My NFL Futures Bets (2018 Regular Season) — the NFC
The NFL regular season starts tonight.
As I have done each and every week over the past six seasons, I’ll be picking games against the spread and will update my record as we go along. Look for weekly write-ups to appear either on Saturday evening or Sunday mornings — depending on my schedule. Since I’ve been posting picks here at my site, I’ve had four winning seasons and two losing seasons. My public picks date at other sites date all the way back to 1996.
What follows in today’s post are my thoughts on each team’s NFL season win totals, including a few betting recommendations. Note that most betting values are long gone since the opening numbers were first posted in May. If you didn’t bet them by now, you’ve probably missed the value. Nonetheless, these are my thoughts on what are likely to be the closing numbers based on most recent Westgate Las Vegas odds.
You may also be interested in watching a 2-hour video I did with Frank Perez and Stephen Nover where we break down all 32 NFL teams. WATCH VIDEO HERE
This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Today, I’m writing about the NFC:
REGULAR SEASON WINS TOTALS:
Arizona Cardinals — 5.5 (Under -180)
Arizona somehow won 8 games last season, although they had a rash of injuries. The Cardinals are expected to deteriorate into one of the league’s worst teams in 2018. The reason for widespread pessimism is due to a change in head coach (Bruce Arians is gone) and lingering questions at QB, which remains a huge question mark. But the Cardinals also come into this season far healthier, especially on defense, and with a viable rushing attack, with little pressure to win now. Given some attractive value at +140 on the prospect of a 6-10 or better season and playing what appears to be a very a manageable schedule, I lean strongly towards the OVER on Arizona. My Prediction: 7-9 and 3rd in the NFC West
Atlanta Falcons — 9.5 (Under -120)
The Falcons came within just a play or two of upsetting the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles on their home field in the playoffs last season, following yet another successful campaign coming off the bitter championship defeat/meltdown to New England a couple of years ago. Atlanta has gone 11-5 and 10-6 in two seasons under head coach Dan Quinn. He’s clearly changed this team into a less volatile, defensive-minded team. Unfortunately, the hook on the 9 keeps me away from betting the OVER. Defense looks solid. Loads of experience on offense. Falcons are a possible under-the-radar team very capable of winning it all but also play in a very tough division. Pass. My Prediction: 10-6 and 2nd in the NFC South
Carolina Panthers — 9 (Under -170)
Panthers look to be a Jekyll-Hyde team capable of anything between 5-11 and 11-5. Under coach Ron Rivera Panthers have flip-flopped between winning and losing seasons each of the last six years. Carolina is due for a losing season under this formula, although Panthers insist they’re coming into season healthier and more motivated than ever. Tough to see the NFC South producing three 10+ win teams, each of which made the playoffs again this season. Almost unheard of for 3/4 teams to win at least 10 games. But, it’s certainly possible again in 2018. Trouble is, New Orleans and Atlanta clearly remain the two class teams within this division and it’s hard to see where those extra victories will come from beyond the 9-win mark for the Panthers. Probably some slight value on the OVER at a plus price (+130). But to cash that ticket we need 10 wins and there’s that’s a lot to ask for in this brutally tough division. My Prediction: 9-7 and 3rd in the NFC South
Chicago Bears — 7 (Over -135)
I’m quite bullish on the Bears over the next two seasons. This team finally got rid of dead weight coach John Fox and begin fresh with a new staff led by Matt Nagy (who I like a lot) and lots talent on both sides of the ball. If second-year starter QB Mitch Tribusky can continue his steady improvement and the Bears develop any kind of rushing attack, they could reach the .500 mark for the first time in six seasons. Talk is, Bears are using the Los Angeles Rams example as a model and they have the personnel in place to be a viable challenge to the Vikings if a few things go right. I so badly wanted to bet this team OVER 6.5, but there’s little or no value on wagering anything off the 7-win total as it stands now. Look for Bears to be competitive in lots of games this season and post one of the better ATS marks of any team, since they’ll be widely undervalued. My Prediction: 7-9 and 3rd in the NFC North
