Wager Alarm 2020 NFL Futures Best Bets
Jon Impemba breaks down the NFL landscape and gives you his best bets for each division, conference championship and the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots: +100 / Projected win total O/U: -9 (-110)
So, even with Tom Brady signing in Tampa Bay, Las Vegas still considers the Patriots the favorite to win the AFC East. The Patriots really did struggle offensively in 2019 but still managed to win 12 games on the back of their defense and favorable schedule which saw them really play the lower tier of the league. The loss of Tom Brady in theory should have an impact however it seems like there is a lot of faith in Bill Belichick and his system to put the Patriots in strong position to repeat as AFC East Champions for the 12th straight season. Replacing Brady appears to be second-year quarterback Jared Stidham, but the team did sign Brian Hoyer who is very familiar with how to run the Patriots offense given that this will be his third stint with the organization after being released last offseason. There is also a chance the Patriots make a play for Cam Newton if you are to trust Vegas as they list the Patriots as the odds favorite for the recently released QB.
The Patriots offense will head into the year with a healthy offensive line which is something they never had last year and both Julian Edelman and Mohammed Sanu should also be recovered from their injuries. Second-year receivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers should also figure to contribute in the offense this year, especially if Stidham is at the helm as he demonstrated better chemistry with the duo during the preseason last year and likely will have more tolerance during the year than Brady demonstrated last season with the two then rookie receivers.
On defense the Patriots re-signed both McCourty brothers while also signing Pro Bowl safety Adrian Phillips to bolster an elite secondary that is anchored by 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore . At linebacker the team took a hit with Kyle Van Noy , Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts signing elsewhere in free agency but rotating linebackers is something the Patriots have had plenty of success within past seasons.
In all likelihood the Patriots will take a step back this season, how far of a step back is the question. Many will point out that Belichick went 11-5 with Matt Cassel l back in 2008 and went 4-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett during Brady’s suspension in 2016 but both of those teams were stacked with the latter going on to win the Super Bowl and the former coming off an 18-1 season. The roster heading into this year certainly has its questions and for that reason I do not believe they win the AFC East. As for their win total I would love to bet the number as I think they finish 9-7. This of course would all change if the team does in fact end up with Cam Newton as I would expect both the Vegas odds and team win totals to be adjusted.
Buffalo Bills: +150 / Projected win total O/U: 8.5 (-150/+130)
This is going to be the popular bet for the AFC East as the Bills shocked everyone in 2019 by going 10-6 and making the playoffs. With Tom Brady no longer in the division many will feel that the top spot is open for the taking and Buffalo made a big splash this offseason by trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs . Diggs comes over from Minnesota after posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons while totaling 15 touchdowns during that span. He will further the legitimacy of the Bills receiving group but to be effective the team will need Josh Allen to take that next step in his development. In year two, Allen completed just 58.5-percent of his passes for 3,089 yards. The Bills offense was again centered around a strong running game which was largely led by Allen himself who ran for 510 yards and nine touchdowns. Adding a receiver of Diggs caliber could be a sign that the team is looking to open things up a bit more and utilize the cannon of an arm that Allen posses with hopes his accuracy continues to grow. The team’s defense added edge rusher Mario Addison to a three-year deal after four straight seasons of at least nine sacks.
In 2019, Buffalo was 0-2 against the Patriots and 3-3 overall against the AFC East. With Brady no longer in New England it is reasonable to think Buffalo can at least split the season series while taking advantage of the rest of the weaker AFC East competition. My pick here is Buffalo to win the AFC East and I will take the OVER of 8.5 wins.
Long Shot Pick
Miami Dolphins: +1000 / Projected win total O/U: 6 (-135/+115)
You can scoff here as much as you want but few teams finished the 2019 season better than the Miami Dolphins who went 5-1 over the final six games of the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB which included a win over the Patriots in New England. Miami started off the year 0-7 but after jettisoning some of the malcontents and deciding to stick with Fitzpatrick over the struggling Josh Rosen it appeared as if the Dolphins roster started to buy into the program of rookie head coach Brian Flores. Miami is set to have Fitzpatrick under center again in 2020 and they added to the offense by signing free agent running back Jordan Howard to help bolster a running game that was almost non-existent for most of 2019. The team also signed both Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts from New England as both will join their former defensive coordinator in Miami. What’s even more appealing is that in the 2020 NFL Draft the Dolphins have three first-round picks (5,18,26) and two second-round picks (39,56) to add to their roster. Sure, they will be rookies, but that is a lot of what has the potential to be impact talent being added to their roster.
If you like the long shot bets, then getting Miami at +1000 given the state of the AFC East right now is probably not the worst investment. I would also take the over six wins as I do think the Dolphins will be better this year as head coach Brian Flores starts to shape the team the Dolphins hired him to re-build.
New York Jets: +700 / Projected win total O/U: 7 (+110/-130)
Off all the team’s in the AFC East the Jets are the only team which Vegas has the win total favorite as the under so let that settle in. So far this offseason the Jets have added some depth along their offensive line and signed Breshad Perriman to replace Roby Anderson as I previously mentioned. The roster is still lacking talent at the receiver position and defenses do not respect the passing attack enough to allow Le’Veon Bell to do much of anything. The Jets were 2-4 in the AFC East last season as they split the season series with the Bills and Dolphins while losing both games to New England. Though, again, the AFC East is considered to be more up for grabs this year it would seem unlikely the Jets are the team that is going to take that leap forward.
I am going to pass on the +700 and the under seven wins certainly seems appealing as I am expected the Bills and Dolphins to be better this year and I am unsure if New York can sweep a season series against the Patriots even if it is Jared Stidham or Brian Hoyer at quarterback.
