under proposition bets, part 8: New York Giants, 7 wins

Saturday, 21 August 2021 15:28 EST

Sometimes, maybe three or four teams during a typical NFL regular season, a statistic or insight comes down the pike that makes the NFL bettor want to wager the entire bankroll – or more…

Various listicles coming down the pike in the summer of 2021 are telling similar stories about some of the NFL’s offensive lines, with two themes coming up repeatedly:

  • The Cleveland Browns enter 2021 with the best OL in the NFL; and
  • the New York Giants (or possibly the Pittsburgh Steelers) have the worst.

Nearly three months ago, NFLbets enumerated the reasons for Pittsburgh to go under 8½ wins in ’21, and contrastingly a month after that plunked down moneys on Cleveland over 10 wins. Beginning with the condemnation of PFF among others, NFL bettors should already be checking potential pays on the under in the proposition bet

New York Giants betting over/under winsNew York Giants, over/under 7 wins (-130/+110)

Any Giants backer’ll be happy to inform that hey, Saquon Barkley is returning from injury and Nate Solder from opt-out. As for Barkley, NFLbets would respond that in his first season, the Giants ran a mid-range offense statistically; in his second, New York ranked 30th in points scored with Barkley putting in just 8 TDs in 13 games.

Meanwhile, the Giants “brain trust” addressed the team’s qualitative slide on offense by taking on Jason Garrett, a guy known for coaching underperforming Cowboys teams in the 10s, as offensive coordinator. The predictable result was a spectacularly bad offense ranking 31st in total yardage and scoring. Are the acquisitions of TE Kyle Rudoph and WR Kenny Golladay enough when Daniel Jones remains at quarterback?

And that’s the limitation that would-be Giants bettors (and to some extent the Giants front office) must contend with: Jones is clearly not a franchise-level QB but can he prove adequate? With an offensive line like that of New York’s, it’s quite the, likesay, challenge.

Considering the 2021 New York Giants schedule

Another point that Giants backers are likely to count in their favor are the six games against NFC East opponents. The fallacy of continuing similar results states that these games should be pushovers – or at least worth a 50/50 shot. Performance of their division mates, the Giants are an unimpressive 21-32 SU (28-26 ATS) against Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington since 2012, the last season after which New York did not make the playoffs. Only in the most optimistic of scenarios could NFLbets put the Giants at 3-3 in NFC East games, so for the sake of ultra-conservate play, we’ll put New York at 3-3 in the intradvisional games.

Beyond this, Jones & Co. can “thank” the weakness of the division for their second-place finish, thus drawing vs Los Angeles Rams (week 6), at Miami (week 13) and at Chicago (week 17). The NFL’s rotating schedule matches up the NFC East teams with the AFC West and NFC South this season, so the Giants can also look forward to games at New Orleans (week 4), at Kansas City (week 8), at Tampa Bay (week 11) and at the Chargers (week 14).

Admittedly NFLbets has some doubts as to the relative infallibility of the Dolphins and Saints beginning at quarterback, but all the aforementioned teams with the possible exception of the Chiefs bring a pass rush that should eat that Giants OL for lunch. We’d give the Giants losses in all seven games against potential playoff contenders.

Which leaves four games to consider: vs Denver (week 1), vs Atlanta (week 3), vs Carolina (week 7) and vs Las Vegas (week 9). Can the Giants pull off four wins, all at home, against four expected non-playoff teams (sportsbook have the over/under win totals for the four teams at 6½, 7½, 7½ and 7, respectively)? To be honest, NFLbets is now questioning the 7 wins given the Giants in this bet. Look at this way: Not only does the push seem like a completely reasonably likely outcome, the first game against Denver could make or break this prop, giving the bettor 17 more weeks to hedge.

Take the under on 7 wins for the New York Giants. And based on analyses of offensive lines, you’ll definitely want to back away from any “Najee Harris to Win Rookie of the Year” props as well…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Why, why, WHY are bettors backing the Detroit Lions?

