Football is back! Let that resonate for a minute. With it, comes a new gambling climate, one that is seeing states across the country legalize sports gambling. We’ve touched on this a little before, as well as some common definitions, terms and some tips (they can be found here: Vegas 101: Introductory to Betting). One obvious omission from that list is this: DO NOT BET ON PRESEASON GAMES! I know it might sound fun, but betting on an exhibition game where the players you’ve heard of spend more time eating hot dogs on the sidelines than actually playing is not a lucrative idea. Don’t believe someone when they say the found an angle in a preseason game; they’re lying to you. There are no angles, especially not in week one. Don’t worry though, this does not mean we sit on our hands and watch football start with no action. Instead, we turn our attention to something easier to dive into: Season Win Totals. For some of you, win totals are not your ideal choice of wager. They take an entire season to pay out, and the probability of a payout can be drastically changed at the drop of a hat (or a slam of a Rodgers). However, these wagers can be very worthwhile as they consider an entire body of work, and not just one potential outlier of a game.
When looking at win totals, I generally gravitate to “unders.” My rationale for this is simple, it is easier for teams to get worse than better during the season. Football is not a sport where major trades take place or a big time free agent is added late in the offseason. Other than players taking the next step and developing fast, there are no real other avenues of a team progressing from where they start out. It is a lot easier however to get worse. An injury to a key player, locker room descension, giving up on the end of a season for a better draft pick. The likelihood of getting worse is higher than getting better, especially when you look at teams that didn’t have top draft choices that could take the next step.
I’ll be breaking down picks for our first edition of season win totals. As always, things can change drastically throughout the next couple of weeks. So we will revisit these totals up until week one, but it is important to try and jump on early odds before the general public takes action.
Top Plays (5-Star Bets):
- Tennessee Titans UNDER 8 wins (-107): The Titans made the playoffs and were the fortunate team that got to face playoff Andy Reid. Don’t be fooled though, this team is not a playoff team. They rely on the running game and will utilize Derrick Henry in a bell cow role this year. Mariota hasn’t progressed enough as a passer yet to be confident in his abilities. Throw in a first year head coach, and things don’t look great for the Titans. My biggest concern for them is their division. The Jaguars are the new heavy hitters and looked poised to repeat as division champions. The Texans were lighting defenses up with Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins before Watson’s injury. Andrew Luck is back and reported to be healthy for the Colts. Tennessee comes in no higher than 3rd in their own division and very well could finish last. Add this to their schedule of having to face the NFC East out of conference this year, as well as games vs the Patriots, Ravens and Chargers, and things look gloomy for Nashville.
- Miami Dolphins UNDER 6.5 wins (+115): Miami won six games last year but their expected Pythagorean win total was only five. They didn’t get much better either. Tannehill may or may not play (never know with his injury history), and even if he does, he’s no better than average. While the Dolphins did add some much needed defensive help in Robert Quinn and Minkah Fitzpatrick, they lost their number one offensive threat in Jarvis Landry. The schedule does them no favors either, they face the Packers, Vikings, and Texans on the road. Add in two games vs the Patriots, a week 16 matchup vs the Jaguars, and scary opponents in both the Lions and Colts, and this season could fall to the wayside quickly. They have zero “sure-fire” wins on their schedule, and to me, a 5-11 season looks very likely. Grab the under with the positive juice.
Good Plays (3-Stars):
- Buffalo Bills UNDER 6 Wins (-155): This total has dropped from 6.5 earlier in the offseason and carries heavy juice. The Bills won 9 games last year, but their point differential suggests they were closer to a 6-win team. I expect the Bills to be one of the worst teams in the league.
- Arizona Cardinals UNDER 6 Wins (+105): Arizona is another team that had a win total last year that doesn’t reflect their actual performance. The Cardinals won 8 games last year but played more like a 6-10 team. Their division has two top tier teams in Seattle and LA, and the 49ers are making great strides as well. Arizona will struggle to finish with 6 wins this year.
IF You Have to Play:
Since this is a Philly site and I am an unabashed die-hard Eagles fan, I’ll always give advice on betting the Eagles. I personally never bet on them myself. It’s a rule of mine to never bet on my favorite team. I am emotionally invested enough that any monetary gain is offset and a loss makes things so much worse. The Eagles total is set at 10.5 wins (the usual number for projected division champs). This number seems right on, and if Carson Wentz is the same MVP-caliber player he was last year, the over would be the play. The Eagles’ schedule is not the greatest, as they finish the year with 3 of 4 games on the road and have non-divisional matchups vs. the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Vikings, Panthers, Jaguars, and Texans. The Eagles will get at least one win vs. each divisional opponent and should beat the Bucs, Colts, and Titans. That brings the total to 6 wins; they’d need to go .500 in their other 10 games to surpass the 10.5 number. That certaintly isn’t an unlikely event, but it’s also not one to feel overly confident about. My lean is towards the over, since this team brings back a majority of their Super Bowl winning squad and adds MVP-Wentz back to the mix. However, a 10-win season is still probably good enough to win this division, and resting players could be a concern at the end of the season. Bet the over if you have to, but I’ll just be riding the emotional high of flying with our Defending Champion Eagles.