Tennessee Titans: +150 / Win Total: 9 Wins O/U (+100/-120)
The Titans shocked everyone by upsetting both the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens to reach the AFC Championship game in 2019. The Titans offense was led by running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill who took over as the starter during the middle of the season and finished, completing 70-percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. This offseason the Titans were very much in the hunt for Tom Brady but ultimately decided to stick with Tannehill and reward him with a contract extension. The team also franchise tagged running back Derrick Henry who they will lean on heavily again in 2020. The Titans will have a tougher schedule come 2020 as they face off against the AFC North and the NFC North with road games against Baltimore, Green Bay and Minnesota. They also face the Buffalo Bills who should pose a tougher test as well.
I lean with Vegas here and would expect the Titans to take this division as head coach Mike Vrable enters year-three as the team’s head coach. Despite the tougher schedule, I do they the team also hits the over on the team win total at +100.
In the Hunt
Indianapolis Colts: +175 / Win Total: 8 Wins O/U (-125/+105)
The Colts finished 2019 with a 7-9 record and to be honest, it should have been better if not for injuries sustained to top playmakers T.Y. Hilton , Marlon Mack and QB Jacoby Brissett who all missed time. This offseason the Colts decided to make a change at the quarterback position and signed veteran Philip Rivers to replace Brissett. Rivers threw for 4,615 yards with 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions while completing 66-percent of his passes last season. By joining the Colts, we should see Rivers improve the team’s downfield passing attack but it’s worth noting that he will turn 39 years old during the season, so the possibility of a decline is worth considering.
Though Vegas has the Titans as odds favorite to win the division they do have the Colts right behind them at +175 while actually having the OVER as the favorite for the Colts win total of eight while the Titans had the UNDER as the Vegas favorite for their win total of nine. To me there are good odds here at +175 to take the Colts as the division winner.
Houston Texans: +225 / Win Total: 8 Wins O/U (-110)
The Texans kicked off the new league year with a shocker as they traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson . Hopkins is an All-Pro receiver, coming off a season where he caught 104 passes for 1,165 yards and seven scores over 15 games. To fill the void the Texans then went and traded for Rams receiver Brandin Cooks . The trade of Hopkins leaves the Texans with likes of Cooks, Will Fuller , Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee as the primary receivers. The acquisition of David Johnson will also help with the passing attack as he offers up elite pass catching skills, but injuries and poor play have really put a hamper on Johnson’s career after he exploded in 2016. There have been rumors that head coach Bill O’Brien has issues with some of his players and we have seen some questionable play calling from the coach in big moments that have cost the team.
The Texans are without a first-round pick in the upcoming draft and will not pick until the second round where they should look to help their defensive but could also look to bolster the team’s receiving group to appease quarterback Deshaun Watson . +225 to win the division is better odds than I would have given them but considering every team in this division does have some blemishes I could see the final standings coming down to a game or two. I would venture to think the Texans can eclipse the eight-win mark as well but at -110 I would let it be.
Jacksonville Jaguars: +2000 / Win Total: 5.5 Wins O/U (+115/-135)
Quite the fall from grace for the Jaguars who were in the AFC Championship game back in 2018 led by the running game of Leonard Fournette and the “Sacksonville” defense. Unfortunately, they blew a second half lead to the Patriots and the team never recovered as they dealt away most of their defense and will now have their third starting quarterback in three years with Gardner Minshew under-center. There is almost no shot at Jacksonville winning this division baring total deterioration of the three team is ranked ahead of them or Minshew taking a tremendous leap in year-two. That being said, I do think +115 at OVER 5.5 wins could be worth a play.
Baltimore Ravens: -200 / Win Total O/U: 11.5 (-105/-115)
The Ravens went 14-2 and took the No.1 seed in the AFC last season behind the explosion of Lamar Jackson who silenced critics from the get and finished with an MVP worthy season in which he completed 66.1-percent of his passes with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions while adding 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Baltimore’s only two losses during the regular season came against the Chiefs and Browns during Weeks 3 and 4. After that they rattled off 12 straight wins before suffering an upset loss in the playoffs to the Tennessee Titans. Given the state of the NFC North it seems unlikely, barring injury or serious regression from Lamar Jackson , that they do not run away with this division yet again. You can lock in two wins against the Bengals with ease. After that you have a Steelers team that will still have questions at QB with Big Ben another year older and coming off major surgery and a Browns team that has yet to live up to the hype and will have yet another new head coach to start the season making it three in three seasons.
Lock in the Ravens at -200 and I will even go with the over 11.5 wins here which is marked at just -105 with Vegas suggesting the under as the more likely scenario.
If the Stars Align
Cleveland Browns: +450 / Win Total O/U: 8.5 (-105/-115)
Look, the talent is theoretically here on offense and at times it flashes elite potential. In 2019 the coach Freddie Kitchens made some mind-boggling decisions which did more harm than good but that is not to let the players off the hook. The facts are simple. We saw better performances from Baker Mayfield in his commercials than we did from him on the actual football field and if Cleveland is ever going to be anything that is going to have to change. In his sophomore season Mayfield completed just 59.4-percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. No team entered 2019 with more hype after the Browns went out and acquired Odell Beckham Jr. following their strong finish to 2018. Unfortunately, OBJ did not quite click as he dealt with an injury for most of the year. 2020 gives the Browns a big shot at redemption as the offense added yet another weapon in Austin Hooper to replace the inconsistent David Njoku at tight end. The team still has an elite backfield duo with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and oh yeah Jarvis Landry and the aforementioned OBJ have not gone anywhere. If Mayfield can live up to his own hype, then this team can put up points and compete.