Friday, 20 August 2021 16:01 EST

Bets on Detroit Lions at BetMGMOn Wednesday ran the story from Bet MGM: “One proud bettor placed a $20 wager on the Detroit Lions to become king of the longshots this season.A bettor with BetMGM took the Lions at +150000 odds [i.e. 1500/1] to lead the NFL in wins in 2021.If the Lions beat the odds and come through, the ticket would cash for $30,000.”

Certainly this kind of bet happens every year, though typically such stories center on some wacky dude throwing $1,000 at the longest of longshots to win the Super Bowl, likesay any Cleveland Browns team between 2008 and ’18.

Instead this not-necessarily-newsworthy non-story (“Our Top Story Tonight: Fan Wastes $20 Betting On Sports!”) acted as mere lede before the heart of the matter:

“BetMGM has taken more than 80% of total bets on team win totals on the Lions to exceed five victories in 17 regular-season games in 2021. As of August 9, the Lions ‘over’ on five wins was the most bet regular-season win total at BetMGM.”

Over/under win totals are clearly a more popular – and much saner – bet than the wager made by MGM’s 20-burning “proud bettor”, and here’s Bet MGM telling us that a substantial majority of all bets in the prop are on the Lions going over 5 wins.

NFLbets admits to uncertainty about the actual numbers; would  the folks at BetMGM have us believe that, among the 32 over/under win total betting the sportsbook have taken have been on the Detroit Lions? And if so, why the need for the rejoinder? If the Lions are drawing 80% of all bets, then clearly Lions over-5 is the single most frequently bet outcome. Something is suspicious and/or poorly worded here…

No matter: MGM is apparently letting slip some valuable and potentially costly information by releasing the story/stories. With the sportsbook signaling the masses about this 80%, how many part-time degenerate gamblers were triggered into thinking “Hey, maybe there is something in this Lions getting six wins” – though continuing with the stretching of credulity further, how many NFL bettors are really lining up to bet Lions over 5 wins at -150.

Alternatively, perhaps the BetMGM folks are betting (so to speak) that such a press release will bring the bettors through the virtual doors. On the over, BetMGM and one of the DraftDuel/FanKings twosome are offering Lions over-5 wins at -149 or -150, while Lions under 5 wins will pay out at +120 to +125. Meanwhile most other online sportsbooks are posting opposite lines in the prop: You'll mostly get +100 on +120 on the over and -120 to -140 on the under.

As for NFLbets’ take on the Detroit Lions themselves in 2021, entering the season with a brand-new head coach Dan Campbell (last employed as tight ends coach in New Orleans) and potentially done quarterback Jared Goff, well, we’ve ultimately concluded these Lions are good for maybe four wins. 0-17 probably isn’t likely but 6-11 seems well out of reach.

OF course, we're sure this flood of pro-Lions bets into BetMGM (not to mention the ridiculously low payout) has nothing to do at all with the sponsorship deal the bookie and the team agreed upon going into last season...

Proud Bettor of the Bet MGM story would’ve been better advised to plunk the $20 down on the over in the “Detroit over/under total wins” prop. With three seasons of average record slightly under 5-11, about the best pro-Lions can hope for is a push, NFLbets believes…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Preseason week 1 games: Confirming NFLbets’ suspicions on five teams

Sunday, 15 August 2021 18:49 EST

So we’re three weeks out from the NFL regular season and preseason games traditionally tell us next to nothing, but NFLbets can’t help thinking that some early goings-on are confirming our suspicions in the cases of five marginal-to-hopeless teams in 2021: the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers.

From the notebook, then…

•  After the New Orleans Saints offense coughed up some six turnovers in a 17-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, bettors would have to be nuts to cover the Saints in preseason futures bets. The mere fact that New Olreans has a QB competition between a guy whose own team describes him not as a quarterback but a “human Swiss army knife” and another who was last seen throwing 30 interceptions and 30 touchdowns in his last full season as a starter should be reason enough to jump off the New Orleans bandwagon right quick. For NFLbets, this preseason game just lent strength to our conviction on the Saints’ fate in 2021.

