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. Continue reading
I will start off by saying I don’t have an opinion on the side or total in the Super Bowl. The Panthers are the better team but I don’t feel confident enough in betting them -6 on a neutral field. The Broncos have the best defense in the league and that’s a lot of points to give. On the other side, I have no interest in fading this Panthers juggernaut that have proved me wrong most of the season.
If you like the Panthers against the spread then you probably could make a correlated bet to the over at 45. If the Broncos cover then you have to expect a lower-scoring game, similar to the AFC Championship.
The good thing about the Super Bowl is the amount of prop bets that are offered. I think there are some great opportunities here and it’s much easier than handicapping the full game. Here are my three favorite props for Sunday:
Will there be a Defensive or Special Teams Touchdown? No (-155)
It might not always be attractive to take a prop at minus-money. In this case you have to bet $155 to win $100 but I think there’s tremendous value in this bet. As good as the defenses are for both teams, a Super Bowl game is usually played very conservatively. Both teams don’t want to make mistakes, which limits the chance for an interception for a touchdown. Both teams are have strong special team coverage units so I’m not worried about a return touchdown. As of Thursday morning, this is the prop I feel most confident about.
Highest Scoring Half? 2nd Half & OT (-115)
As mentioned above teams are conservative in the Super Bowl. This is especially the case early in the game. A scoreless first quarter is very possible in a Super Bowl especially in this game with a low total. This is something you can almost automatically bet for every Super Bowl and I would get on it soon before it moves off -115. If you like this prop I would also recommend taking “No” on either team scoring in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game.
Panthers (-115) to have the longest punt return in the game
I also like the Broncos to have more punts and the betting market is indicating that. The Broncos are -165 to have more punts than the Panthers. So that means Carolina will have a better chance to return punts and Ted Ginn Jr. is a dangerous punt returner.
Patriots at Broncos
The Patriots are a three-point or 3.5-point favorite at the Broncos on Sunday. The same Patriots team that was only a five-point favorite against the Chiefs last Saturday. This line for the AFC Championship Game is saying the Patriots would be close to 10-point favorites if this game was played in Foxboro.
Are the Chiefs five points better than the Broncos? Not a chance. A Broncos are probably the better team and have an advantage at almost every position other than quarterback.
The big question in this game is Peyton Manning. I expect the Patriots to force Manning to beat them with mid-range and long throws. New England will look to stop the run and contain a screen-pass game.
There’s not much value in betting on the Patriots against the spread so I will approach this game by picking against the Broncos defense. I will tweet out official plays but will likely go under the Broncos team total, which is currently posted at 20.5. I will also take a closer look at the first half under for this game.
Cardinals at Panthers
Let’s get this out of the way early. I think the Cardinals are a slightly better team than the Panthers. The Panthers are a 3-point favorite so I think there is some value in the Cardinals.
The first half for the Panthers couldn’t have gone better against the Seahawks. A long run by Jonathan Stewart set up an early touchdown and pick-six by Luke Keuchly put Seattle in an early hole and they could never recover. It was a dream start for Carolina and I don’t think that will happen this week.
I do like the Cardinals to win straight up and think their wide receivers will be able to have success against the Cardinals secondary. Josh Norman has had a very strong season and will likely be able to contain Larry Fitzgerald. I will look at the props for Michael Floyd and John Brown in this game. I think both could be very productive playing away from Norman. Floyd got the headlines last week with his two touchdowns receptions but Brown had more receptions and targets. He didn’t score a touchdown but his a deep threat that could change the game in one play. I will post the props I like on Twitter but they will likely involve Brown over receiving yards and to score a touchdown.
As for the side, I will tweet an official pick on the Cardinals later but will hold out hope the line gets to 3.5-points.
Giants (+5) over Panthers: I think this is the week the Panthers lose. The Giants are getting way too many points at home and the Panthers are on the verge of locking up home field advantage in the NFC. Finishing 16-0 would be nice for the team but success in the playoffs is more important.