Of any other team in this division I would throw a few bones here at +450. If I was forced to bet the win total, I would also take the over, but I think this team is destined to be a 9-7 or 7-9 type of team.
Pittsburgh Steelers: +350 / Win Total O/U: 9.5 (+100/-120)
There is just something about the Steelers that does not do it for me. To me they are not any better than the Browns when push comes to shove and you get the Browns at better odds. Mike Tomlin has been public that he expects Ben Roethlisberger to be ready to go for Week 1 but what is that going to look like? He is a 38-year old QB coming off major elbow surgery. I do not imagine that turning out too well. Behind Big Ben is Mason Rudolph who is also coming off surgery and was very mediocre in replacing Roethlisberger last season. I know Pittsburgh still managed to win games last season as they finished 8-8 and Vegas is likely assuming the return of Roethlisberger would put the team back in contention, but I am not buying it. Take the under on the win total at -120.
Cincinnati Bengals: +2500 / Win Total O/U: 5.5 (-110/-110)
This would be one of the unlikeliest scenarios in all of sports but hey crazier things have happened right? The Bengals are in a prime position for the mere fact that they are sitting with the No.1 overall pick in the draft this season and are expected to take Joe Burrow with that selection. The success of an NFL franchise is largely impacted by the level of play at the quarterback position. If Burrow comes into the league and lights it up, then the ceiling this team can reach will be greater. Cinci still has an elite running back in Joe Mixon and receivers Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green are expected to be ready to go for the start of the year. I would consider an over bet on the 5.5 wins.
Kansas City Chiefs: -300 / Win Total: 11.5 O/U (-120/+100)
The Chiefs battled through quite the 2019 season as injuries to Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill but ultimately the team’s pure talent was able to overcome those injuries as they managed to still win 12 games and the AFC West. Oh yeah, they also went on to win the Super Bowl and spoiler alert, they are the favorites to win the Super Bowl again.
Facts here are easy to see, they have the best young QB in the game, no disrespect to the MVP Lamar Jackson , an explosive offense with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce leading the way and a pretty solid head coach despite the grief that he takes in Andy Reid. They play in a division that has a few teams potentially on the come in the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders but both of those seem unlikely to be actual challenges and a Los Angeles Chargers team that is committing to TyRod Taylor at QB which is a show we have seen plenty of times before and rarely has it ended well.
It is an easy bet to make and thus the -300 odds. The -120 on the over 11.5 wins is something I think we can swing as well. I expect to see the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game come seasons end with a possible repeat in the works.
Denver Broncos: +800 / Win Total: 7.5 O/U (-125/+105)
Los Angeles Chargers +800 / Win Total: 7.5 O/U (-120/+100)
Las Vegas Raiders: +800 / Win Total: 7.5 O/U (-110/-110)
So, Vegas have deemed the remaining three teams in the AFC West to essentially be a coinflip for who will division second, third and fourth behind the Chiefs. All three teams have +800 odds to win the division with individual team win totals set at 7.5. However, the team totals are where we can see who Vegas is actually giving the edge to in how they project the standings to play out and that is the Broncos second, Chargers third and Raiders third. Let us break it down:
Mile High Salute
The Broncos will have second year QB Drew Lock under center to begin the year after selecting him in the second-round in 2019. Lock made five starts as a rookie, going 4-1 while completing 64.1-percent of his passes for 1,020 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. At receiver the position Courtland Sutton will look to build upon his breakout 2019 season but the depth behind him is more than questionable with the likes of DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick currently slated as starters. I would expect Denver to address this position in the draft while also hoping tight end Noah Fant takes a big leap. The running game is going to be a feature of the Broncos offense as the team signed Melvin Gordon to join Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman . If Lock truly takes the next step then I can see taking the over 7.5 wins here but I’d like to really see another receiver opposite of Sutton.
End of an Era
Though the story of the offseason was whether or not Tom Brady was going to leave New England it should not have been lost that Philip Rivers leaving the Chargers is a pretty big deal. The question once the two committed to parting ways was who would be the man to come in replace Rivers at the position. Brady was rumored but eventually he signed with the Buccaneers. Though the likes of Jameis Winston and Cam Newton are still free agents the Chargers have come out and said the man replacing Rivers will be the man who backed him up last year in TyRod Taylor . Taylor has been around the block a few times with his most recent play coming with Cleveland in 2018 where he struggled and found himself replaced by Baker Mayfield after three starts. Prior to playing in Cleveland he started three seasons in Buffalo where he finished with a 22-20 record while completing 62.6-percent of his passes with 51 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while averaging 201 yards per game. Taylors value really comes from his mobility as he averaged 525 yards and nearly five rushing touchdowns per season. Taylor can certainly create some plays, but he isn’t nearly the passer that Rivers was even at the end of his career there in Los Angles. The Chargers also moved on from Melvin Gordon and will focus on again using Austin Ekeler after he exploded for 557 yards rushing while adding 92 catches for 993 yards receiving. Justin Jackson will serve as the back-up, but I would expect the Chargers to also address the position in the draft. At receiver they franchised tight end Hunter Henry and have both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams healthy and ready to contribute, though again, Taylor under center could very well lead to reduced production from the team’s receivers. Vegas still gives the Chargers a positive outlook on their win total, though also 7.5 the line is -120 for them to hit the over making it the favorite bet.