•  Pyrrhic victories may be the best the Houston Texans can hope for in 2021, it seems. As the Texans were getting past the Green Bay Packers, 26-7, WR Anthony Miller suffered what team officials were somehow labeling a “slight dislocation.” (We’d call that slight abuse of the English language: the descriptor “dislocated” cannot carry a qualifier, i.e. the thing is dislocated or not.) NFLbets is having a hard time imagining just what might constitute good news for Houston at this point, but an injury-prone WR 1 succumbing this early, slightly or no, just puts the Texans further into “To Finish with the Fewest Wins in the NFL” prop territory.

•  So you’ve probably seen the Dallas Cowboys on Hard Knocks by now, and once again is NFLbets struck by the notion that the show’s producer’s formula for choosing the next season’s focus is actually a method of forecasting sub-.500 teams. Before season’s end, “I’m not coming out of this bitch” could be this year’s version of Jeff Fisher proclaiming “I’m not going 7-9” in the 2016 series. For the record, the Los Angeles Rams went 4-12 that season and we’re guessing that, by 2021’s end, Dak Prescott will be coming out of this bitch and the Cowboys will be going home for the postseason again.

•  The Jacksonville Jaguars’ trade of Joe Schobert to the Pittsburgh Steelers, combined with Trevor Lawrence’s sloppy start in the Jags’ 23-13 preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns, can reassure bettors once again that they’ll be able to ignore Jacksonville once again. Meanwhile, Schobert, who as of this writing has yet to play a down for the Steelers, claims he expects to be the team’s defensive signal-caller. Um, why is HC Mike Tomlin making this move to what was a top-3 defense in 2020? Verrrrrrrry suspicious if your ask NFLbets; clearly the sportsbooks knew what they were doing when the Steelers’ over/under wins line was set at 9…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting on New Orleans Saints Quarterback in week 1

Sunday, 01 August 2021 17:05 EST

Now here’s a deceptively challenging proposition bet for you – not to mention a real potential headache for sportsbooks come pay out time.

A few props on the “Who Will Be Starting Quarterback for Team X in 2021?” mold are out there at sportsbooks, but in few camps is a real position battle happening in the preseason, and that is the New Orleans Saints. Thus the intriguing prop

Who Will Be the New Orleans Saints Starting QB in Week 1?

Jameis Winston, -150
Tayson Hill, +110
Ian Book, 50/1

Clearly are the bookmakers attempting to entice bettors with a bet on Hill; behind closed doors, oddsmakers are convinced Jameis “30 and 30” Winston will be the man in week 1 – this despite ESPn coverage stating that “The competition to become New Orleans starting quarterback is still wide open after [Drew] Brees retired this offseason.”

The big network’s Saints beat writer Mike Triplett, in coverage of the Saints in preseason, notes that in the first three days of camp, “Hill, 30, spent the first two days of practice working with the first-string unit, while the 27-year-old Winston took his turn in the starting rotation Saturday. On the flip side, Winston started off hotter Thursday and Friday, while Hill had the better performance Saturday.

Reportage from got more specific about Winston’s first go-around with the first teamers, with writer John Hendrix noting that “his first outing went pretty rough, to say the least. There were no turnovers, but a lot more incompletions today. … Winston missed deep right on his first pass, intended to Lil’Jordan Humphrey. He had a good pocket to make the throw.”

And so on. NFLbets should also note this information is nearly worthless for betting purposes, even on this prop –small sample size, pragmatic needs of an NFL franchise, etc., etc.

The better question (so to speak) for NFLbets is: Is there any reason whatsoever to believe that Tayson Hill has a chance at landing the job? Secondly: How are sportsbooks going to pay out on the starter?

The talk of Hill as starting quarterback began in earnest last semester when, as Brees slowly disintegrated, the usual WR stepped into the position for four games. He ended up with mostly Brees-esque stats, though taking sacks at a rate more than 3x higher than Brees’s: Hill took some 14 sacks in his starts, while Brees was dumped only 13 times in his 12 starts.

