The NFL season is no longer in the distant future but is now looming on the horizon. Let’s take a look at some of the early sharp action and learn what to expect as we peruse the NFL odds for the 2014 season.
So You Want To Bet Totals?
Betting on the number of wins an NFL team will have is fun stuff. Every sports gambler who’s been around the game long enough understands that there are peaks, and valleys, but when those valleys become so deep that we must sit on the sidelines, it’s nice to know we still have action until those regular season win totals are graded. Ah, the life of a degenerate gambler.
But rather than throw a dart and pick an ‘over’ or an ‘under’ let’s try to be a bit more – okay, a lot more – contemplative and educated about what we’re selecting in our NFL picks, and why we’re doing so. We commonly reflect upon the past season, and base our wagers on what we’ve seen rather than consider what we will actually see. Teams are deconstructed, and reconstructed every offseason with free agents coming and going while draft picks are always a wild card whose value is a big unknown until the season kicks.
However, there is a core to each team, players you know will be on the field barring injury, and oftentimes we predicate our selections on those that remain rather than factoring in new arrivals, strength of schedule, and returning players who may have missed large portions of the season because of injury or suspension. Let’s also consider the all-important turnovers, and how they can profoundly impact a team’s win/loss record from the previous season. Green Bay and San Diego were the only two playoff teams with a negative regular season take away/ give away differential. Not so surprisingly, the participants in the AFC and NFC Conference Finals (Denver, New England, Seattle and San Francisco) were all at the top of the +/- turnover ratio.
So those are the basics in a nutshell, and though we can get far more introspective, and probing regarding the hallmarks for anticipated success, we will leave that to the eggheads who roam the sparsely populated halls of SBR’s Handicapper Think Tank. Let’s see where the sharp money is going, and venture an educated guess as to what bets are likely to cash at the end of the 2014 regular season.
Wanted To Bet Them Until I Saw The Number...
There were offshore shops that started the bidding at seven wins for the Cardinals upcoming season, but that number has vanished, and bookmakers like Bet365.com now have the total at 8 (U -130). Their draft looked solid with strong safety Deone Bucannon out of Washington State leading the pack as the 27th overall pick. The 6’6” quarterback Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech, plucked in the fourth round, has a stunning skill set, but a lack of consistency at the college level will most likely translate into a project at the professional level. Let’s also not forget that this team has to play in the same NFC West playpen as San Francisco and Seattle, which could spell four losses right off the back. Factor in another season with the aging Carson Palmer at the helm makes this a definite pass at eight wins.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams picked up a 6’5” bodyguard for Sam Bradford, and have cobbled together a fierce defensive line. That and their 7-9 record from last season has apparently factored in another wave of early sharp play moving this line from a win total of 6 ½ to 7 ½ (O -120) in NFL odds. I’m not sure there is much value in crossing your fingers that the Rams wind up .500 on the season so this too becomes an unbettable number for me.
The Texans were abysmal last season, but not 2-14 abysmal. Sure that's what their record indicates from last year's tragic campaign, but upon closer inspection it should be noted that Houston was 2-9 in close games. That's just bad luck - no, check that - very bad luck. From all reports, their number one draft pick Jadeveon Clowney is an athletic freak of nature, and if he isn't an immediate impact player, then he's a bust already. Watch the Texans rise from the ashes, but unfortunately we're not the only one thinking this way, as the number is currently at 8 (U -150) at Bet365.com. I believe it's too much to ask of this team to win nine this season, yet I am equally fearful of fading them to lose eight, or less. This number makes this bet a pass.
San Francisco 49'ers
The public is crazy about two teams in particular, and we all know that if the public likes it, then we usually stay far away. And we will here as well. Public swooning over the 49'ers has caused them to shoot up to 10 ½ (O-135), but the Las Vegas Hilton is still holding fast at 10, and not budging (at least as of this writing). The wise guys in Vegas are watching all the yahoos dressed in their Niners gear jumping all over that bandwagon, and shoveling the dough through the windows on Kaepernick's crew. And do you think the six-year megadeal he just signed will inspire him, or distract him while he shops for Maseratis and Lambos? San Francisco is too good to fade, but any team getting public backing scares me.
Another public darling is the Cleveland Browns, and the Dawg Pound is howling as they await their savior Johnny Football. The irony here is that the sharps would be far more likely to bet 'over' on the Brownies, if they were convinced that Brian Hoyer would be starting, and not Manziel. The offshore shops such as Bet365.com will make Mr. Joe Q. Public pay dearly, because if you want to plunk a few shekels on the Browns, they are now listed at 6 ½ (O-150). Stay away.
Rumor has it that two-time Las Vegas Hilton Supercontest winner Steve Fezzik believes the Carolina Panthers are heading for a spiral this season, and it’s not the laser tight variety that routinely emanates from Cam Newton’s hand. A regression to the mean appears to be in order, after the Panthers assembled a ferocious defense to lead them from a 7-9 season in 2012, to a 12-4 record in '13. The offensive line is now a huge question mark after offensive tackle Jordan Gross, and a handful of other O-linemen retired. The wide receivers have fled Carolina, and Cam Newton's ankle is under repair. I'm with my boy Stevie here. Play 'Under' 8 ½ (-140) as one of your NFL future picks.
Injuries decimated this squad last season and it resulted in a woeful 4-12 season. But that was then, and this is now. Coach Mike Smith is focusing on the fundamentals like tackling drills. Yes, tackling drills, like the ones you might see at your local high school practice field. He is taking nothing for granted, and had no reservations about reaching for the top offensive tackle in the draft when they selected an avalanche of a man in Jake Matthews at number five overall. In the second round they went to the defensive side of the ball and tapped defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman who by all accounts was a first-rounder who slid onto the laps of the Falcons. Matty Ice has a new bodyguard and the Falcons will be back. I'm liking 'over' 8 (-150) even though I hate to pay that juice although it beats betting 'over' 8 ½ and getting nipped if they end the season at .500.
Matt Schaub is a good quarterback who had a lousy year. He's suiting up as a member in good standing for the Silver & Black, and will be a boon to that franchise this season. If Schaub does stumble, or gets injured, then second round draft pick Derek Carr better be ready to convince the fans that he's no David Carr. In addition, the Raiders now have outside linebacker, and my Defensive Rookie of the Year choice Khalil Mack bringing it from the edge. While I hate to lay the juice once again, I do love this number 4 ½ (O-155) and will gladly include the Oakland Raiders as one of my NFL future picks.