New Stadium Same Team
Though moving to Las Vegas the home team gets no love from the odds makers who has their 7.5 team win total sitting at -110 for the under and the over which makes them a true coin flip however they are the only team in the division with negative odds to hit the under. The Raiders have made a few moves on the offensive side of the ball but little that really jumps out as a true improvement. At receiver Nelson Agholor was signed and he figures to be one of the team’s starting outside receiver to go opposite of Tyrell Williams and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. Injuries of course were an issue with the Raiders last season with running back Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller recovering from offseason surgery and Williams working his way back from plantar fasciitis which plagued him most of last season. At quarterback the team was rumored to be in on Tom Brady but lost out and will have Derek Carr under center once again but with Marcus Mariota as his back up after the team signed the former Titans QB during free agency. There is certainly some potential here if Carr can manage the game while Josh Jacobs carries the offense but baring a season ending injury to Mahomes there is little shot at the Raiders taking the division and the odds just are not good enough to place a bet on their win total in my opinion.
Philadelphia Eagles: +100 / Win Total: 9.5 O/U (-135/+115)
The Eagles won the division in 2019 going 9-7 and that itself was a feat as the team was decimated by injury throughout the season, most notably at the wide receiver position which saw a returning DeSean Jackson play just three games while Alshon Jeffery was hobbled most of the year and was only able to suit up for 10 games. Carson Wentz was throwing to the likes of Nelson Agholor , Greg Ward and Mack Hollins at receiver while defenses looked to lock up tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert . The team’s running attack began the year with Jordan Howard leading the way but soon rookie Miles Sanders took the lead and finished with 818 yards rushing while adding 50 catches for 509 yards which was good for third most on the team. Philly took the division by a game over the Cowboys but it certainly did not need to be that close and it took a four game winning streak to end the season to lock it up while the Cowboys themselves fell down the stretch.
In 2020 Vegas has the Eagles as an even money play to win the division and has the over 9.5-win mark as the betting favorite. We have seen this team consistently under-achieve in my opinion and the injury history with Carson Wentz certainly will make them a risky pick in my opinion.
Dallas Cowboys: +125 / Win Total: 9.5 O/U (+105/-125)
To be honest, Dallas should have won this division in 2019. They had the better talent on paper but between coaching and just lack of effort it seemed at times resulted in some losses that just should not have happened like the Jets in Week 6, the Bears in Week 14 and the Eagles in Week 16. Now, I know all three of those games were on the road, but they were winnable games that the team could not finish. The disappointing finish lead to Jason Garrett being let go as head coach and Mike McCarthy being hired to replace him. The team also re-signed WR Amari Cooper and franchised QB Dak Prescott to solidify the offense. They also signed kicker Greg Zuerlein who can be a major asset in the kicking game. On the defensive side the team made some splashes as they signed safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix , defensive tackle Gerald McCoy , defensive tackle Dontari Poe and just recently linked to embattled linebacker Aldon Smith to a one-year deal.
Of the two teams I would much rather the +125 on Dallas to win the division. We are even getting +105 on the over 9.5 wins which also is not a bad take.
New York Giants: +900 / Win Total: 6.5 O/U (-110/-110)
Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid a bit here but the Giants at +900 to win the NFC East is something I’m drawn to as a nice longshot bet. Listen, I understand the team went 4-12 last season, but they had a rookie QB under center and were without Saquon Barkley for a chunk of the year. Those were not the only injuries the team suffered either as tight end Evan Engram was limited to just eight games and wide receiver Sterling Shepard to ten games. Who I just named, in theory, are the top three skill position players on the Giants roster. Not much for a rookie QB to work with and while sure there was some nice stories with Darius Slay ton emerging and Golden Tate looking solid after his suspension, it was clear the direction the team was heading. Even Daniel Jones dealt with injury which forced Eli Manning , who was benched after a poor start to the year, to start a few games at the end.
In the upcoming NFL Draft the Giants have the No.4 overall pick with many mocks suggesting that they could land the top overall player in defensive end Chase Young. Defense is certainly a position the Giants need help and Young should be an immediate impact player off the edge. There is also some speculation that the Giants are opening to trading out of the No.4 spot to acquire assets which would prove to be quite a haul and would most certainly include multiple picks in the current year’s draft. With new head coach Joe Judge running the ship he will look to bring what he learned from his eight seasons on the Patriots coaching staff to New York.
So, if I am betting the Giants to win the division this is what I am looking for to happen here. First, the offense stays healthy and supports second-year QB Daniel Jones as he continues to develop in a new system with a new head coach. Second, the Giants defense improves with the potential drafting of Chase Young and the free agent signing James Bradberry at corner who will be looked upon to anchor the secondary after signing a big money deal. Finally, the Eagles and Cowboys will continue to under-achieve. With the Cowboys having a new head coach it is not inconceivable that there are some growing pains here. With the Eagles, it is hard not to look at the injury history of the key players on their roster and wonder if they can keep it together for a full season. All that comes together, and we could very well see the G-Men at the top.
See, the +900 does not look that bad after all does it?
Washington Redskins: +1600 / Win Total: 5.5 O/U (-120/+100)
I think bringing in Ron Rivera is certainly a step in the right direction, and we saw flashes from Dwayne Haskins that caught your attention but ultimately, they are still ways away. A healthy Derrius Guice would be nice to see, and few stories in 2019 were better than breakout rookie receiver Terry McLaurin who would finish with 58 catches for 919 yards and seven scores. While there could certainly be some upside here it won’t be enough to see the Skins at the top of the division come seasons end.
