Ahhhh yes, the NFL is back! As much as I love the legal drama, concussion discussion, and social issues, I’m pretty happy to have the sport back. For me, betting future odds is not something I will actually be doing this year. I tie up enough of my capital into fantasy sports and the occasional weekly spreads, but that doesn’t stop me from giving you all some of my favorite props for the NFL season.
When assessing the market for 2016, I’m noticing a couple of interesting things. One is the hype of a couple of teams looking to break out this season. The Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars are two favorites for the general public, and I must say, I like those calls. But the issue with this is that you are trying to find the best value in your bets. The Jags and Raiders are both currently at +275 to win their respective divisions. Those odds are not far off of the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, two teams that were in the playoffs last year. The public has moved the up and coming franchises’ odds into a place where I don’t see the value.
The next thing I noticed is an effect of these popular bets, as other teams in the division have had their odds fall into places that carry serious value. These hyped teams drive prices down on other less sexy teams. Nothing screams sexy right now about the Chargers. Or the Titans (yet). Or the Saints. But let’s not forget that these teams also have certain scenarios where they are the unlikely winner of their respective divisons.
One more thing. Don’t waste your money. Look, you may think a team like the Browns could really upset everyone and be good this year, but just do this before you place your hard earned cash on a team: Could they really do that? You can be high on the Browns this year, but don’t waste your money and take them to win the Super Bowl (currently at 150/1). Yes, the payout is immense. But the Browns are not winning the damn Super Bowl. Take their odds to win the division (currently at 12/1). Not nearly as sexy of a payout, but it’s also not equivalent to burning your money.
Here are my favorite values for the 2016 season:
Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Champs (+1200) – The Cardinals are really f****** good. Not only were they great last season, they went out in the offseason and added some pieces to their defense with guys like Chandler Jones to improve their pass rush. David Johnson is poised to be the dominant running back he showed he could be in the latter half of the season last year. Fitz, Brown, and Floyd are all healthy right now, and so is Carson Palmer. Great defense, great offense, and a great coach. The only downside is that they are in a division with the Seahawks who are also a good bet to be great, and not getting home field in the playoffs can be a tough feat to overcome if you want to win it all (hello 2015 Patriots). They are tied with the 5th best odds to win it all this season, and I think that’s great value for a team I regard as a top 2 or 3 team in the league.
San Diego Chargers: Super Bowl Champs (+7500) or AFC Champs (+3300) or AFC West Champs (+700) – I’m all in on the Super Chargers this year. Is that a horrible decision? Maybe. But when I see a team in a division that has a team bound to regress (Broncos), a team lead by a no mistake QB (Chiefs) who’s top offensive talent is struggling to get back from injury, and a team getting maybe a little too much hype (Raiders), I have to consider them. Philip Rivers is an elite NFL QB. He does tend struggle for half the year, but you could chalk that up to miserable luck with offensive line health. Hell, his skill position players seem to always get hurt. Division champs with an elite QB at +700 is amazing value. That’s a lock for me. The SB champs and AFC champs could be a stretch, but the AFC is so weak. If they can win the division, and the Patriots struggle without Brady and fail to put up a great record, this team could avoid going on the road for the playoffs (I purposely didn’t state home field advantage here, as San Diego is one of the worst home field advantages in the league). AFC champs has nice value, and even though the thought of them winning the Super Bowl seems like a long shot, I don’t think getting there really is. The payout more than doubles for an NFL championship, so why not?
New Orleans Saints NFC South Champs (+550) – Common theme here with my picks. Team with a nice payout in a division with a team bound to regress (Panthers, but only in terms of a record. They very well could improve from last year, but nobody repeats a 15-1 season). Drew Brees is still a stud, and that offense should be elite. The defense was historically bad last year, but if they could only make improvements to be merely bad, they have a real shot in contending for the division.
New England Patriots AFC East Champs (-240) – Let’s take a break from finding value in the market. If you let me hold $240 of yours for 4 months, I’ll give it back to you and also give you $100 extra. It’s the same thing as betting on the Pats. Okay, okay, I know. No Brady for 4 weeks is really sketchy. But imagine what the odds would be if he was not suspended. The AFC East is full of teams that simply cannot win a division with a juggernaut like New England in it. Their only hope is that the Patriots lose it. The Patriots don’t do that, unless Brady misses the entire year, and somehow still go 11-5 with Matt Cassell and miss the playoffs. Maybe you could wait for the Patriots to play their first few games without Brady, hope they lose 2 or 3, and get them at better odds. Any way you do it, this is the lock of all locks.
Tennessee Titans AFC South Champs (+800) – While you all fall in love with Derek Carr and Raiders, or Blake Bortles and the Jaguars, or maybe fall for the Buccaneers once again, I’m on team Mariota this season. I had my doubts on this guy, but then I saw him play last year. This dude can ball. He was smart with his decision making for a rookie, and he flashed his athleticism at times with dazzling runs and precise darts down field. Mariota is set to be an elite QB for years to come. Think Russell Wilson. I had my doubts with Wilson until last year as well, as the Seahawks ditched the run heavy approach and made Doug Baldwin a star. NFL quarterbacks that can run are so dangerous. NFL quarterbacks that can do that while being smart with the football are impossible to defend when they are clicking. Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and soon to be Marcus Mariota are the only three guys that can pull this off. This Titans offense could look similar to what the Seahawks were back in the Marshawn Lynch days. Run heavy, read options, play-action with smart quarterback play. The division is a toss-up, and the Titans have the worst odds to win it. They are my pick to win the division straight up. Love this bet.
On to the division/wildcard/playoff predictions. My father and I write down our picks each year for this exercise, only to forget and lose the paper I wrote it on and we never are able to look back at how bad our predictions were. So, using my graduate-level education, I came up with a genius idea: put in a blog post.
*WARNING: PATRIOTS FANS’ PREDICTIONS*
wildcards- Steelers, Chiefs
wildcards– Seahawks, Panthers
conference games: Patriots over Bengals; Cardinals over Seahawks
Superbowl: Patriots over Cardinals
wildcards- Bengals, Broncos
wildcards– Cardinals, Giants
conference games: Pats over Steelers; Seahawks over Panthers
Superbowl: Pats over Seahawks