ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The NFL season is finally here and it’s time to win some money.
Throughout the season, I’ll be penning a weekly NFL picks column. Hopefully, you learn something. Maybe, you’ll win a few bets (at a legal venue for gambling on sports of course). At the very least, let’s just hope I don’t embarrass myself.
It’s time to kick things off with my best bets for season-long win totals. These totals can vary from site to site, venue to venue, so it’s important to try and find the best line if you’re going to act on these.
To make your picks yourself and form your own opinion on the season I recommend going to a site like Playoff Predictors and actually picking each and every single game of the season. It’s a little tedious, but I think it works pretty well. Last year it helped me go 8-3 on my preseason futures.
It’s a good way to figure out how you actually feel about each team and how they’ll do with their schedule. It’s easy to look at most of the teams in the league and think they’re a fringe playoff team who could sneak into a wildcard. Then you realize that for every team you like, there needs to be one that gets beat by them.
Without further ado, here’s what I like this year.
(All lines are the consensus on the Action Network. If a line is a minus, e.g. -130, they are a favorite. You would have to bet 130 to win 100. If they are a plus, e.g. +175, they are an underdog. If you bet 100 you win 175.)
Bears Under 8 (-165)
I start with the unders because those are the better bets for futures. Even if you like a team, a few key injuries can derail a season. If you hate a team, those injuries only help the cause. Also, the public is generally optimistic before the season begins (though this year we’re living through could change that).
I absolutely love this under. When I first picked each and every single game, I actually only gave the Bears two wins. Apparently, I really hate the Bears this year.
Once I changed a few things around, I got them to a more realistic number, but I just do not think that the Bears are primed for success this year.
There quarterback situation is a mess. Even after bringing Nick Foles, they’re still going with Mitch Trubisky who doesn’t give anyone any sort of confidence. I’d expect them to switch between the two throughout the season.
Their schedule is tougher than it looks on paper. The Vikings and Packers are both going to be contenders and the Lions will go as far as Matthew Stafford takes them. Last year when healthy, he was elite and a dark horse for MVP.
I think this year has all the potential to be a dumpster fire season for the Bears where they clean house, blow up the team, fire their coach, and go after a top quarterback in the draft.
Texans under 7.5 (-110)
I believe the bottom falls out of the Texans this season. Deshaun Watson is good. He’s really, really good and that’s the obvious red flag against this pick. But the rest of the franchise isn’t anywhere close to his level.
Trading away DeAndre Hopkins is obviously a crushing blow to the offense. While Brandin Cooks at times can be a WR1, he ain’t DeAndre Hopkins.
Jacksonville is going to be bad, so that could potentially be an easy two wins right there, but Tennessee and Indianapolis both have pretty strong rosters. The schedule isn’t great with the aforementioned deep NFC North as well as the AFC North which could feature three 10-win teams.
Here’s the first seven games of their schedule. At Kansas City, home Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, home Minnesota, home Jacksonville, at Tennessee, home Green Bay. Then their bye week. Can you see them starting off 2-5 and making some big changes during that time off? I can.
New York Jets under 6.5 (+105)
There’s a lot to like about this pick. They’ve got a head coach in Adam Gase who hasn’t inspired confidence in anyone. They’ve got a quarterback in Sam Darnold who’s shown flashes at times, but hasn’t put in many consistent performances. A lot of that has to do with his lack of weapons, which hasn’t gotten much better this season. Their top running back has been rumored to look like the second-best back in camp to the ageless Frank Gore. And for the cherry on top, they traded away their All-Pro safety in Jamaal Adams.
Anyone who follows the Bills knows how difficult the AFC East’s schedule looks on paper. While I think Buffalo can overcome that (we’ll get to that later), I don’t have the same confidence in the Jets. The Brady-less Patriots won’t go down that easily and the Dolphins will be feisty this season as they proved down the homestretch last season. The Jets will be the ones to suffer.
Panthers under 5.5 (+110)
Continuity is key this season and the Panthers don’t have it. With an extremely limited offseason, teams that have their coaching staff and their structure in place should be better off to start the year. The Panthers are the only team to have a brand new starting QB, head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator this season.