Brees vs Brady
New Orleans Saints: +100 / Win Total: 10 O/U (-140/+120)
The Saints went 13-3 in 2019 as they ran away with the NFC South, owning the only winning record in the division. Drew Brees only appeared in 11 games due to injury, but he was stellar in those 11 games, throwing for 2,979 yards with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions while owning a league-best 74.3-percent completion percentage. There was some question this offseason as to whether or not Brees was going to hang it up but the now 41-year-old QB agreed to return to the team. The Saints offense is well balanced with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray in the backfield and Michael Thomas leading the league with 149 catches and 1,725 yards. To help bolster the passing attack the Saints were able to sign Emmanuel Sanders and he will slot in as the No.2 receiver which is something the Saints have really lacked.
Vegas has the Saints as a +100 favorite to win the division with -140 odds on the over 10 wins. If I was making a play here I think the division is still the Saints to lose even with the Buccaneers being everyone's favorite bet now that Brady and Gronk are there and since I think they win the division you might as well throw some money on the OVER 10 wins as well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +140 / Win Total: 9 O/U (-125/+105)
The Buccaneers went 7-9 last season with six of their nine losses finishing within seven points of the opponent. Why is that significant? Well, for one, it showed that the team played in some competitive ball games but also one has to think that Jameis Winston and his 30 interceptions likely played a hand in at least a few of those losses. The turnovers not only kill any momentum the offense is building but also strains the defense who is constantly going back on the field. In total, Winston had 39 turnovers while totaling just 34 touchdowns. That is not what you are looking for. The Buccaneers agreed and moved on from Winston this offseason and signed Tom Brady in free agency…. Yes, THAT Tom Brady . After 20-years in New England, Brady will be donning a new jersey. Now, Brady certainly isn’t the man he once was, but he still makes the right decisions with the football and will make better than bad football plays when on the field. Tampa then went and shocked everyone by trading for Rob Gronkowski in a move that can only help the Bucs offense. 2019 was a down year for Brady as the Patriots offense was often injured but he still threw for 24 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. The Buccaneers will give Brady a ton of weapons as well with Gronk, Mike Evans , Chris Godwin , O.J. Howard , and Cameron Brate .
While the focus is going to be on how the offense looks, I don’t think you should sleep on this Tampa defense either who was strong at times and should benefit from not having to be on the field as often. At +140 this is certainly a good bet and I think the OVER on the 9 wins is something we should be looking at as well.
Ice Ice Baby
Atlanta Falcons: +600 / Win Total: 7.5 O/U (-125/+105)
It’s quite possible that Super Bowl LI broke the Atlanta Falcons. Yes, the team made some coaching and personnel changes since then but since that Super Bowl loss to the Patriots the team has gone 10-6, 7-9 and 7-9. Matt Ryan had an okay year in 2019, throwing for 4,466 yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The team’s running game was almost non-existent, and the defense was among the worst in the league. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were solid as was Austin Hooper but Hooper is now in Cleveland. To replace Hooper the Falcons traded for Hayden Hurst and to help the running attack the team signed Todd Gurley . The defense could still use some work, but they did sign Dante Fowler to help the pass rush.
Figuring that Buccaneers are going to be better this season I find it hard to think the Falcons have enough to overcome both the Bucs and Saints to take the division so while +600 is enticing I will have to pass there. OVER 7.5 wins at -125 is not awful but still not exactly the bet odds in my opinion.
Carolina Panthers: +1200 / Win Total: 5.5 O/U (+100/-120)
The Panthers had a wild offseason which started with Luke Kuechly retiring and finished with the release of Cam Newton . In between, they lost cornerback James Bradberry and defensive linemen Mario Addison as well which further hurts the team’s defense. To replace Cam Newton the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal to be their next QB. Bridgewater is a fine game manager but lacks the explosiveness that Newton brought to the table. With Bridgewater under-center, we should expect to see even more Christian McCaffrey while the likes of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel may take some hits due to the lack of downfield passing. That said, Bridgewater is a very accurate QB that can live with the intermediate throws.
Carolina is a long shot for a reason, I would not even make a lottery ticket bet to have them win the division. Vegas odds favor the under 5.5 wins and that is hard to dispute as I would be surprised if they win a division game this year.
Cutting the Cheese
Green Bay Packers: +125 / Win Total: 9.5 O/U (-110/-110)
The Packers may have had an easy draw schedule wise in 2019 but 2020 will be on a bit of a different level with the NFC North playing the NFC and AFC South divisions. By finishing 13-3 the Packers also draw the 49ers and Eagles to fill out their schedule as the other division winners from last year. The NFC South this year added Tom Brady to the Buccaneers, not sure if you heard that news or not and of course it still has the Drew Brees led Saints while the AFC South has the Texans, Titans and Colts who should all pose tougher tests.
The Packers passing attack really struggled following the injury to Davante Adams and the team has done little to address the receiver position after Adams in terms of adding any key players. Sure, Devin Funchess can be a big endzone presence but let us get real here, it is still Devin Funchess . The running game thrived under Aaron Jones and though Aaron Rodgers still look strong at age 36 it does make sense for the Packers offense to again feature the run to open up the passing game when viable.
For me the telling sign here is that Vegas is giving you the same odds on the Packers win total of 9.5 wins. They too are not sure where to go. I think it’s likely always a decent play to get plus-money on the Packers to win the NFC North so maybe a small play at +125 is worth it but I won’t touch that win total.