Dallas Cowboys — 8.5 (Under -135)
I’m seeing lots of love from public handicappers for the Cowboys, and I’m not sure why. Dallas went 9-7 last season, overcoming suspension problems and injuries to some extent. However, we also saw Dak Prescott might not necessarily be the QB prospect for the future. Prescott regressed from a stellar breakout season in 2016 and looked downright awful during RB Ezekiel Elliott’s absence. Cowboys also suffered offseason free agent losses including turnover in receiver corps that should be a serious concern. I keep hearing how the Cowboys offensive line is the best in the NFL, but they’ve been very fortunate to be injury free the last few seasons (Note: Cowboys center is out indefinitely, which is one of most underrated positions in the NFL). Dallas is led by an average head coach with a career .500 record, who’s never shown the ability to take the Cowboys to a consistent level of performance. Add that the NFL is a QB league now more than ever, especially with new rule changes, and I’m not optimistic Prescott belongs in the top half of NFL passers. Given the Eagles and perhaps Redskins are at least as talented, Dallas will likely struggle to reach the playoffs and are likely to end up somewhere around 8-8. They will also face 7 playoff teams from last season on their schedule. A rash of cluster injuries could turn the Cowboys into a 4-11 team very quickly. Cowboys also play against the tough AFC South this season, which means there won’t be many easy wins. My Prediction: 8-8 and 2nd in NFC East
Detroit Lions — 7.5 (Over -115)
The Lions were exposed as a fraud down the stretch last season, ending up with a 9-7 record. If they had a decent offensive line, Detroit might have gone 11-5 and made the playoffs. Instead, Jim Caldwell got fired and the Lions are now once again in a “rebuilding” mode. New England’s defensive coordinator Mike Patricia was hired and we’ll see what he’s capable of (his defensive results in New England leaves much to be desired). I don’t see Detroit coming out of the gate and being competitive given all the turnover and turmoil. First-time head coach, miserable play along the offensive line, an average defense, and the league’s WORST rushing attack (3.4 YPP last season) spells too much reliance on QB Stafford and the passing game. I’ll fade this as an 8+ win team. My Prediction: 6-10 and 4th in the NFC South
Green Bay Packers — 10 (Over -115)
No surprise, this is QB Aaron Rodgers’ team. He’ll take the Packers as far as they can possibly go, provided he stays healthy. That’s a big “if” with some holes in the offensive line to fill. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has demonstrated no ability to win without Rodgers and might be one of the league’s worst coaches. It’s tough to be optimistic about this team knowing they’re just a sack and shoulder injury away from the entire season being wiped out. Green Bay’s porous defense ranked 22nd last season despite playing lots of powderpuff offenses. So, it looks like Packers will again have to outscore opponents. As for opposition — I see an excellent Vikings team, and improving Bears team, and Lions team that always seems to get 7 or 8 wins, and a Packers team somehow lined at 10 wins. This number is based entirely on Rodgers and the Packers’ reputation. Compelling reasons to fade Packers this season, especially since it would take an 11-5 mark to lose the wager on an UNDER. That would be my bet. My Prediction: 9-7 and 2nd in the NFC North
Los Angeles Rams — 10 (Over -145)
The Rams enter this season as arguably the hottest public pick as any Super Bowl contender. Los Angeles comes off an 11-win season and their best offensive production since Kurt Warner was QB. No doubt, the Rams will be a very fun team to watch. But I still see them as a step behind Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans, and perhaps Atlanta in the NFC. Los Angeles fared poorly against the good teams last season and will have to step up their game now playing a first-place schedule. Rams are certainly capable of a 10-win season, but I see no value laying a price. While it’s usually a wise strategy to fade the public, there’s no value in going UNDER 10 wins. This number is right where it should be. No wager. My Prediction: 10-6 and 1st in the NFC West.
