The 2019 NFL Season is almost here and it’s been a crazy offseason since the New England Patriots lifted the Vince Lombardi trophy in Atlanta.
Let’s try and sum it up as simply as possible: Antonio Brown got traded to the Raiders, got frostbite, threatened to retire because of a helmet dispute and showed up to training camp in a helicopter (that’s just what we know).
Outside of Oakland: Marvin Lewis finally got fired, Bruce Arians came out of retirement, Rob Gronkowski retired, Arizona drafted a really short quarterback first overall and traded Josh Rosen to Miami, Odell Beckham was traded to the Browns, Michael Bennett was traded to the Patriots, Nick Foles signed with the Jaguars, Jay-Z became a partner of the league to collaborate on entertainment at major events, the Texans fired their general manager just because leading the coach to trade one of their best defenders for cents on the dollar and massively overpay for an offensive tackle, plus Melvin Gordon and Zeke Elliot are both holding out… oh and Andrew Luck decided to retire at age29 as well.
That’s just a snippet of the offseason and we’ve probably missed some (a lot) of stuff but you get the point.
Now is the time to start looking at the markets and finding the best betting plays for the upcoming NFL season.
Let’s just get this one out of the way quickly, you can work out your pick with one simple reminder. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still on the Patriots sideline, so good luck to everyone else. $1.17 seems generous for the Patriots here considering the only team that could beat the Patriots is the Patriots themselves, having them that short does make sense.
Some have spent the offseason trying to convince themselves the Jets might be something other than the Jets, but you have to remember it is in fact the Jets, their number of 7 looks about spot on. Miami by all accounts is tanking for the draft next season but has a coach that will have their players running through a wall every week and the Bills still have a guy who struggles to make a 10 yard throw at quarterback. If you’re betting the division winner, you’ll have to multi it with something else so look at the Patriots win total of 11 and back the over, the last time the team didn’t win 11 games was 2009.
MULTI: PATRIOTS OVER 11 WINS & WIN AFC EAST @ $2.07
BILLS UNDER 6.5 WINS @ $2.30
DOLPHINS OVER 4.5 WINS @ $1.71
Up until last Sunday, this was looking like one of the toughest divisions in the NFL to pick. The Colts and Texans were ahead of the Titans and Jaguars but you could make a legitimate case for all four sides winding up on top of the pile. Now with Luck answering the questions about his health by retiring, this is Houston’s to lose. They have the best quarterback in the division, the best receiver and at worst the equal most talented defence.
As for the competition: Jacksonville is primed to implode if they get off to a slow start after upgrading their quarterback situation this offseason. Tennessee can’t protect an already injury prone Mariota and he may be replaced by November if he doesn’t start to look better. The Colts might not be “bad” this year but you can’t argue they’ll be just as good without their franchise quarterback, Jacoby Brissett is by all accounts a really nice guy but he isn’t a great quarterback.
HOUSTON TO WIN THE AFC SOUTH @ $2.40
JAGUARS UNDER 7.5 WINS @ $1.95
How the hell will Patrick Mahomes back up that insane season last year where he threw for over 5000 yards and for 50 touchdowns? Chances are he may regress to the mean a little bit but he will still find ways to fill up highlight reels with his right arm and probably guide the Chiefs to another AFC West title. As the market favourite for most passing yards and MVP, I’m going to steer clear of him because while he’s probably still going to be really good, but that second season syndrome is a huge red flag and teams will have more footage to study.
The Chargers stuck with Kansas City all the way last year but have to deal with Melvin Gordon demanding a new contract either from them or a trade to a team that will give him one. Denver still doesn’t have a quarterback and we’ve seen everything we need to about the Raiders on Hard Knocks, they won’t be challenging but they might not be bad. For the Chiefs winning 13+ games again is essential because their best chance at a Super Bowl run is to have home field advantage come January so it’s probably worth taking the over again, as long as you don’t mind supporting someone like Tyreek Hill.
