It's never too early to contemplate NFL wagering, is it? I mean the schedule has been released (even if it's in pencil and not Sharpie) and lines are being posted all over the place and there is no shortage of people looking for NFL action, so I couldn't help but peek ahead.
There are definitely some lines that I find appealing and some over/under win totals that caught my eye and at least one long-shot prop bet that I could see paying off big-time. Sure, this is always something of an exercise in futility -- and it's perhaps even more futile than ever to attempt this mid-pandemic with the entire 2020 wrapped in uncertainty – but here goes anyway. Cause heavens knows we need something to look forward to on the other side of this thing, and if there are football games to be played I suspect that the wagering will be at an all-time high. William Hill Sports Book provided the latest odds.
Steelers -3.5 at Giants
The Giants are not going to be a good football team. They have a long way to go and this should be a particularly troubling Week 1 matchup for them. The Giants in theory should be better on offense than defense, but Mike Tomlin having a solid six months to game plan for Daniel Jones and Co., with that same loaded roster on defense that Pittsburgh boasted a year ago (save for Jovan Hargrave) is going to be a problem for Joe Judge in his NFL coaching debut. The Steelers are a turnover factory and Jones has a propensity to not be able to hold onto the football. The Giants offensive line is still an issue. Saquon Barkley can only do so much. Big Ben has a flare for the dramatic and in his first game back from elbow surgery I greatly fancy his chances to carve up one of the worst defenses in football. This one won't be close (you know, if it's actually played Week 1).
Who's the best bet in the NFC North to go over (or under) their projected win total? Ryan Wilson joins Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to talk win total predictions, division odds and more; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Eagles -6.5 at Redskins
That beefed up secondary will be much improved and the Eagles have too much talent on offense now to fail, having fortified the receiver spot. Carson Wentz begins his MVP campaign right here, right now (more on that later). Yes, the Skins have a studly front seven on paper … but that secondary is still a problem. Dwayne Haskins will have at best probably a truncated training camp to try to learn another new offense for his third head coach, and will try to do so with what is arguably the worst skill position talent in the NFL. Even with that improving defense the Skins are gonna catch a lot of beatdowns in 2020.
Chargers over 7.5 wins
I don't see how this defense will not be among the top five in football. There shouldn't be much Gus Bradley could do to thwart that. The talent is off the charts. Any semblance of health on that side of the ball and this is a very competitive football team. They have continuity at the key positions on the field and in the coaching box, and the lack of an offseason should not impact them nearly as much as other teams. And they finally have a QB who absolutely, positively will not turn the ball over. Tyrod Taylor has already taken a less-talented roster to the postseason and he could do so again in 2020. Ether way this should be a .500 team. Take out all of Philip Rivers' turnovers and hero-ball throws from a year ago and they are probably a .500 team. Great skill position players. Yeah, I wish they had a left tackle but I think the rest of the offensive line is alright. (Sign Jason Peters already). They actually get to play in a real home football stadium this year (assuming any games are played in California at all, that is). The stadium situation is the only thing that gives me pause – because setting up shop at a neutral location all season would not be ideal – but either way this should be an outfit capable of winning eight games, and potentially many more.
Bears under 8.5 wins
The Bears being projected for more wins than the Chargers seems ludicrous to me. Chicago has a huge issue at QB, has lacked any sort of big boy offense for a while, acted out of desperation this offseason and the defense has been in a decline since peaking under Vic Fangio. You could not watch the Bears play last year and think they were a winning football team. You can't look at that roster now and see any marked upgrades. I expect them to finish last in their division and wouldn't be shocked to see them picking in the top five next year. Everyone there is basically trying to keep their job. I don't see that working out real well for them. They may beat the Giants. They may beat the Panthers (I guess, though I wouldn't lean that way). Could they beat the Jags in December? Sure. Take out the Texans at home? K. But I have a hard time seeing a path above five wins, let alone eight.
Patriots under 9 wins
Am I missing something here? Tom Brady and Gronk are in Tampa now, right? And Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins followed Trey Flowers out the door from the year before, right? And as much as I believe the Pats could be on to something in Jarrett Stidham, he has yet to start an NFL game and is replacing a GOAT without a major upgrade at receiver and Sony Michel remains the primary back? And Edleman is how old now? Look, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are among the very best at what they do, and I have belief they will get the Patriots back to their winning ways, but it's going to take a little time. I look at this roster and have trouble seeing them being a winning team let alone triumphing 10 times. They hit this over total and Belichick better get the Coach of the Year award. It would be his best job ever. They lack natural pass rushers and the offense was awful last year with Brady. I don't see 10 wins here.
Carson Wentz 25-1 for MVP
If I had a little something extra burning a hole in my sweatpants (lets face it, who is wearing anything but these or shorts these days?) I would send it this way. Wentz has been in this conversation in the past, and was thriving late last season as well, only for injury to conspire against him. But that can't happen every year. The Eagles put another strong cast around him, I like the way the schedule sets up and as great as Lamar Jackson will be again, repeats in this category are tough. Wentz and Russell Wilson are the two under-the-radar picks here I like, but I went with Wentz because the people who do the MVP voting seem to forget that Wilson's in the league every year and the anti-Wilson bias is too hard to ignore (he should be in the top 3-5 vote getters every year … yet isn't). If you aren't going to go chalk, then take a flier on Wentz.