Purple People Eaters
Minnesota Vikings: +225 / Win Total: 9 O/U (-110/-120)
Minnesota made a big move this offseason and maybe not for the best by trading away Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for draft picks. Both parties had been at odds with one another for more than a season with trade rumors swirling and Diggs being passive aggressive with his social media postings. That said, Diggs was the team’s leading receiver in 2019 and had posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Dalvin Cook had a huge 2019 but once again fell to injury late in the injury as he played just 14 regular season games. He finished with 1,135 yards rushing while adding another 519 yards receiving. At quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 69.1-percent of his passes but threw for just 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. There were issues early in the year with both Diggs and receiver Adam Thielen commenting on there early struggles of Cousins and the team’s lack of a passing attack. Thielen, for his own cause, appeared in 10 games due to a hamstring injury.
The 2020 outlook is uninspiring. The team signed Tajae Sharpe to add depth at receiver but seem like they will go into the year with Thielen and Bisi Johnson at receiver unless they add a playmaker in the draft. Dalvin Cook will again be asked to shoulder the load but with his injury history that will certainly put some questions on the table. The Vikings defense last season struggled and will be counted on to bounce back, especially in the secondary.
Vegas is favoring the UNDER on the win total of nine at -120. I think they could very easily be a 9-7 team here, but Kirk Cousins isn’t a QB that is going to win you games and it seems like they have taken a step back on offense here with risk at running back. I am out on the Vikings.
Chicago Bears: +300 / Win Total: 8.5 O/U (+100/-120)
We saw a step back in year two of the Matt Nagy era in Chicago as the Bears finished 8-8 after winning the division with a 12-4 record in 2018. There was much hope for another division title as Chicago was backed by an elite defense and a QB in Mitch Trubisky that had put together a solid sophomore season. The Bears also drafted running back David Montgomery in the third round and may figure his ability to be a three-down back would be utilized by Nagy given how he used Kareem Hunt during his tenure in Kansas City. Unfortunately, nothing went right for the Bears in 2019 as the offense struggled mightily. Trubisky regressed and the offensive play calling was under much scrutiny. Receiver Allen Robinson had a big season, catching 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven scores but there was little secondary threat opposite of him. The team’s defense remained strong, finishing fourth in points allowed and eighth in total yards allowed on the season.
It’s the Bears defense that has me intrigued at their +300 mark. I also like that they went and traded for Nick Foles to compete for the starting quarterback job with Trubisky. Injury forced Foles to have a lost season in Jacksonville last year but the Bears were willing to take on his contract to acquire him so it would not shock me to see him starting in Week 1. Chicago will need to get better on the offensive line after struggling last season but I feel as though Nagy is ready to reset and we saw last year that you can win in this league by having a game manager at QB, a strong running game and an elite defense. Give me the +300 on the division winner and the +100 on the OVER 8.5 wins.
Detroit Lions: +900 / Win Total: 6.5 O/U (+105/-125)
Injuries really crashed the Lions 2019 season but, not many figured them to be big movers anyhow. The team is better than 3-12-1 when they have a healthy Matt Stafford and Kerryon Johnson but the defense again struggled and Matt Patricia has yet to find his footing as an NFL coach and if you believe the reports around the league it does not sound like people like playing hard for the guy either. If you want some highlights to 2019 for the Lions, then Kenny Golladay is about all you got. He broke out for a career best 65 catches for 1,190 yards and 11 scores despite the fact that he had Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing him the football for half the season.
Few teams were as active in free agency as the Lions were as they prepare for the 2020 season. The team traded away corner Darius Slay but signed Desmond Trufant to replace him. Patricia also signed two former Patriot players in Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins while trading for another in safety Duron Harmon . On the offensive side they brought in receiver Geronimo Allison and signed former Eagles offensive linemen Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five-year deal.
With good health that Lions should certainly be better than the 2019 version that took the field. I think they could even hit the OVER on the 6.5 wins at +105 but at +900 to win the division, that is more of a dart throw.
San Francisco 49ers: -125 / Win Total: 10.5 O/U (-105/-115)
It makes total sense that the 49ers are the current Vegas favorites to win the NFC West as they are not only the defending NFC West champions but also the NFC champions after making it to the Super Bowl last season before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Niners are returning most of their team and more importantly will get another year for Jimmy Garoppolo to develop under Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Jimmy G was largely a game manager during the regular season and was an afterthought during the playoff run as the team used the running game almost exclusively at times to score and kill the clock. That said, Garoppolo still finished the year with a very solid 69.1-percent completion rate and a QB rating of 102.0. The running game will continue to be instrumental and there is plenty of talent in that backfield between Raheem Mostert , Tevin Coleman , Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon . Though Emmanuel Sanders left in free agency, Deebo Samuel showed he is capable of being the No.2 target for Jimmy G behind tight end George Kittle .
If you place the bet to win at -125 no one will blame you but I think there is something to be said about the UNDER being the odds favorite on the team’s win total of 10.5. Personally, I’m not on the 49ers to repeat.
The Value Play
Seattle Seahawks: +350 / Win Total: 9 O/U (-130/+110)
Seattle is a perennial playoff team and finished 2019 with a 11-5 record. Injuries hampered the Seahawks down the stretch as they were forced to sign Marshawn Lynch out of retirement after Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny suffered season ending injuries. The team also lost emerging tight end Will Dissly to a season ending injury and mid-season pick-up Josh Gordon was unsurprisingly suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Russell Wilson once again put the team on his shoulders to have another MVP caliber season as he completed 66.1-percent of his passes with 31 touchdowns and five interceptions. Tyler Lockett lead the team in receiving with 1,057 yards but it was rookie D.K. Metcalf that surprised as he finished with 58 catches for 900 yards and seven scores.
