Well, I think it’s safe to say with the first week of preseason football in the books, we now know everything we need to know to make some informed NFL wagers. Right? …Right?! Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things work; but, just because we can’t derive much useful information from Cardale Jones snaps, that doesn’t mean there isn’t valuable data out there that can assist in having some fun on the DK Sportsbook this coming fall. As such, let’s dive into some of my favorite team win total props for the 2019 NFL season.
Note: All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
CHICAGO BEARS: OVER 9.5 WINS (+135)
It’s extremely interesting how the public has turned on the Bears. Despite winning 12 games and taking home the NFC North crown last year, a last-second loss to the Eagles during Wild Card Weekend seems to be fresh on the minds of those betting this line. In fact, a month ago, you were getting only +113 on Chicago to surpass 9.5 victories this coming season; a figure that has moved all the way up to +135.
This likely can be attributed to a general apathy towards starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who was relatively underwhelming in the five contests he played following a late-season shoulder injury. Still, though QB is undisputed in its importance, there’s a lot to suggest this Bears squad was far from a fluke in 2018. Chicago led the entirety of football in regular season Pythagorean wins at 12.23, with New Orleans serving as the lone other team to surpass 12. The Bears also led the NFL in defensive DVOA (-26.0%) by a wide margin, with the unit grading as the second-best defense the league has seen in the past decade by Football Outsiders’ metrics. You even could make the case Chicago fought through some unluckiness as it came about its success. Not only were the Bears atrocious at executing their own special teams, but Chicago ranked dead-last in the NFL this past season in hidden points; a measure of elements outside a squad’s control such as opponent field goal aptitude and starting field position based on opponent punt and kickoff distance. Give the Bears even league-average special teams play and, with a majority of their starters returning, I can’t see this group not winning double-digit games.
NEW YORK JETS: OVER 8.5 WINS (+163)
It’s a lot to ask of a team to go from four wins to nine wins in the span of 365 days, but I’m both enamored with the Jets’ odds and schedule entering September. Warren Sharp does an amazing job of compiling the win totals at all of Vegas’ major sports books and using that information to project strength of schedule for the upcoming season. When we look at that statistical practice for 2019, we can see that, as per usual, the path for teams in the AFC East is a little easier than most based upon divisional opponents. In fact, New York has the second-weakest schedule of any team in football next season; with New England owning the easiest due to the fact the Patriots can’t, well, play themselves.
Even still, because the Jets finished fourth in the division in 2018, they’ll have the good fortune of drawing the Raiders and the Jaguars as their two “bonus” matchups, where New England will get the pleasure of squaring off with the Chiefs and the Texans. Going even further, by year’s end, New York will have faced eight bottom-10 opponents according to Sharp’s metric — the most of any squad in the NFL. That includes the aforementioned meeting with Oakland, along with games against the Giants, the Redskins, the Bengals, the Bills and the Dolphins.
There’s no guarantee Sam Darnold will develop heading into his sophomore campaign or that all the money the Jets spent this offseason will translate into results; but we’ve seen teams like the 2017 Bills and the 2008 Dolphins ride similarly advantageous schedule quirks into the playoffs. Would a safer man just take New York to win more than 7.5 games at -110? Sure. Yet where’s the fun in that?
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: OVER 6.5 WINS (-110)
Look, it’s not a given that a bad team naturally will regress towards the mean — especially when that team is quarterbacked by Joe Namath disciple Jameis Winston — but there’s a serious and recent historical precedent that points to the Bucs being much better in 2019. Let’s take a look at the past three teams to lead the NFL in turnovers per drive prior to Tampa Bay accomplishing the feat last year. In 2017, it was the Browns; in 2016, it was the Chargers; and, in 2015, it was the Cowboys. Now, the circumstances of each one of these franchises is unique and in and of itself. For instance, both Cleveland and Dallas can point to drafting successful rookie QBs as a major reason for its sudden change in direction; however, these teams all improved by an average of 7.3 victories the season following their immense turnover woes.
Again, the science here is inexact, but the crux of the matter is turnovers are a statistic highly correlated with luck. Odds are you get a few bounces to start going in your favor and you don’t lead the league in turnovers per drive for consecutive years. That trend very well could mean nothing as Winston is prone to consistently make some of the worst decisions of any pivot in football, but you don’t need the Bucs to take down 10 contests for this bet to pay out. They simply have to improve by two wins. It’s also not as if turnovers were the only area Tampa Bay was incredibly unfortunate. According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, the Buccaneers’ defense was the most injured unit in the NFL last year. I’m not going to say health will make Tampa an above-average defensive squad, but I can understand why it ranked dead-last in defensive DVOA in 2019. Really, considering everything that went wrong last year, it’s almost admirable this group won even the five games it did.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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