One can understand why the confidence on Winston is low – or at least portrayed so at the sportsbooks: Last season he totaled exactly 11 attempts all year; in 2019, he famously became the first QB ever to throw 30 TD passes and 30 interceptions, awesomely ending Tampa Bay’s season with an overtime pick-six – but since when is a wide receiver converted to full-time quarterback *in the NFL*? Based on this notion alone, Hill would be beating far greater odds than +110.

There’s also an interesting scenario in which Sean Payton starts both players with Hill in an wide receiver for the first snap of the season; would Hill’s backers in this prop have an argument for payout? What if Peyton actually does employ a platoon system? If there’s a coach in the NFL who would start his ostensible second-string quarterback on the opening snap, it’s Payton.

Nevertheless, betting on Hill to land the job is the only play of value in this prop. NFLbets would guess simply that the job is Winston’s to lose and that he well has the capacity to lose to the guy Brees appears to favor

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

NFC North betting: Action down on Packers, up on Vikings … Wait, what?

Monday, 26 July 2021 14:08 EST

2021 Green Bay Packers bettingMaybe State Farm should have taken out a policy on the 2021 Green Bay Packers’ chances. With Green Bay management and starting QB/insurance pitchman Aaron Rodgers continuing in their game of chicken, the Packers’ odds in the “To Win Super Bowl LVI” proposition bet are steadily lengthening while the handle on the Minnesota Vikings increases.

But if you ask NFLbets, both trends are foolish.

First, there’s the decreasing confidence in the Packers. If the premise regarding The Pack is grounded in the return of Rodgers to the team, why would the front office’s continues recalcitrance to make a trade *increase* Green Bay’s odds? At this point, the smart money (so to speak) is on Rodgers returning to the team in time for the regular season at least.

In addition, the opportunities to get players of immediate impact in exchange for Rodgers must certainly be decreasing daily. Seriously, what’s the best value they could get for Rodgers at this point? A mid-first round draft pick? DeShaun Watson, who’s likely to be spending as much time in attorneys’ offices as in practice?

Then there’s the money coming in on the Vikings. At one representative online sportsbook – for the sake of anonymity, NFLbets will refer to them as “Draft Duel” – the odds table in the “To Win NFC North” prop look like so.

Minnesota Vikings, +125
Green Bay Packers, +175
Chicago Bears, +330
Detroit Lions, +1800

Aside from the fact that those 5/4 odds on the Vikes represent some seriously crummy value, particularly for a 7-9 team that made few significant offseason changes. DT Dalvn Tomlinson and CB Petrick Peterson are fine additions for a defense which ranked 29th in points allowed last season, but can these two alone account for the 2 to 3 more wins that Minnesota will probably need to win this division?

2021 Minnesota Vikings bettingOn the offensive side, the Vikings put up some gaudy-looking numbers, particularly in the running game and especially due to Dalvin Cook going for a ridiculous 1,557 yards on 5.0 yards per carry in 14 games. Rookie WR Justin Jefferson was as impressive as any receiver in the NFL in 2020, and together with Adam Thielen combined for 2,325 yards and 21 TDs; the only more productive tandem was the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill because Mahomes.

Which brings us to the real crux of matters: Kirk Cousins. With all the potential for regression to the mean – e.g. Cook coming off a 300-carry season, Jefferson in his second year, etc. – NFLbets would be most concerned about the Vikings QB.

In Cousins’s first season with Mike Zimmer and Minnesota, Cousins enjoyed his finest season statistically. Though 2019 ended in the postseason for the Vikings and Cousins had Stefon Diggs to throw to, the stats continued in decline – even against a schedule with just four games against playoff teams, including two versus Green Bay. And last season, the Minnesota passing offense dropped to the bottom half of the league as the defense was nonexistent.

