Four NFL bets are highlighted in this piece, NFL longshots that could prove profitable in 2020. The NFL season is just over a month away but its never too early to contemplate placing a wager on America’s game. Let’s face it, 2020 NFL odds took up residence with all the best sportsbooks just as the curtain came down on the last season in February and it makes sense to have a peek ahead. It’s there for the taking, after all.
NFL odds and lines for a whole slew of NFL markets are up on the odds board, there for bettors to sink their teeth into. Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, bookmakers have been busy, doing their best to maintain a level of normalcy.
In this space, we shine the spotlight on a couple of future bets, a regular-season team wins bet, and a week 1 NFL bet that may look like longshot or underdog plays but could prove savvy NFL picks instead.
Naturally, as it is with any early preview, no prediction is a sure-fire bet; this becomes even more true in the wake of a coronavirus pandemic that thrusts the entire 2020 sports calendar into uncertain waters. But hope springs eternal, so they say. And having something to look forward to – let’s face it – is just necessary.
Kyler Murray as a Dark Horse MVP Bet
The Arizona Cardinals are currently longshots in Super Bowl LV betting markets, priced at +5000 with most top-notch sportsbooks to lift the Lombardy Trophy, when all is said and done. And yet there’s something about these plucky Cardinals that would encourage a cheeky flutter ahead of the 2020 NFL season, not least of all the very attractive price.
Kyler Murray, the No.1 draft pick of 2019, showed exactly why Arizona Cardinals took him first overall and in his sophomore season he could potentially take a massive leap. In the past two seasons, a second-year quarterback has taken the league by storm and clinched the MVP award.
In 2018, Patrick Mahomes stunned all and sundry with his history-making account that included throwing for 5,000 passing yards and 50 TDs. He was the undisputed MVP winner that year. Last season, Lamar Jackson topped the TD charts and set a league record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He was the runaway MVP winner last year.
To look at Kyler Murray is to recognize he has that enviable X-factor that both Mahomes and Jackson have in abundance. Murray is that special dual-threat quarterback the league is gravitating towards more and more, that can gobble up yards both with his arms and legs. Just like Mahomes and Jackson saw their offensive weapons upgraded in their second season, Murray too had his offensive weapons significantly boosted this offseason, namely with the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins. Now, Murray has one of the most attractive receiving duos with Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald. And Kliff Kingsbury, who established himself as an offensive-minded head coach in his first season in the NFL, is sure to get even bolder and more daring in his second year.
Of course, the NFC West looms large. Something of a “Group of Death” one could say, with San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams in the mix. However, the Cardinals could make some noise in this group of heavyweights, enough so to make Murray a reasonable dark horse NFL pick to win MVP honors at +1600 with Bovada Sportsbook.
Green Bay Packers +3 at Minnesota Vikings
At face value, the Minnesota Vikings gaining an edge over the Green Bay Packers in the first game of the season might make sense. Home advantage being largely the driving force of this early NFL betting outlook. The Vikings went 6-2 SU at home last season.
And yet, the Packers swept the Vikings last season – Packers beat the Vikings 21-16 in week 2 at Lambeau and then 23-10 in week 16 at U.S. Bank Stadium, the latter of which saw the division title on the line. Suggesting the Packers might very well be the underdog play on NFL picks that pays dividends here.
Somehow, the Packers go into week 1 of the 2020 NFL season at the disadvantage despite owning the Vikings last season. On the whole, the Vikings face a lot more questions than the Packers do ahead of the first week. For starters, offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, left for the greener pastures of Cleveland in the offseason. Can his replacement Gary Kubiak, the newly appointed offensive coordinator, live up?
Then there is the small matter of the departure of Stefon Diggs. Can Justin Jefferson really replace Diggs successfully in his rookie season? Knowing that team practices, preparation, and training, amongst other things, are severely impacted by all the covid-19 measures in place? What about Jeff Gladney and how he measures up against one of the best quarterbacks in the league? Speaking of quarterbacks, the matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins shifts considerably in favor of the former – at least, in most NFL statistical categories.
There’s no doubt that the Vikings have the makings of a good team but in this particular matchup how can one not grab the points with the Packers?
Baltimore Ravens to Go Under 11.5 Wins
BetOnline projects the Baltimore Ravens to a whopping 11.5 wins in 2020, with the OVER and UNDER favored at -115. By all accounts, the expectations for Lamar Jackson and Co. are high. Many NFL analysts and media experts expect Jackson to pick up from where he left off, the Ravens to build on their stellar 14-2 SU account in 2019. But what if they don’t? What if they regress?
Regression doesn’t have to mean going from one end of the spectrum to the other. It can simply mean a step backwards as a step down from great to good. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the Ravens will be a good team in 2020 but they might not be as great as they were in the previous season. Let’s face it, replicating a 14-2 SU account is no mean feat.
The manner in which the Ravens lost to the Titans in the playoffs is one reason why they will face challenges in 2020. Mike Vrabel put down the blueprint for stifling the Ravens offense, including taking the legs out from right under Lamar Jackson. You can bet the entire league will have taken notes, particularly those sides that are slated to play the Ravens this season.
BetOnline Sportsbook offers an additional market that pertains to team wins: Exact Team Total. Predicting the exact team total may be an exercise in futility – and it may be even more so amid the covid-19 pandemic as more and more NFL players start to opt out of playing this season, effectively shifting the sum total of team rosters – but here goes.
Obviously, given the hype surrounding the Ravens, the 10-14 exact win total is favored at -200. However, the 5-9 wins at +160 practically leaps off the page as a viable result, all things being considered.
Two Baltimore players have already exercised the league’s voluntary opt-out provision: De'Anthony Thomas and Andre Smith. Divisional opponents present tricky obstacles, importantly the Steelers and Browns. Over and above these potential AFC North stumbling blocks, the Ravens are slated to play the Chiefs, Titans, Stars, Colts, Patriots, and Eagles – six teams that have reason to be optimistic about their chances in the upcoming season. In short, it’s not going to be a cakewalk for the Ravens, that’s for sure.
Pittsburgh Steelers to Win AFC North
Let’s also not forget, the Pittsburgh Steelers are coasting under the radar, massively underrated by bookmakers across sports betting platforms.
Ben Roethlisberger – a much slimmer and fitter looking Big Ben, mind you – is set to return to a team that finished 8-8 SU; doing so despite playing the bulk of the season without its veteran signal caller, relying instead on the services of a second-string and third-string quarterback. It just goes to show how solid Mike Tomlin is at the helm. Not to mention how formidable the Steelers defense is.
Indeed, it’s fair to say, betting on the largely overlooked Steelers at +325 with BetOnline Sportsbook to win the AFC North is a reasonable NFL pick at this early stage. If there’s one team that has consistently challenged for bragging rights in this division, it’s Pittsburgh Steelers.