Some people would say Christmas is their favorite holiday. Others prefer the candy on Halloween or the turkey on Thanksgiving. The revelation of NFL season win totals often gets overlooked and even excluded from the list — but not in this column! This market is now available at many shops, so we will look at a few as well as delve into some NFL draft props.
With props it’s important to reiterate something we frequently emphasize at VSiN — having multiple outs. The draft market is very fluid and offers a lot of variance. With that variance comes arbitrage opportunities and chances to hit middles. Last year, for example, I bet “Jonathan Taylor draft position Over 39.5” at one book and Under 43.5 at another. He fell snugly in the middle, going off the board at No. 41. It takes some legwork, and it’s time-consuming, but shopping around is never more important than when betting on the draft. Let’s get to the picks ...
Detroit Lions Under 5 Wins:
The Lions are bad. Must I elaborate? Props for “odds to win fewest games” have yet to be posted, but when they are I will be looking for Lions odds, and perhaps Texans odds depending on what happens with Deshaun Watson. Jared Goff has lived a charmed life. He has had a great offensive coach, a good running game off which to use play-action and some really good defenses on his side. He’s been spoiled. That will end in September. He is an immobile quarterback who will be asked to play behind a very bad offensive line and carry a terrible team that will be bad in every phase. If a team is desperate for a quarterback in training camp or at the deadline, the Lions will certainly be interested in shedding his salary and taking their lumps for a year or two. After all, they’ve been taking them for 50+ years, so what’s another couple? Dan Campbell takes over as coach, and his six-year deal tells you the brain trust in Detroit views this a complete teardown. The Lions lost quarterback Matthew Stafford, and they lost their best receivers, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. They will also lose a ton of games. Their six division games are against the Packers, Bears and Vikings, all playoff teams from 2019 or ’20. No chance the Lions get six wins. At best they go 5-12 and you get a refund, but I think they are more of a two- or three-win team. Under!
Buffalo Bills Over 10.5 Wins:
Shocked this isn’t a win or so higher. Yes, the Bills won the division, so they face a first-place schedule. But they also have six games against a division fraught with uncertainty at quarterback. The Jets will play a rookie, the Dolphins no longer have Ryan Fitzpatrick to bail them out and the Patriots’ Cam Newton was terrible for large portions of last season. The Bills also face the Panthers, Jaguars, Falcons and a Steelers team that may be over the hill. Josh Allen was runner-up for MVP last year and, entering his fourth year, still seems on the upswing. They went 13-3 in ’20 and now play an extra game. Even with some regression or bad injury luck, this team will find its way to 11-6 or better. This one I would bet immediately. I suspect it will be bet up to 11 by the time the season comes around. The Bills are Super Bowl contenders. Take the Over and take it now.
Pittsburgh Steelers Under 9 Wins:
The quest for an undefeated season ended just a couple of weeks before Christmas last year. Now the Steelers are projected to be about .500. I think the drastic swing in expectations is justified when we dig a little deeper into their ’20 season. Yes, they started 11-0, but a closer look reveals a less flattering truth. After the 11 wins, they went 1-5, including a blowout loss to the Browns in the wild-card round. Their only win in that stretch came against the Colts, a game in which they trailed by 17 points in the second half and benefited from some generous officiating. “But they started 11-0, so they had to be good ...” Ehh, let’s just look at some of the quarterbacks they defeated in those games: Daniel Jones, Jeff Driskel, Jake Luton, Carson Wentz, Robert Griffin III and Garrett Gilbert. Now the 11-0 start makes a little more sense, doesn’t it? They have two teams in their division that won playoff games last year as well as the improving Bengals. They also face the Chiefs, Bills, Titans, Packers, Seahawks, Chargers and Vikings out of the division. Mike Tomlin has remarkably never had a losing record in his long tenure with the Steelers. That streak faces great danger in ’21, as the Steelers’ window has slammed shut.