Finally, consider the Vikings’ 2020 season: After getting off to a 1-5 start, Minnesota briefly looked impressive on a 5-1 run – albeit including five against eventual non-playoff teams – before stumbling to the exits on a 1-3 streak. NFLbets hasn’t crunched the numbers (to be honest, we can’t imagine how to efficiently do so), but we’d guess the success rate of teams ending the previous season on a downturn is pretty low. Especially without significant changes.

In short, to win this division (again presumably requiring a mark of 9-8 or so), the 2021 Minnesota Vikings will have to get some breaks – and when has this franchise ever gotten a break to go its way…?

So NFLbets is declaring “nope” on both the Packers and the Vikings in a division-winner prop, at least until the outcome of the Rodgers situation is settled. The only decent value, and therefore the best bet here, is to take the Chicago Bears to win the NFC North at +330. We’ve already got the Bears at 10-8 SU in 2021, anyway…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting the Super Bowl LVI Exact Matchup prop: Is there any value in Bucs, Chiefs?

Friday, 23 July 2021 13:54 EST

Always fun  – if not nearly always lucrative – for NFL bettors in the preseason is the traditional “Super Bowl Exact Matchup” proposition bet. With the release of early odds in this prop, NFLbets takes a brief look at some of the lines and wonders once again just how seriously we should take wagering on this one…

Super Bowl LVI matchups prop bettingInfuriatingly but utterly predictably, the shortest odds are on a Super Bowl LV rematch:

•  Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Kansas City Chiefs, 12/1

Among the rational, only time travelers would find this a fair offer. In 55 Super Bowls, we’ve seen exactly one matchup happen back-to-back: Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills in XXVII and XXVIII. The 1992-93Cowboys were an all-time great team with top-3 offense and defense, while the Bills were offered the luxury of an extremely weak conference.

Neither conditions would appear to exist in 2021. While blessed with a point-a-minute offense, the Chiefs aren’t exactly world-beaters on defense. No disrespect to the KC D, but the truth is that over the past two AFC championship seasons, the Chiefs have allowed some 21.2 points per game – over 3½ more than did those Cowboys. This may seem like small potatoes, but it’s the difference between the average game coming out to a double-digit win or victory by a TD. In short, the 20s Chiefs may be awesome, but they ain’t no 90s Cowboys.

On the other side, the Buccaneers can hardly be expected to cakewalk their way to another Super Bowl against this NFC. Were all things equal at the bookmakers, the Los Angeles Rams might be considered conference favorites, that Washington Red Hogs defense could be as nasty a unit as we’ve seen this century, the specter of Aaron Rodgers returning to Green Bay still lurks, and who would want to face any NFC West team in the playoffs? Also recall that among the freakish feats the ’20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off was a string of three playoff road victories, followed by the Super Bowl at home. The point here: Tom Brady or no, the stars (so to speak) aligned for this title run.

So, no, NFLbets is not looking for a rematch in Super Bowl LVI. In fact, the best money in this prop are on matchups *not* involving a repeat: The shortest odds on a non-Tampa Bay/non-Kansas City ’Bowl are Rams vs Bills and 49ers vs Bills, each fetching 60/1.

Tampa Bay championship bettingThose looking for the Buccaneers to pull off the not-so-uncommon conference championship repeat – it’s been done 21 times – can consider the following oods.

Tampa Bay championship betting• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Buffalo Bills, 28/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Baltimore Ravens, 33/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Cleveland Browns, 40/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New England Patriots, 45/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Indianapolis Colts, 50/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Tennessee Titans, 50/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Denver Broncos, 60/1
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Los Angeles Chargers, 60/1

Among this lot, NFLbets likes Bucs-Browns at 40/1 and Bucs-Chargers at 60/1, though the latter could well require far too close a parallel to Tampa Bay’s run of 2020 if we figure Kansas City to take the NFC West again. No matter, though: If we’re starting the betting with a 40/1 ticket, much room for hedging remains.