This one is well and truly a three horse race as the Browns, Ravens and Steelers are all legitimate contenders for the division here. After years of being the punchline for everyone’s jokes, the Browns have transferred that “honour” over to the Bengals with the development of Baker Mayfield and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. The offensive talent on this team should make the over a very tempting betting proposition most weeks but the question remains, can they put it together enough times to take the division?
Baltimore will beat the living snot out of their opponents with a hard hitting defence, but their success will ride on the throwing arm of Lamar Jackson which is always a risky proposition. Pittsburgh is my pick to take it out but don’t be surprised if the winner finishes with less than 10 wins all up as the teams take wins off each other. The Steelers have questions after losing Antonio Brown but they seem like a side that has overcome these sorts of problems in the past and will find a way to do so again.
RAVENS OVER 8.5 WINS @ $2.10
BENGALS UNDER 6 WINS @ $1.55 (Back them at anything under 4.5 wins)
Going into the season, you could have made a very strong case for Dallas as a good value bet to win the division and possibly make a Super Bowl run. Unfortunately, with their primary offensive weapon currently sunning himself on a beach in Cabo, I’m not backing them for anything other than mediocrity. It looks like people are backing in the under for total wins so there’s not a lot of value in that Cowboys market either. As long as Carson Wentz manages to stay healthy this should be the Eagles division almost by default, although that’s a huge if and at under even money, it’s not great value.
It’s hard to have too much faith in the Giants as long as they continue to rely on what’s left of Eli Manning’s right arm although if you think they turn to rookie Daniel Jones before mid-October, Over 6 Wins certainly has some value in it, especially with Saquon Barkley on the verge of true superstardom. Perhaps the only reason to not back him to win the rushing title is because he might have to catch quite a few passes as well instead of carrying it. As for Washington… the less said about one of the least interesting team’s in the NFL the better. There’s another value bet on offer here with Miles Sanders a potential candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year if he can emerge from a crowded backfield.
Miles Sanders Offensive Rookie Of The Year @ $15.00 (Value Bet)
Let’s just get this out of the way, the Saints got screwed last year, but how are they going to bounce back from that this season? Their offence is still loaded and even though he’s 40, Drew Brees can at the very least dump the ball off to Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Jared Cook. It would be a shock to not see them in the final four once again and are a decent bet to represent the conference I the Super Bowl. But say you think the Saints are going to struggle this season whether it is through age or getting over last January, who is going to challenge them?
Carolina looks like they could give them a run, but like seemingly half the teams in the NFL, there are health questions and concerns over their quarterback. Cam Newton is already dinged up but if he’s healthy he and the Panthers might be the next best side. At their current price it’s worth a small outlay on things clicking for them here and some insurance against the Saints collapsing. Before you mention Atlanta, they still seem like they aren’t over their 28-3 collapse in Super Bowl LI and unders looks pretty good value on them too. It’s hard to get a good read on Tampa, in part because most people just don’t care about the Bucs outside of Mike Evans. Also, because we don’t know what sort of impact Bruce Arians is going to have, so maybe steer clear of the Bucs as a team for now.
PANTHERS TO WIN THE DIVISION @ $6.00 (VALUE BET)
FALCONS UNDER 8.5 WINS @ $2.10
MIKE EVANS (TB) MOST RECEIVING YARDS @ $12.00
If any of the sub-$2.00 division favourites are going to be upset this season, you could make a pretty good case that it will be the Rams getting toppled. That roster is still insanely talented and they have the “next big thing” in head coach Sean McVay but there is huge implosion potential. To start with there’s the dreaded Super Bowl hangover after their loss to New England and running back Todd Gurley’s knee troubles. While he claims to be healthy, would anyone be at all surprised if this turns into an extension of his playoff run? Because of that they could very easily drop two or three wins and find themselves in a battle for the division.
That’s where the Seattle Seahawks could come into play as a value bet, Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll should be able to will this team to 10 wins regardless of who Wilson is throwing to and they just got a whole lot better trading for Jadeveon Clowney. The 49ers have gone from being the chic pick to the afterthoughts thanks to an injury riddled 2018 season for… pretty much everyone on the team but could get to 8-8 this year as long as Jimmy GQ manages to stay in one piece.
