We here at VSiN are thinking about you, you are in our prayers, you have our deepest sympathies ... if you are holding an Oklahoma City Thunder Over 22.5 wins ticket. OKC notched its 20th win before the calendar flipped to April. With 25 games left, the Thunder needed to go a modest (punches calculator) 3-22 to get you to the window. Barring a miracle, that ticket is worth hanging on to only for the bad-beat story that goes with it.
It has been that kind of NBA season — rest, injuries and downright nonsense on a night-to-night basis. As a fan, it has been a crummy product. As bettors, we saw this coming. In December, I wrote about how this season was just to get the NBA back on its schedule, and with the condensed season and short turnaround, we should expect some mayhem. Most of the elite teams coming into the season, especially those that were in the bubble the longest, stayed under their season win totals. As unpredictable as it was most nights this year, we should have seen this coming from a big-picture standpoint. That being said, we are in for what looks like a heck of a postseason.
We know who wins these titles in the NBA: chalk. No. 1 seeds, No. 2 seeds, Shaq, Jordan, Lebron, Kobe, Duncan, Curry, Olajuwon, Durant. That short list covers just about every title from the last 30 years. Stars win; chalk dominates. This year might be an outlier. The Nets and Lakers are the favorites but in my opinion are at best even money to get, and stay, fully healthy for the playoffs. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have played seven games together. The Lakers have been without LeBron James and Anthony Davis for large chunks of the season. For the first time in a long time, the NBA feels wide open. With some futures pending, we will wait for the seeding to come out to add anything further and instead turn our attention to finding some NFL winners. Let’s get to the picks ...
Los Angeles Rams Over 10 Wins
I get a coach, a quarterback and a defense that are all well above average. We will hear plenty about Matthew Stafford never winning a playoff game, but the context of that stat tells a different story. In 2014, Stafford’s Lions had the Cowboys beaten, but the Lions inexplicably punted on fourth-and-1 from midfield in the fourth quarter and were the victims of a pass-interference flag that was thrown, then picked up late in the game — a big reason they lost. In 2016, Stafford played the last month of the season with a broken hand as the Lions lost their last four games, then fell at Seattle in the wild-card round. In 2011, Stafford threw for nearly 400 yards and had four total touchdowns in a 45-28 playoff loss to the Saints. Yes, I admit to being a bit of a Stafford apologist, but I believe a ton of evidence says he has been a very good player who has been uplifting an incompetent franchise. This season the Rams get the friendly AFC South and games against the Giants as well as Stafford’s former squad. The Rams have gone all in (again) and are a win-now team that will be bitterly disappointed if they don’t win 11-plus games. I don’t think they, or bettors, will experience that disappointment. I like the Over.
Kansas City Chiefs Over 12.5 Wins
Peyton Manning had (overly) well-documented struggles as a rookie. After that, however, his teams ripped off double-digit wins in 11 of the next 12 seasons until 2011, when he was injured and subsequently released. Manning is perhaps the greatest regular-season football player we have ever seen ... which leads me to the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. It’s simple, it’s maybe square, but betting against the Chiefs to win 13+ games is basically betting on Mahomes to get hurt and miss a chunk of the season. A healthy Mahomes, like a healthy Manning, gives any decent team a floor of 13-4 (this 17th game is totally botching my vernacular). Andy Reid and the Chiefs have quietly rebuilt the offensive line and will undoubtedly be motivated and focused coming off their Super Bowl shellacking. Joe Thuney, Kyle Long and Orlando Brown were added to beef up an offensive line that was overwhelmed by the Bucs’ pass rush in the Super Bowl, and as long as Mahomes is healthy, it’s hard to see five teams capable of outscoring the potent Chiefs. Having the best player at the most important position, a plethora of dynamic weapons and a great play-caller is a recipe for another monster regular season.