Six Teams I’m Looking to Bet Against Early in the NFL Season

After months of research and reading, I’m ready to reveal some of my NFL thoughts for the 2018 season. I’ll start with teams I’m looking to bet against early in the season. That can include under the season win total, bets against teams in individual regular season games or both. I also looked closely at the yes/no props to make the playoffs that are posted for each team, which is something new for me this season.

Before starting, I have a few things to say about the Buffalo Bills. I bet Bills under 6.5 wins in early July. The most popular win total bet I saw people talk about earlier this summer was Bills under 7 or 6.5 wins. Then LeSean McCoy was involved in domestic violence allegations and the win total went down to 6. I still think they go under 6 but understand if people want to stay away now that some of the value has been extracted. Everything lines up for the Bills to be an under team this season. They made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. They traded quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and signed A.J. McCarron and drafted Josh Allen. I’m not sold on McCarron as a NFL starter and Allen had accuracy concerns in college. The offensive weapons in Buffalo are limited and the defense benefitted from turnover luck last season. The Bills have road games against the Ravens, Vikings and Packers in September with a Week 2 home opener against the Chargers in between. If the Bills have a poor record to start the season, I’m guessing they’ll start Allen and become an even worse team. I can see the Bills finishing with the worst record in the NFL but they’re already being priced as one of the bottom teams in the league.

Jaguars- When looking to identify teams that I want to bet against, I tend to look at teams who greatly exceeded expectations the previous year. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a win total of 6.5 after winning three games in 2016. They won 10 games last season and now their win total has increased by 2.5 games to 9. Under 9 will be a bet for me. Jacksonville’s defense is an amazing unit but I don’t believe in Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette’s numbers were inflated by breaking off a few long runs. The Jaguars benefitted from Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck not starting against them in both games, and Texans and Colts will be a lot better than they were last season. I’m undecided if I want to bet against the Jaguars in Week 1, where they are a 3.5-point favorite at the New York Giants, but I’ll be looking to fade them in other spots early in the season.

Verdict: Jaguars under 9 is a strong bet and also betting against them in several early season games.

Panthers- The Panthers finished 11-5 but it seemed like oddsmakers never really respected Carolina. In December, they were a 2.5-point home underdog against the Vikings and only a 3-point favorite against the Packers when Aaron Rodgers made his return from a fractured collarbone. Then in the playoffs, they were a 6.5-point underdog against the Saints. Carolina was able to cover in all three of those games but they were a step below all the top contenders in the NFC. I still feel that way about the Panthers and would bet them under 9 or the “no” to make the playoffs. I’m not impressed with the weapons around Cam Newton and didn’t like the Panthers bringing in Norv Turner to be the offensive coordinator. The defense will be without Thomas Davis for the first four games after his PED suspension. Right now I like the Cowboys to win straight up against the Panthers in Week 1 and then the Falcons to beat them in Week 2.

Verdict: I’m looking to fade the Panthers in the first two games. I like under 9 but betting the “no” to make the playoffs might be a better way to go. Under 9 seems to be a popular bet and the juice on the under is -155 and -165 at the two places I’m looking. Their odds to miss the playoffs are -150 and -165. I don’t think nine wins is good enough to make the playoffs in the NFC but that would push on the win total. So if you think 10 or more wins will be required to make the postseason, the “no” on the playoff bet at -150 would be better.

49ers- Before the 49ers inserted Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback, the team was 1-10. They finished the season with five straight wins but most of those games were against bad teams or teams that already clinched a playoff berth. You could argue that the 49ers had a misleading record because of how they did at the end of the season. However, they lost five games by a combined 13 points (two of the losses in overtime) between Weeks 2 and 6 so maybe they should’ve had a few more wins when Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard were starting. I still think the 49ers are lacking in talent and that a win total of 8.5 is a touch high. But instead of betting their season win total under, I’ll be looking to fade them in individual games early in the season especially since LB Reuben Foster is suspended the first two games.

Verdict: Going to pass for now on the 49ers win total but will look to bet against them in their first four games (at Vikings, vs Lions, at Chiefs, at Chargers), and on the “no” for them to make the playoffs.

Chiefs- The Chiefs are a tough team to judge from a season-long perspective . They traded Alex Smith and now turn the offense to 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes. Smith was an above average quarterback but his upside was limited. He would win games in the regular season but they were never one of the favorites to win the AFC with him under center. Mahomes projects to be more of a boom or bust quarterback. He has a huge arm but his strong college stats may have been aided by playing in the Big 12. I can see Mahomes taking a little bit to adjust but expect him to get better as the season goes on. The Chiefs defense is also a huge question mark. Because of that I’ll be looking to fade Kansas City early especially away from Arrowhead. They go to the Chargers in Week 1 and play at the Steelers in Week 2 so Mahomes will be put to the test immediately. They also have primetime games on the road against the Broncos and Patriots in October.

Verdict: Going to pass on the win total because Mahomes should improve throughout the season but look to fade Kansas City in at least the first two weeks.

Raiders- The Raiders were a team I loved to bet against last season and played them under 9.5 wins. I reason I liked them under last season was the similar theory to why I’m against the Jaguars this season. Usually after I get a team right one season, I stay away from them the next year but not these Raiders. I don’t think Jon Gruden is a good coach for today’s NFL and he made some curious offseason moves. The Oakland fans know the team is going to Vegas soon so I can see a limited home field advantage if the Raiders start slowly. There’s not much value in betting against them in the opener as the Rams are now a 3.5-point road favorite in the second Monday night game in Week 1. But betting against them in other early-season games and under eight wins is in play.

Verdict: I still think the Raiders are overrated and the Gruden hire could turn out to be a disaster.

Seahawks- Times are changing in Seattle. The “Legion of Boom” is no more as Richard Sherman was released and Kam Chancellor retired. Now Russell Wilson is left with a bad offensive line, a lot of question marks with his offensive weapons and possibly a much worse defense. The team also hired Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator, who has had hardly any recent success as an assistant coach in the NFL and during his one year at the University of Georgia. People know that Seattle will probably be down this year so the value in their win total under 8 is gone. But I’m going to look to fade them in Week 1 against the Broncos and possibly in some other games in the first month.

Verdict: The Seahawks are no longer a top team in the NFL and there should be some value betting against them early in the season.

For all my preseason picks and thoughts follow the @SharpestSquares on Twitter.

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