Minnesota Vikings — 10.5 (Under -135)
This team looks loaded just about everywhere. Excellent coaching. Solid defense. Enough skill position players to be dangerous. And, an upgrade at QB with Kirk Cousins coming over from Washington. Cousins had a number of hit and miss seasons with Redskins but will be surrounded by a much better starting cast. I think that turns him into a top QB given all the added support. Head coach Mike Zimmer is coming off a 13-3 season and I see no reason to expect a 3-win decline, especially given Packers might not be at their previous level. Vikings should get to 11 wins, and perhaps 12. However, what keeps me off the OVER wager on Vikings is a tough non-division schedule — playing Patriots, Saints, Rams, 49ers, Eagles, Seahawks, Bills, Jets, and Dolphins. Non-division, I see Vikes posting a 7-3 mark at best and perhaps even 6-4. That leaves 6 games against division foes, which are always scrappy. Look for 4-2 within the division. Slight lean to OVER at plus money My Prediction: 11-5 and 1st in the NFC North
New Orleans Saints — 9.5 (Over -145)
This total is baffling. Saints finally may have found a defense to go along with an explosive offense, which has been their Achilles heel for years. New Orleans posted 11 wins last season and even with a first-place schedule looks to be capable of a repeat as division champions. QB Drew Brees will throw for his usual 5,000 yars, and he’s now protected by an improved offensive line. Rules changes favoring receivers over the middle play into Saints’ offensive strengths. Meanwhile, New Orleans is coming off it’s best rookie crop in a decade, with two bonafide starters showing longterm promise. Saints have relatively easy first half of the season so far as the schedule goes, so a slow start shouldn’t be a problem as in years past. Barring injury disasters, tough to see how Saints don’t win at least 10 games. Some respected handicappers are picking the Saints as a Super Bowl team. I see 11 wins and a repeat 1st place showing for this team that looks to be right there among the NFC’s best. My Prediction: 11-5 and 1st in NFC South
New York Giants — 7.5 (Over -115)
I’ve seen lots of support for the Giants as an OVER play, but that’s based on way too much optimism, in my view. For whatever reason, the G-Men have trouble staying healthy. They were 3-13 last season and now have to win an extra five games to break this OVER number. New head coach Pat Shurmur was brought over from Minnesota (former defensive coordinator), but I don’t see a .500 mark happening this quickly. Even with legitimate top draft choice and a more dangerous backfield after a non-existent rushing attack, the Giants offensive line remains a mess. Defensively, Giants ranked 27th overall in the NFL last season. Special teams were awful. Perhaps the Giants will improve. Hard to see so many things going wrong again. But this total is way too big a leap. NYG also play tough schedule first half of the season which won’t be good for confidence down the stretch. Looks like a solid UNDER play to me. My Prediction: 6-10 and 4th in the NFC East.
Philadelphia Eagles — 10.5 (Under -120)
Critics of Eagles expect a return-to-the-mean and fallback after just about everything went Philadelphia’s way in 2018. However, the defending Super Bowl champs weren’t just lucky. They overcame the starting QB going down in midseason and even improved as a unit over the final third of the year. That’s great coaching. Doug Pederson is currently in midst of building a possible dynasty with a young team stacked with believers (the religious angle for the Eagles is probably a factor, as well). Eagles are by no means perfect and could improve, especially on defense. But with QB Foles getting the start and a possible All-Pro backup, along with dual threats as a passing and rushing team, Philadelphia is clearly the team to beat in a relatively weak division. I won’t bet it, but this looks to have some value on the OVER. My Prediction: 11-5 and 1st in the NFC East
San Francisco 49ers — 8.5 (Under -150)
The 49ers appeared to turn the franchise’s fortune around at the end of last season, winning their final five games. But those were wins against bad teams. Still, there’s lots of reason for optimism about QB Garoppolo and the spark he brings to the San Francisco offense. Add head coach Kyle Shannahan entering his second year (known for his offensive creativity), which is often an improvement after break-in rookie coaching season, and we should expect 49ers to reach the .500 mark. However, I don’t see them going beyond that with a suspect defense, a patchy offensive line, and unproven talent at skill positions. Teams will also be ready for San Francisco this season. Also, this team’s home field “advantage” seems negligible. I’ll give the 49ers 8 wins but won’t make the UNDER wager because of high juice. My Prediction: 8-8 and 2nd in the NFC West.