At +350 I think the Seahawks may be my favorite futures bet of any team. I also like that Vegas has the OVER of their nine wins as the favorite, especially since Vegas has the UNDER as the win total favorite for the 49ers who are supposed to win this division. Take the +350 and trust in Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in 2020.
Arizona Cardinals: +700 / Win Total: 7.5 O/U (-120/+100)
The Cardinals made the biggest splash of the offseason as they traded away David Johnson to the Houston Texans and in return landed DeAndre Hopkins . Hopkins gives last year’s No.1 overall pick Kyler Murray a legit weapon to target as often a possible in the Kliff Kingsbury pass happy offense. Murray finished his rookie season throwing for 3,722 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 64.4-percent of his passes. The mobile Murray also added 544 yards and four scores on the ground as well. At running back the team acquired Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins last season and Drake thrived. The team brought Drake back which opened the door for the team’s trade of David Johnson to Houston for Hopkins. Drake has the ability to both run and catch which made him productive piece of the Cardinals offense. Opposite of Hopkins will be Christian Kirk who missed a few games due to injury and the ageless Larry Fitzgerald who decided to come back for another season.
Hey, it’s definitely a long shot play here but at +700 the odds are certainly appealing. The Cardinals could and should have a high scoring offense this year and the defense isn’t too awful either. Vegas has the OVER 7.5 wins as the favorite at -120 so it’s not unreasonable to think they could make a play for the top of the division if the 49ers and Seahawks falter at all.
Los Angeles Rams: +400 / Win Total: 9 O/U (+135/-135)
To me they got exposed during their Super Bowl run a few years ago and the blueprint to slowing down this offense was put on film and that resulted in some big time struggles for Jared Goff who completed just 62.9-percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The team moved on from Todd Gurley this offseason as well and announced they will use a committee approach at the position. At receiver the team is still loaded with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to lead the way and Tyler Higgbee looking to build upon his finish to 2019 but again, I question if Goff can rebound from such a down year.
Vegas has the UNDER nine wins as a big favorite at -135 so I see no reason to even attempt to place a bet on their +400 odds to win the division.
Kansas City Chiefs +350
The AFC was won by the eventual Super Bowl winners in the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 so it should be no shock to see the Chiefs listed as the favorites to repeat as conference champions once again. The benefit however of betting the Chiefs to win the conference instead of just winning their division is the ROI you get on your bet. We saw the Chiefs listed at -300 to win the West meaning you have to bet $300 to win $100. However, to win the AFC championship the Chiefs are listed at +350 which nets you $350 on a bet of $100. The AFC West division did not get any better in 2020 and as long as there is good health here, I would find it hard to envision the Chiefs not in the conference title game once again.
Baltimore Ravens +400
Hard not to like Baltimore here at +400 as they have the reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson and a strong defense to help shut down opponents. Like the Chiefs, the Ravens will benefit from playing in an average-at-best division in the AFC North. This should allow for them to build up a solid record, likely land home field advantage and potentially a first-round bye in the playoffs. Baltimore’s offense will need to take a step forward in 2020 as they struggled in the playoffs against a good Titans defense, scoring just 12 points.
Buffalo Bills +1200
So, Buffalo is still listed below the Patriots in Vegas odds as New England, despite losing Tom Brady , is still considered the favorite to win the AFC East and have the third best odds to win the conference. I am not buying into that. We saw Buffalo make major strides last year while quarterback Josh Allen still struggled with his efficiency. The Bills defense was stout, and they added to that defense this offseason. The Bills also went ahead and added Stefon Diggs to give Josh Allen yet another receiving weapon. Buffalo fell short in their playoff game against Houston last season but if Josh Allen can refine his passing ability at all this offense has the ability to make some noise while the Buffalo defense shuts down opponents.
Tennessee Titans +1600
Last year’s Cinderella story, Tennessee made it to the AFC championship game in 2019 and held an early lead of the Chiefs before Patrick Mahomes went to another level and the Titans defense just could not stop them in the second half. That said, to see the Titans at +1600 is quite surprising. The Titans are returning the majority of their team from last year while adding some solid players such as Vic Beasley to the team’s defense. The offense will again be built around game management by Ryan Tannehill and the downhill running of Derrick Henry who carried the Titans offense throughout the second half of the season and their playoff run. Head coach Mike Vrable will now be in year-three of implementing his system and it is quite surprising to see these odds here on Tennessee.
San Francisco 49ers +500
The 49ers won the NFC championship last season, going 13-3 and on the back of a shutdown defense and a dominant running attack. Their efforts fell short in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs, but it should be no real shock to see them considered a favorite to win the NFC championship once again. The Niners are returning most of their roster for last season with the exception of mid-season acquisition Emmanuel Sanders who left in free agency. Schedule wise the 49ers will be playing the AFC and NFC East divisions which can be considered rather soft when considering the opponents, they will draw such as the Redskins, Jets, Dolphins and Giants whom all project to be sub-.500 teams. A favorable schedule will put them in a good spot at one of the league’s top records and a shot at home field advantage. At +500 you are getting great odds on a team that was just in the Super Bowl last season.
New Orleans Saints +500
Like the 49ers, the Saints also sit at +500 odds to win the NFC and they too finished last year with a 13-3 record. With Drew Brees returning and the signing of Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason there is much more buzz surrounding the Saints than the 49ers as true favorites to finish atop of the NFC. The Saints offensive attack as been more focused around the run-in recent seasons in an effort to keep Brees healthy and good to go come playoff time. Unfortunately, the playoffs have not been too friendly in recent seasons, having been eliminated by the Vikings in the Wild Card round in 2019. With the Saints being perennial front runners in the NFC and Brees on the final legs of his career we could certainly see the Saints gearing up for a big 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +600
You acquire Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and all of a sudden, the outlook on your season changes drastically. The Buc’s are the public darling right now with the idea of Brady going to Tampa and making them contenders. Last season Tampa finished with a 7-9 record but found themselves playing in plenty of close games. Last season’s quarterback Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions compared to Brady who threw just eight. Now, sure, 2019 was far from Brady’s best season but the offense the Patriots surrounded him with was abysmal. With the likes of Gronkowski, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin now catching footballs the belief is we get a rejuvenated Brady who is just a few years removed from an MVP season.