They’ve got some young pieces on their roster, a stud in Christian McCaffrey, and a QB in Teddy Bridgewater who has always played well enough (especially against the spread). But the roster isn’t strong and the schedule is brutal. Go through it yourself and try to find them six wins. It’s tough.
They’ve started to put down the pieces to turn things around, but that’ll wait another year.
Leans (bets I like but don’t love): Giants under 6.5, Broncos under 7.5, Washington under 5.5, Jaguars under 4.5
Before we get into the overs, there’s one thing I want to point out. This year could be super crazy with cancelations and postponements. While we’re all hoping things run normally, things could turn out how baseball started and you could end up with a shorter number of games or an incomplete season. If you really, really like an over, it might be smart to put down some bets on them to also win the division or to make the playoffs. While those also could be altered, they have a better chance of paying out. With that out of the way…
Bills over 9 (-110), win AFC East (+120)
Look, you probably don’t need me to tell you why the Bills should have a good season this year. So here’s the cliff notes version.
They’ve got the coaching continuity, they’ve got one of the deepest rosters in the league, they’ve added Stefon Diggs, their top players are still getting better, and if Josh Allen takes another leap watch out.
The schedule is of course very tough. But I think 9 wins for them is a very safe floor. I can get them to 10 wins super easily, but I have a hard time getting them down to 8.
The other reason why I really like this as an over is that the Bills team can survive a few injuries like no team in the league. Even at quarterback, the rest of the team is so deep that Matt Barkley could easily play at least .500 ball if Josh Allen has to miss time. Obviously, a major injury to Allen derails the season. But other than Tre White, what’s the next biggest blow they could suffer? They did fine enough without Diggs last year, most positions have some quality depth, and on the defensive side, there is so much depth and experience that they can make up for a few holes.
I also like them to win the division. Cam Newton could be deadly under Bill Belichick, but they already lost a lot of key defensive pieces to COVID opt-outs. If there’s any year it’s going to happen, it’s going to be this one.
Seahawks over 9.5 (-110), win NFC West (+225)
Two words. Russel Wilson. He’s one of the best QB’s in the league and this could finally be the year his coaches let him play that way.
Earlier in the offseason, Wilson said they should treat every quarter like it’s the fourth. Sign me up for that.
They were able to add Adams in the offseason and their young weapons should only be better this season. Chris Carson might even stop fumbling!
The division is deep and the 49ers will be strong once again (you’ll see below I have them as a lean). But I think the two should be similar in their division odds, but the 49ers are -105 compared to the Seahawks +225. I’ll take my chances with Seattle.
Titans over 8.5 (-130), win AFC South (+165)
If I hate the Texans as much as I do, that means I have to like someone in that division, right?
The AFC South comes down to who you have more confidence in, Philip Rivers or Ryan Tannehill. Call me crazy but I’m putting my faith in Tannehill.
The Titans obviously peaked at the right time last season and you can’t expect them to play at that level for the entire season. But what they did last year seems sustainable. Henry runs the ball, Tannehill takes care of the football and hits a few deep balls here and there, and they play good defense. Tannehill has proven that in the right situation he can be an effective quarterback.
Mike Vrabel wasn’t the most praised coaching hire but he seems to be turning things around.
The Colts have a deep roster and are a trendy pick to go far this season, but I’ll go with the Titans.
Chiefs to win AFC West (-450)
I know, this is the squarest of all bets and is probably a sucker bet. But who is going to beat them in that divison?
I made a similar bet with the Patriots last season. Even though the Bills were trending up, I didn’t see a scenario where they overtook them in 2019.
I’m using the same logic this year. I wouldn’t go out and dump my whole 401k to try and turn a handsome profit on these crazy odds, but sometimes you just need to take some free money.
The Chiefs somehow kept their entire core together after their Super Bowl season and they proved last year they can survive without Mahomes for a certain period of time. I have my doubts with every other team in that division, so I’ll take the sure thing.
Leans: Packers over 9 win and win NFC North, 49ers over 10.5
Be sure to check back here every Friday for my weekly picks. You can also play along with me in our WROC Football Pick’Em contest for weekly and season-long prizes. I’ll post my picks in my column, too. I’ve got the Chiefs tonight (shocker).