And for those of you considering Bucs-Patriots at 45/1, come on now! Picture-perfect all-time argument-settlers like this rarely, if ever, happen in sports, much less in NFL football.

Kansas City Chiefs championship bettingBy the sheer numbers, the Chiefs are looking at a more precipitous task. Three teams have gone to three straight Super Bowls: the 1970-72 Miami Dolphins, the aforementioned Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s, and You-Know-Who-All’s 2016-18 New England Patriots. Most NFL observers probably wouldn’t have trouble putting these Chiefs on a level with those three sides and so might consider betting on odds like…

• Los Angeles Rams vs Kansas City Chiefs, 28/1
• San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs, 28/1
• Green Bay Packers vs Kansas City Chiefs, 33/1
• Seattle Seahawks vs Kansas City Chiefs, 45/1
• Dallas Cowboys vs Kansas City Chiefs, 55/1
• New Orleans Saints vs Kansas City Chiefs, 55/1
• Arizona Cardinals vs Kansas City Chiefs, 60/1

And from these, one can easily see the skewing caused by Buccaneers favoritism. As stated previously, the #2 and #3 favorites to take the NFC, the Rams and 49ers, are getting lines 2½ times longer than the Buccaneers. Concomitantly, this presents quite an interesting opportunity for the bettor who believes the Chiefs will the AFC.

Currently, the Chiefs are getting odds of +250 to +290 to win the AFC West – but these odds can be beaten with a combination of bets in this prop. Covering the Rams and 49ers plus seven other teams not named the Buccaneers would land a payout of at least +311 (i.e. 28/9) and quite possibly significantly more. A wager of Chiefs vs Rams, 49ers, Packers, Redwolves, Cowboys, Seahawks, Saints, Falcons or Cardinals? We’d probably make that bet.

Then again, the Cleveland Browns are getting mighty tempting 9/1 odds to win the AFC…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Kneejerk reactions to week 1 point spreads, lines, odds

Thursday, 22 July 2021 11:05 EST

NFLbets has said (written?) it before, and we’ll say (write?) it again: Betting week 1 games in the NFL is a crapshoot at best, burning money at worst. The truth is that most bettors are going into opening week in a next-to-ignorant state, armed only with memories of the previous season and speculation on the league’s rookies.

Naturally, of course, no NFL bettors worth their salt eschew betting week 1 altogether, and NFLbets has to admit to great temptation from a handful of the week 1 pointspreads, already released by most sportsbooks. So go ahead, bet at will – just be careful out there…

NFL week 1 betting: All 32 teams

Early week 1 pointspreads are as follows.

Dallas Cowboys +6½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFLbets realizes that the league traditionally likes to kick off a new season with the defending champs and with “America’s Team” expected to contend in 2021, Pokes vs Bucs makes a decent enough opener – except that after Hard Knocks and umpteen commercials featuring Tom Brady, this matchup will make for an unusual week 1 Overexposure Bowl…

Pittsburgh Steelers +6½ at Buffalo Bills
The Bills may have gained quite the bandwagon following during their playoff run last season (hey, NFLbets had ’em going to the Super Bowl last year, much to our chagrin) but we’re figuring the crowd is back down to the diehard Bills mafia, meaning this line will shrink – and betting on Buffalo will just look better and better…

New York Jets +4 at Carolina Panthers
If anyone doubted that NFL schedule-makers play to manufactured narratives, check out this, the Sam Darnold Revenge Game, in week 1...

Jacksonville Jaguars -2½ at Houston Texans
That goes double for this game: Urban Meyer’s first game as an NFL head coach pits his Jaguars against a stapled-together roster led by (most likely) the league’s worst starting QB. This opener should also get both teams some good national coverage for a couple teams who will be ignored for the last 17 weeks of the season.

Arizona Cardinals +3 at Tennessee Titans
Calling this one now: By season’s end, these two teams will be counted among the NFL’s most disappointing – by those who haven’t been paying attention to Kyler Murray’s baffling inconsistency and/or the steady degeneration of the Titans offense.