Packers (-3) over Raiders: I think this will be a high-scoring game as well so I have no problem with taking a road favorite at a field goal. The Raiders are coming off a big win over the Broncos last week and think they have a letdown especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders offense will move the ball but think they lose by a touchdown.
Eagles (+4) over Cardinals: I think this is a field goal game either way and the Eagles are a much improved team with Sam Bradford at quarterback.
Stanford (-4.5) over USC: A lot has changed since these two teams met on September 19 in Week 3. Stanford entered the game 1-1 and beat USC straight up as a 10-point underdog. Since then Stanford flirted with a spot in the College Football Playoff but a loss to Oregon gives the Cardinal a slim chance to get a top four spot. USC has fired a coach and just permanently hired one since the Week 3 contest against Stanford. After beating UCLA, the Trojans took the interim label off Clay Helton’s title and he signed a five-year deal to be the school’s head coach. With Stanford having more to play for, I think they cover this number. Helton and USC will have one eye looking towards recruiting and might not be well prepared for this game.
Saints (+7) over Panthers: I made the point spread for this game Panthers -4. So I think there is some value in this line. New Orleans is a much better team at home and their defense has to be slightly better since Rob Ryan got fired. The Saints played the Panthers tough when the two teams met earlier this season and I think this will be another close one.
Rams (+6) over Cardinals: This is the classic take the Jeff Fisher team as an underdog in a division game. The Cardinals might be looking ahead to a Thursday night game at home against the Vikings. I think the Rams will be able to have success on the ground with Todd Gurley and cover this spread at home.
Giants (+2.5) over Jets: The Giants are technically the home team but you can throw out home field advantage here since the Jets play in the same stadium. I still don’t think the Jets are a better team than the Giants and not sure why they are favorites especially without Darrelle Revis. I think the Giants win straight up and put themselves in a strong position to win the NFC East.
Chiefs (-3) over Raiders: I usually don’t like taking away favorites but I think the red-hot Chiefs aren’t getting the respect they deserve in this line. Oakland has won five game but I don’t spot an impressive win on their schedule. The Chiefs are on a great winning and covering streak, and I’m going to take a shot at them doing it again.
Here are my three Week 15 NFL picks and the rest of the contest picks:
Panthers (-3) over Buccaneers
Under 50.5 in Packers vs Bills
Vikings (+7.5) over Lions
Raiders (+10.5) over Chiefs
Jaguars (+14) over Ravens
Falcons (+2) over Steelers
Ravens (-6) over Chargers: This line might be a little higher after Baltimore went into New Orleans and beat the Saints on Monday night. The short week isn’t an ideal situation for the Ravens but I think the win by double digits at home. The Chargers are 3-3 in their last six games and haven’t covered a spread. The Ravens are right in the AFC North race and face must-win games every week.
Bengals (-4) over Buccaneers: I think this line might be lower than I expected because the Bengals play the Steelers next week. However, Cincinnati can’t afford to look ahead as the Ravens, Steelers and Browns are right behind them in the division race. Tampa Bay is coming off a big game where they played Lovie Smith’s former team. Next week they travel to Detroit, which might also be an important game for Smith facing an old NFC North rival. The Bengals are a different team with a healthy Giovani Bernard along with Jeremy Hill and I think they win by a touchdown.
Saints (+4.5) over Steelers: The best thing for the Saints after three uncharacteristic home losses is to get away from New Orleans. I think they regroup especially with a division title to play for. I still think the Steelers can win this game but it will be by a field goal. Saints have played a lot of close games on the road where they just fell short.
Panthers (+3) over Vikings: The Vikings had a great effort against the Packers last week and I think they show up flat. The Panthers had a bye week to prepare and amazingly are still in the NFC South race. I think this will be a very low scoring game in Minnesota.
Broncos (-1.5) over Chiefs: The Chiefs have a great home field and this game is at night. I still think the Broncos should be the favorite in this game and the line should be closer to a field goal. Julius Thomas looks like he is coming back for Denver, which will cause matchup problems for the Chiefs defense. The inconsistent play from Kansas City receivers will catchup up to them and I think the Broncos win by at least three points.