The Bucs beat the Packers, and I won $30,000. Going into Sunday’s NFL games, I stood to win about $35,000 on the Bucs and Chiefs winning, $59,000 on the Bucs and Bills winning and nothing on the Packers winning. I did not hedge pregame, but I did start betting a little on the Packers when the Bucs went up 7-0, and the Packers eventually became dogs on the moneyline. By the end of the day, I had won $30,000. I think that’s a pretty good outcome, considering I had a total of $1,100 invested in these futures and needed the Bucs to win three straight road playoff games. The only thing I think I could have done better is maybe hedging more on the Chiefs after the Bucs won the first game. I left about $20,000 on the table, but hindsight is 20/20 and I can’t be too disappointed in winning $30,000 off $1,100 in bets.
How did the Bucs get there? It’s pretty simple. They dominated their opponents’ offensive lines and forced turnovers. If you want to win playoff games on the road, you need to create turnovers and turn those turnovers into points. After beating Washington and quarterback Taylor Heinicke in the first round, the Bucs’ defense forced four turnovers that resulted in 21 points against the Saints in a 10-point win. It also helped that Drew Brees was well below 100% and couldn’t throw the ball downfield.
The Bucs scored 14 points against the Packers off turnovers. Aaron Rodgers’ interception late in the first half and Tom Brady taking a deep shot for a touchdown right before halftime ended up being the difference.
The Packers covered up the loss of All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari against the Rams because Aaron Donald wasn’t close to healthy and the Rams’ defensive line was no threat without him. All five of Tampa Bay’s sacks against the Packers came on four-man rushes. Force turnovers and sack the quarterback. Defense wins championships — and it helps cash futures bets.
The NFL will announce award winners the night before the Super Bowl. In the meantime, I will wait for Super Bowl props and write about those next week.
I used some of my Bucs winnings to buy an autographed Alec Bohm rookie card for about $500. I think Bohm deserved the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year Award over Brewers reliever Devin Williams, and I’m disappointed I missed out on cashing a big ticket on Bohm. But I am glad I made a small investment on a guy I think is a future All-Star. I’m also trying to make a deal for another card and hope to have it done for next week’s report.
Derek Carty, creator of The BAT projection system, tweeted that he forecasts four teams winning 90 or more games in 2021 — the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres and Mets. I won’t have any projections for a few more weeks, but Carty’s numbers are very good, and I don’t disagree with him. FanDuel and DraftKings have MLB division odds up, and while everyone is getting ready for the Super Bowl, betting college basketball or the NHL or buying GameStop stock, I am going to make a few MLB division bets.
NL East - Mets + 200 (DraftKings) 1x unit
The NL East features four respectable, competitive teams and the Miami Marlins. The Phillies are a tempting long shot to win the division at + 700, but I also think the Mets are close to a 90-win team with or without Trevor Bauer. I’m betting the Mets at + 200 to win the NL East, risking 1x unit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets are the NL East favorites by the time spring training arrives.
AL East - Blue Jays + 350 (DraftKings ) 2x unit
The Blue Jays have done as much as any team to upgrade their lineup with the additions of George Springer and Marcus Semien, both of whom should slot into the top of an already dangerous lineup. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., noticeably out of shape in 2020, has spent the offseason getting healthy and looks ready to take the next step. The Blue Jays could still use another starting pitcher, and my guess is with an excess of outfielders and DH types, they will make a move and acquire one. I don’t think this + 350 will last long, and I think the Jays are at worst the second-best team in the AL East behind the Yankees. I’m betting 2x units on the Blue Jays at + 350 to win the AL East.
AL and NL Central divisions
I don’t have much interest in either division right now. I think the White Sox are this year’s hype team, and I don’t see any value on the Twins or Indians. The NL Central teams are committed to cutting costs and trading their best players. I don’t have much interest in figuring out which of these teams sucks the least.
NL West - Dodgers -167 (DraftKings) 1x unit
This bet is simple. The Dodgers are still the best organization in baseball, and this is probably the lowest price we’ll see on this all season. Even FanDuel is already at -195. I’m betting the Dodgers to win the NL West now because -167 is the lowest number I’ll see before April and I’m fine locking this up.
AL West - Angels + 500 (FanDuel) 1x unit
Semien’s signing with the Blue Jays not only helps the Jays, it hurts the A’s. Oakland also lost Liam Hendriks, and it will be hard to replace the production of a starting shortstop and an elite closer without spending money. I don’t think I’d make the A’s the favorites to win the AL West, but they are at FanDuel + 115 and DraftKings + 125.
I don’t think the Astros have gotten much better. They lost George Springer, and while they are getting back a healthy Yordan Alvarez, the rotation has holes. And I’m not excited about expecting 150 or more innings out of Zack Greinke and Framber Valdez at the top of my rotation.
I'm betting on the Angels at + 500 because they have Mike Trout and neither the A’s nor the Astros look impressive to me, and the Mariners are still probably at least a year away. A full season of Trout, and maybe the Angels get lucky and nobody steps up and bids for Bauer, and he falls into their lap.
So let’s recap. It’s the week before the Super Bowl and I’m betting MLB division futures. We have:
Mets to win NL East + 200 (DraftKings) $500 to win $1,000
Blue Jays to win AL East + 350 (DraftKings) $1,000 to win $3,500
Dodgers to win NL West -167 (DraftKings) $835 to win $500
Angels to win AL West + 500 (FanDuel) $500 to win $2,500
That's $2,835 in MLB futures to go along with the $1,000 I bet on the Mets to win the NL last week. So I’m already in for $3,835 in MLB bets for 2021.