Seattle Seahawks — 8 (Under -150)
I think the Seahawks will be awful this season. This is the one team I bet the UNDER early (at a better number). QB Russell Wilson has been a magician keep this team somewhat competitive the last few years. He’s fought off injuries and scrambles to buy time too far often. Seattle’s offensive line is among the worst in the NFL. Seahawks also suffered severe losses in offseason to free-agency. It’s hard to see anyplace Seattle improved since last season. Meanwhile, Rams and 49ers are expected to be better. Seattle’s much avowed home-field edge wasn’t so impressive last season. This number is relatively high because of Seattle’s reputation as a solid team and doesn’t reflect the reality that aside from Wilson at QB, they are subpar in just about every other category. Not that it necessarily matters, but Seattle also went 0-4 in preseason and looked terrible in every game. This is the best play on the board. UNDER. My Prediction: 5-11 and 4th in the NFC West
Tampa Bay Buccanneers — 6.5 (Under -170)
Poor Tampa Bay. The Bucs never seem to catch a break. QB suspension issues, questions about trust in the coaching staff, and being stuck in the cellar of the toughest division in the NFL probably means yet another long season. Tampa won 5 games last year, and to their credit were competitive in many games (7 losses were by one score or less). These are typically good teams to back the following season. However, there’s just too much talent above them to expect 7 or more wins. The heavy lay price of -170 will keep me away from an UNDER wager, but if this team wins 6 games, that’s not so bad a year given their myriad of troubles. My Prediction: 3-13 and 4th in the NFC South
Washington Redskins — 7 (Over -120)
Big offseason news for Redskins was the loss of QB Kurt Cousins to free agency, and the addition of journeyman Alex Smith as his replacement. I don’t like QB transitions coming into new offensive systems, especially with a team as inconsistent as the Redskins. I’ also uncertain about Jay Gruden’s abilities as a head coach. Receiver corps looks weak. Lots of mediocre talent. This 7-win mark looks about right. No play. My Prediction: 7-9 and 3rd in NFC East.
A RECAP (MY PREDICTIONS)
Philadelphia Eagles — 11-5 *
Dallas Cowboys — 8-8
Washington Redskins — 7-9
New York Giants — 6-10
Minnesota Vikings — 11-5 *
Green Bay Packers — 9-7 **
Chicago Bears — 7-9
Detroit Lions — 7-9
New Orleans Saints — 11-5 *
Atlanta Falcons — 10-6 **
Carolina Panthers — 9-7
Tampa Bay Bucs — 3-13
Los Angeles Rams — 10-6
San Francisco 49ers — 8-8
Arizona Cardinals — 7-9
Seattle Seahawks — 5-11
* —– division winner
** —– wild card
A FINAL WORD ABOUT NFL SUPER BOWL FUTURES:
Three words: DON’T BET FUTURES.
Futures are the biggest ripoff inside any sportsbook. The house is holding nearly 40 percent of all futures money taken in, which makes this only slightly better than the odds on Keno. I don’t care how tempting it might be to bet the Patriots, Rams, Vikings, or your hometown team to win the Super Bowl. If you bet any futures wagers, you’re a sucker. As far as longshots go, the 75-1 shot on an underdog might sound attractive, but the real odds are probably closer to 100-1. Lets do this — starve the sportsbooks from posting these insulting lines. Don’t be a chump. Boycott all NFL futures bets. They’re for idiots.