The final piece of the NFC West puzzle is the Arizona Cardinals who are coming off a 3-13 season and the first overall pick in the draft. With new coach Kliff Kingsbury running the show and threatening to revolutionise offensive football they have the look of a boom or bust team. They’ll either follow through on his promise and put up 40 every other game or get crushed and have Kyler Murray on IR by Halloween. At least that should make betting on them a pretty clear play one way or the other. For the fun of seeing that team go wild, back the over an entertainment play.
Cardinals Over 5 Wins @ $1.83
There’s a few divisions competing for this title, but the NFC North has to be the hardest one to pick. The Bears won it in a canter last season on the back of a phenomenal defence and keeping Mitch/Mitchell Trubisky from causing too much damage. That formula has the potential for repeat success this year although the Bears fans have bet their Super Bowl odds (and Trubisky’s MVP price) to a laughably low price. They won’t win with a title with a quarterback who can’t decide what his first name is but they are still the best contender top to bottom for the division.
Not to mention the competition should be stiffer this year since Aaron Rodgers got his wish and Mike McCarthy was fired in December. Of course the former NFL MVP doesn’t seem too enamoured with new coach Matt LaFleur so we could be one bad drive away from another not so silent protest. Or it could all work out and they fly through the season until he gets injured (again). Despite giving Kirk Cousins at the time the richest contract for a quarterback the Vikings also have an issue with their signal caller, although that’s just got more to do with the fact Cousins might not be that good and Case Keenum fit in better. The rest of that roster is stacked though and could offset Cousins foibles against teams that are anywhere approaching average or better.
The fourth and final team to deal with here is the Detroit Lions, first and foremost, every Lions game you watch, be prepared to hear “their coach Matt Patricia used to be an actual rocket scientist before joining Bill Belichick’s staff in New England.” Unfortunately, we couldn’t build a market on the over/under on that happening this season. On the field, the Lions should have an ok defence and running back Kerryon Johnson is a worthwhile name to keep an eye on in the player performance markets but… it’s Detroit, they’ll find a way to give people hope early and fade out late.
BEARS TO WIN THE DIVISION @ $2.75
PACKERS OVER 9 WINS @ $1.88
VIKINGS UNDER 9 WINS @ $2.05
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, the Patriots are the boring pick to win the Super Bowl but also probably worth backing. They’ve made the last three and four of the last five (for three titles). Plus, outside of Kansas City, there’s not a lot of high quality competition in the AFC to get there. It’s not a sure thing they’ll get there but it’s not like in the early 2000’s when they had to go through the likes of Peyton Manning’s Colts, Steve McNair’s Titans, Trent Green’s Chiefs and a handful of other challengers. If you dislike the Patriots, you may as well find a way to profit from their success and have some money to offset your misery at them winning again.
Now for the rest of the league, the next line of betting has the Chiefs but that would involve Andy Reid not messing up for three, maybe four games in a row and no amount of talent on the roster can offset that. For most of the offseason, the Texans have been a decent value option to come out of the AFC and while I hate both their trades over the offseason from a franchise perspective, they have the look of a team all in on 2019. Getting Laremy Tunsil might just be the difference between Watson taking a battering and being still fresh in December when they need him to make a difference, so at over $20 it’s a worthwhile value play considering they mortgaged their future for this season.
Before you ask about the Cleveland Browns, no. This side will be fun to watch but it’s like you’re lighting matches around exposed gas pockets, it’s going to go wrong eventually. As for the NFC contenders, well the three favourites are there for a reason and if you’re asking for a pick, it’s hard to look past the Saints getting some sort of vengeance for last year and Drew Brees getting his second ring. In terms of a value play, Seattle looks a lot better than some are giving them credit for and it’s hard to not see them in the mix come January, so have a go at them as a value play.
SAINTS TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL @ $9.00
TEXANS TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL @ $21.00 (VALUE BET)
SEAHAWKS TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL @ $34.00 (VALUE BET)