As NFL preseason slogs on, it’s time to contact my bookie to place my NFL season wagers. I’m one of those gamblers that doesn’t hit weekly games very often, but I love some season props and especially love the win total over/unders.
Here are the wagers on team win totals and a couple of player props I’m making for 2019.
All lines are taken from one of the sportsbooks tracked via OddsShark as of 10 a.m. on August 17th
Arizona Cardinals - Under 5.5
This is not an indictment on Kliff Kingsbury or Kyler Murray, the rookie head coach/QB combination the Cardinals are banking on. Sure, it’s fraught with peril to expect a coach who couldn’t win more games than he lost in five seasons at Texas Tech--two of them with reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes at the controls--and with a precocious greenhorn with one year of college starting experience and a disturbingly low BMI for a football player, to go out and double the team’s win total from 2018.
It’s the Cardinals defense that really sells me on the under 5.5.
Patrick Peterson, the team’s best player, is suspended for the first six games. The other starting CB, Robert Alford, is out for at least the first half of the season after breaking his leg in a preseason game. They’ve got some youngsters I like on the back end, but it’s asking a lot of what’s left of Terrelle Suggs to protect them with a pass rush after the go-go offense goes 3-and-out in less than 90 seconds of possession time three series in a row. Oh yeah, kicker Zane Gonzalez is unreliable at best.
Minnesota Vikings - Over 9
At this time last year, the Vikings were one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Minnesota struggled with key injuries and the occasional malaise of mediocrity that is Kirk Cousins and only won eight games.
The entire team effectively returns, adding in first-rounder Garrett Bradbury at center to shore up the weakest starting spot from a year ago. Dalvin Cook is back. So are Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, arguably the best 1-2 WR duo in the league. The defense returns all 11 projected starters healthy, including criminally underappreciated Danielle Hunter as a pass rusher. Last year’s brutal schedule gives way to a more manageable slate. I think Cousins and company navigate their way to at least 10 wins.
New York Jets - Over 7.5
My trepidation over new coach Adam Gase aside, I think the Jets are the AFC’s pleasant surprise team. I like what I saw from Sam Darnold as his rookie season progressed. Adding Le’Veon Bell should balance the attack and help the wideouts have more room to operate in the intermediate range, which is where Darnold seems at his most comfortable.
The defense is thin but very talented up front. Losing LB Avery Williamson for the year already makes me flinch a little, but I think Gregg Williams’ maniacal devotion to blitzing and creating takeaways will work in his first year. He and Gase working together is going to be fascinating. As long as they survive a brutal 4-game schedule to start the year, the Jets should at least hit eight wins. Their docket after that first four might be the easiest in the NFL this year.
San Francisco 49ers - Under 8.5
At some point in the not-too-distant future, the absurd confidence the Niners brass showed in Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be regarded as “Lynch’s folly”. The oft-injured QB has done little to prove he’s worth the monstrous contract GM John Lynch gave him almost sight-unseen. Outside of TE George Kittle, there isn’t much proven at receiver to help him, though I really love some of the young talents here (Deebo Samuel, Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd).
Then there’s this team’s bizarre fascination with drafting defensive linemen in the first round. They have four of them in the last five years. Thus far, just one of them, DeForest Buckner, has proven he can play, and this year’s top pick Nick Bosa is already injured--just like he was in college. It’s left the rest of the defense painfully shallow beyond what looks like a pretty solid starting 11.
Looking at their schedule, it’s possible this team isn’t favored in any game after the (painfully early) Week 4 bye other than the series with the (likely) lowly Cardinals and perhaps a road date in Washington. I have no idea how that equates to nine wins. None.
Odds I like but not quite enough to lay down any cash:
Cleveland over 9 wins
The Browns' starting 22 is as good as any other team on paper, and the depth at the offensive skill positions is insane. Myles Garrett is a viable defensive MVP candidate and their pass defense should be upper-echelon. So why can’t I bet on Baker Mayfield & Co. making it to 10 wins?
To quote Chuck Daly, “a pessimist is an optimist with experience”. I grew up in Cleveland and it will always be home. That experience has taught me that no matter how good things might look in sports, or really life, doom and disappointment is inevitably imminent. I know, I know; it’s ridiculous. Once bitten, twice shy, three times a lady.I fully expect this Browns team to win the AFC North and go 11-5 or even better, but I...just...can’t…
Dallas under 9
As America’s Team, the Cowboys perennially get fluffed up on the projected win total to lure in sucker bets. Sure, they won 10 games last year and brought most everyone back. The offense looks strong and the defensive back-7 appears very good.
Methinks the ongoing chicken vs. egg argument between Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott is unhealthy for the team, and I’m not buying that meddling owner Jerry Jones will handle it well. Too many potential pitfalls for me to trust them to win 9 or more. Yet if they do manage to stay healthy and focused, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the talented Cowboys hit 10 wins and scare the hell out of anyone in a playoff game, either. Can’t bet on that either way.
Props I like
All of the odds here are from Bovada and are more about profit potential than predicting actual winners.
Most regular season TD receptions: Michael Thomas at +1500
Most sacks: Myles Garrett at +900
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Devin Bush at +500
Offensive Rookie of the Year: T.J. Hockenson at +2500