“Los Angeles” Chargers -1 at Washington Redtails
By contrast, Chargers at Washington could well be retroactively recognized as a matchup of a top-3 offense vs top-3 defense.

Philadelphia Eagles +3½ at Atlanta Falcons
NFL-Fostered Narratives, part II: This one’ll be marketed with a focus on the “battle” between two rookies coveted by fantasy football owners: DeVonta Smith and Kyle Pitts.

Seattle Seahawks +2½ at Indianapolis Colts
Seattle may be playing with a time-zone disadvantage, but the Seahawks have gone 5-1 SU to start each of the previous two seasons. NFLbets already likes the possibilities of giving Russell Wilson & Co. the 2½...

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Cincinnati Bengals
NFLbets recalls the disclaimer that investment firms were required to run at the end of commercials: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” NFLbets bets that by season’s end, we’ll be wondering how the hell the Vikings were giving a touchdown while visitors against a viable playoff contender.

San Francisco 49ers -7½ at Detroit Lions
The Lions’ unintended quest for 0-17 begins here: The fact that the Niners, who went 2-6 against teams with a winning record (and 2-7 against playoff teams) and are running with the same QB in which the head coach has been profoundly disappointed, get more than a touchdown in Detroit speaks volumes.

Cleveland Browns +6 at Kansas City Chiefs
Here’s your fodder for week 1 overreactions. A double-digit Browns loss will scare away backers in droves until about week 9 or so, while a Kansas City loss of any sort will have a majority of fandom mouth-frothing about Cleveland for the Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins +2½ at New England Patriots
This line indicates that belief in Bill Belichick remains way high, while Tua Tagovailoa believers are minority. It’s also the single least unbettable opening-week game.

Denver Broncos -1 at New York Giants
Forget the point spread in this game, and look at that 42½-point over/under line instead.

Baltimore Ravens -4 at Las Vegas Raiders
NFLbets is already penciling in a big Raiders loss in front of their first proper Sin City home crowd and guessing that the responses to a Ravens blowout will not be overdone. This should be the beginning of the end for Derek Carr as Vegas starting QB.

Chicago Bears +7 at Los Angeles Rams
If we account for the old saw of “offenses get started faster than defenses,” the path to betting this game is clearly all about the over. If Matt Stafford is one-quarter the quarterback that hyped-up head coach Sean McVay believes he is, the Rams might top 45 by themselves against Chicago.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Just say knee: Tampa Bay Buccaneers now 3/1 to win NFC

Saturday, 17 July 2021 13:31 EST

MCL Tear: To bet or not to bet on Tom BradySo Bet Online has released some updated odds on popular preseason NFC proposition bets, e.g. “To Win Super Bowl LVI,” “To Win Conference Championship,” etc. NFLbets had originally presumed that the tweaked odds on the “To Win NFC Championship” prop would reflect the recently-dropped information that Tom Brady had played the entirety of the 2020 season on a torn MCL, but nope.

We must conclude, then, that either the sportsbooks are simply ignoring the wider implications of the sustained injury and the possibility of penalties due the Buccaneers or they’re seeking to cash in on the general credulity and susceptibility to hype of the NFL bettor. NFLbets assumes that bookmakers are no dummies and thus are strategically approaching this offering to reflect people’s frivolity.

Just look at this table and tell us you can’t visualize the lucrative opportunities here.

To Win NFC Championship 2021-22

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3/1
• Los Angeles Rams, 7/1
• San Francisco 49ers, 7/1
• Green Bay Packers, 8/1
• Seattle Seahawks, 11/1
• Dallas Cowboys, 14/1
• New Orleans Saints, 14/1
• Arizona Cardinals, 16/1
• Washington Football Team, 20/1
• Minnesota Vikings, 22/1
• Chicago Bears, 25/1
• New York Giants, 28/1
• Atlanta Falcons, 33/1
• Carolina Panthers, 33/1
• Philadelphia Eagles, 33/1
• Detroit Lions, 66/1

Now if NFLbets didn’t know that much of these lines are based in marketing, we’d feel pretty insulted by much of this table: Right off the top, the odds on Seattle, Dallas, New Orleans and Arizona are well too short; is it not conceivable that at least three of these four miss the playoffs altogether? The Saints could start Jameis “30 and 30” Winston; the Cardinals are running with Kyler “Mr. Inconsistency” Murray; the Cowboys return their stud quarterback, but with an increasingly weaker OL to protect him; and if Russell “One-Man Team” Wilson ever goes down to injury in Seattle, the Seahawks are doomed.