Seattle Seahawks +1100
Putting my cards on the table here, I like the Seahawks as my longshot play. I think they have a real shot to win the NFC West and might have been bigger players in the 2019 playoffs if not for the rash of injuries that forced them to bring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to give them some assemblance of a running game which even then was non-existent. Russell Wilson is a winner, that type of intangible cannot be measured but he often carries Seattle and keeps them in games that they may not be in with another quarterback. The continued development of DK Metcalf as a legit receiving threat will be a boost to the offense which also saw breakout seasons from Tyler Lockett and running back Chris Carson last year. Should Seattle draft some impact players on the offensive line or defense then I would not be shocked to see them playing for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers +1200
The Packers leaned heavily on the running game in 2019 with Aaron Jones exploding for 1,084 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding 49 catches for 474 yards and three more scores. The team finished 13-3 but never quite looked that dominant with the lack of a passing attack due to injuries at the wide receiver position. That said, Aaron Rodgers did all that he could with the players he was given and finished with 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions while throwing for 4,002 yards. The Packers defense was better than expected early on but eventually was exposed against better competition. That said, with better health from Davante Adams and the likelihood that the Packers draft a wide receiver in this upcoming receiver rich NFL Draft it’s hard to count out the Packers at those appealing +1200 odds.
Chicago Bears +2000
I never count out teams with an elite defense and that is what the Bears bring to the table when considering them as potential NFC champions. We also saw how successful a team with a strong running game and a quarterback that can manage game behind an elite defense with the 49ers making it to the Super Bowl and in the AFC, though not an elite defense still a good defense, the Titans making it to the AFC championship. The Bears acquired Nick Foles from the Jaguars this offseason who has playoff experience and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles two seasons ago. Foles will “compete” with Mitch Trubisky for the starting gig but all things considered this should be Foles job to lose. If the Bears offense can show any level of competency under Foles then it should score enough points to win games while the defense shuts down the opposition.
Kansas City Chiefs +650
Repeating as Super Bowl champion is no easy feat but the Chiefs are a team built for the long haul with elite young talent lead by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a coach who always has his team in the thick of it in Andy Reid. Last season the Chiefs dealt with adversity with both Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill missing time and playing at less than 100-percent but once the playoffs hit the Chiefs were ready dance and they finished the year on the top of the mountain following their Super Bowl victory over the 49ers. Of any team in the AFC I think they will be the most consistent and therefore you would be getting a great return on at +650 if they do in fact go back-to-back.
Baltimore Ravens +700
So, Vegas thinks the Super Bowl champion is coming from the AFC with the Chiefs and Ravens pulling in with the top odds. Baltimore took off last season behind MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson and a strong defense but ultimately were upset in the playoffs by Tennessee. This isn’t my favorite pick, there should still be some skepticism regarding Lamar Jackson and his ability to repeat his 2019 season which saw him lead the league in touchdown passes while also setting an NFL quarterback record by rushing for 1,206 yards. The longevity and sustained success for mobile quarterbacks in the NFL has been fleeting over the years and Jackson will need to show that his improved pass accuracy is the real deal.
San Francisco 49ers +1200
The 49ers rode their elite defense and rushing attack to an NFC Championship and Super Bowl appearance in 2019. They had developments from rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel towards the second half of the season which should also be encouraging. That said, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo certainly seemed exposed during the team’s playoff run and that has me questioning whether a true repeat season is in order and thus makes the 49ers a risky bet to make.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1200
Yup, the Gronk trade has moved the Buccaneers into a tie for the third best odds to win the Super Bowl. Interestingly enough Tampa is still not the odds favorite to win their own division, but Vegas is clearly thinking that if Tampa makes it to the dance that Tom Brady is going to get the job done. Even if Gronk isn’t 100% the player he was in New England following his one-year retirement, if Tampa gets 80-percent of that then he will be among the top tight ends in football and gives Brady a comfortable receiver to target while also working with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin .
New Orleans Saints +1400
The Saints are still favored to win the NFC South and have the same odds as the Buccaneers to win the NFC championship, yet you are getting them at +1400. New Orleans added Emmanuel Sanders to their offense this offseason and Drew Brees is coming back from another run before he retires. The Brees vs Brady back and forth is going to be a storyline all season as they compete against one another. This is again, not a bad return here either and I like the Saints more than the 49ers here as well.
Tennessee Titans +4000
The Titans are my longshot pick here at +4000. Sure, they went on an incredible run behind Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill who played out of his mind, but this team has the makeup to be a contender under Mike Vrable. Add to it that the division is certainly up for grabs and the fact that they made it to the AFC championship game last season. This team is going to use the game management of Tannehill while still running with Henry while playing a strong defense. I expect the Titans to go defense in the draft as well to really add some depth in the secondary where they were surprisingly a bit weak last season with the down year from Malcolm Butler .
Seattle Seahawks +2500, New England Patriots +2500, Dallas Cowboys +2800, Green Bay Packers +3300, Cleveland Browns +4000, Chicago Bears +5000