Then there are the Buccaneers and their own Mr. Immortal, who own odds dropped to 3/1 to return to the Super Bowl – and NFLbets just doesn’t get it.

Full disclosure: No actual medical staff are employed at NFLbets; perhaps as a result, this writer can’t help but consider the dark side of the spectrum. On one hand, MCL injuries have been come back from numerous times. This Indianapolis Star article of late 2019 recounted eight MCL injuries to quarterbacks (plus Jacoby Brissette’s of that season) between 2013 and ’19, as follows:

Eight right-handed throwing quarterbacks since 2013 have reportedly suffered a left MCL sprain in-season and returned to play: Joe Flacco (2013, didn't miss a game), Ben Roethlisberger (2015, missed four games), Tyrod Taylor (2015, two games), Marcus Mariota (2015, two games), Russell Wilson (2016, no games), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2016, one game), Aaron Rodgers (2018, also suffered a tibial plateau fracture, no games) and Tom Brady (2018, no games).

These quarterbacks, on average, bottomed out with a four-point drop in completion percentage and a 10- to 15-point dip in passer rating. They actually tended to improve in their return (completion percentage jumped from .629 in the six games prior to .679 and passer rating increased from 94.0 to 100.7) then their play would fall off over the next three games before returning to form by Games 5 and 6.

Interesting that Brady makes the 2019 list, having injured his knee in ’18, which is probably what gave him the impetus to go through last season.

Everyone with the remotest awareness of the NFL has certainly heard more than enough about Brady’s impossible greatness, his legendary status, his seemingly infinite will to win – but the bettor would do a helluva lot better than to throw money at hype.

Yes, Brady had another killer season in 2020. Yes, Tampa Bay re-signed any important would-be strays before free agency and so returns all 22 Super Bowl starters for ’21. It seems to NFLbets, however, that Brady might have been better off taking time off rather than worsen an injury.

From a purely speculative angle, NFLbets would have to guess that Brady was given some kind of painkiller (likely, cortisone) prior to every game.  While footage of Brady stumbling about like a septuagenarian after a celebratory boat trip was certainly amusing at the time…

…in light of this retroactive injury news, well, let’s just say that tequila makes a crummy analgesic for ligaments.

Post-injury announcement, many have speculated that punishment will be forthcoming to the Buccaneers; such penalties will likely not directly affect the Buccaneers’ 2021 season or current roster – i.e. no suspensions forthcoming a la Deflate-gate – and by all accounts, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. But while the 43-year-old may have the strength and stamina of a QB 20 years younger, his knee assuredly bears every minute of its existence to date, avocado smoothies be damned.

Tell you this: If it comes down to a choice of the Buccaneers becoming just the second NFC team to make a repeat trip to the Super Bowl this century with a quarterback with injury extent unknown or the Green Bay Packers with the defending MVP having recovered from his psychological issues, NFLbets’d cover the latter hastily. Then there are the Los Angeles Rams, hungry and bringing back two of the top, what, five defensive players in the NFL plus a stat-piling quarterback enjoying an all-too-rare (for him) winning team.

But Tampa Bay at 3/1? Terrible value. NFLbets would advise instead taking advantage of the hype: Take the Los Angeles Rams at 7/1, the Green Bay Packers (with Aaron Rodgers) at 7/1, the overlooked Washington Red Hogs at 20/1 – or even all three proportionately – in the “To Win NFC Championship” prop.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.