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This NFL season will be unlike any other, and that is especially true in the betting realm.
The spread of legal sports gambling to multiple states means NFL betting is accessible to more people than ever. Sports betting talk is now mainstream; a mention of the point spread isn’t much different than an announcer pointing out any other stat. And as the NFL kicks off amid a pandemic, traditional handicapping thoughts on factors like home-field advantage will be challenged.
The NFL kicks off in less than 10 days, and it’s time for Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab and Scott Pianowski to look at all of BetMGM’s NFL future bets and props, and highlight their favorites:
Will lack of preseason and lack of fans in attendance affect your bets?
Frank Schwab: While we have to take any COVID-19 adjustments into account, I wonder if the right move is not overreacting. We don’t give enough credit to elite professional athletes for getting themselves ready to play. The 2011 season played out normally despite no offseason due to a labor dispute.
I will significantly reduce home-field advantage in my handicapping, but it’s not like sportsbooks won’t adjust, too. Other than that, I’ll at least start this season without any significant overreaction.
Scott Pianowski: I have kept reactions in check, mostly because I don’t know the best ways to apply things. Two proactive areas I will consider action — I will probably give less consideration to home-field advantage, and I am leery of expecting rookie-year impacts from skill guys, especially wideouts. (Joe Burrow is a notable exception to this rule.) And to be fair, as Frank says, in 2011, the rookies got up to speed quickly. So perhaps the right move is no move at all.
What are your favorite team over/under win total bets?
FS: I generally want to take more unders than overs in season win total plays. There are more ways for things to go wrong than right over a season. I like the unders on the Los Angeles Rams (8.5 wins), Los Angeles Chargers (7.5 wins), New York Jets (6.5 wins), San Francisco 49ers (10.5 wins) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 wins). Of those, I probably like the Bucs under the most.
But my two favorite plays are actually overs. I like the Denver Broncos over 7.5 wins. They were very unlucky to go 7-9 last season and had a good offseason. Also, Buffalo over 8.5 wins is the right play. I’m not saying Drew Lock or Josh Allen are going to be superstars. But both of those teams are built to win even with middle-of-the-road quarterback play. And if Lock and/or Allen takes a big step, their teams will blow away those totals.
SP: I love the Buffalo over 8.5 play, too. I call the Bills a Steakhouse Team; they’re like a restaurant that has everything (atmosphere, apps, salads, TVs, great bar) but you’re not positive the steak is good. Sorry about that, Josh Allen. The rest of Buffalo’s roster is very sound, and as enterprising as Bill Belichick is, he has lost too much personnel, especially on defense.
I’ll happily punch Bengals over 5.5 (I could see Burrow being a star instantly; they were a misleading 2-14 last year), Titans over 8.5 (boring efficiency and a ton of continuity; the rest of the division has fleas; an overall easy schedule) and Browns under 8.5 (I need a prove-it year from Cleveland before I give them the benefit of the doubt; and even if the Browns are good, Baltimore surely is better than them and Pittsburgh likely is, too).
My Denver lean has to be under, as I expect its new skill guys to need notable adjustment time, and I have zero idea if Lock is any good. I also see that defense perilously close to its age-out date. If I was sure on the QB, that’s one thing; I am not even remotely close to confident on Lock.
Any division championship bets?
FS: No surprise based on the over/under section, but my favorite division championship bet is the Bills to win the AFC East at +125, and my favorite long shot is the Broncos to win the AFC West at +900. The Steelers at +325 are good value. The Chicago Bears at +350 isn’t bad in what looks like a wide-open NFC North, and it would probably be fun to hold an Arizona Cardinals NFC West ticket at +800.
SP: Again, I’ll sign off on the Bills and the forever-underrated Titans (+160). I’m also curious if Dallas can run the table and go 6-0 in the NFC East; it’s hard not to stub your toe at least once against familiar foes, but they’ll be favored five times and the payout is +900. The year after Jason Garrett leaves, that sounds like a good time to invest.
Do any player bets like MVP stand out?
FS: It’s no secret that any Dak Prescott prop you can give me, I’m going over. I like over 4,329.5 yards, over 26.5 touchdown passes and over 314.5 fantasy points (a nice new prop bet category at BetMGM). I really like Prescott at +1400 to win MVP.
In non-Dak bets, I want a little bit on Washington Football Team running back/receiver Antonio Gibson at 50-to-1 to win offensive Rookie of the Year. I also am interested San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle to win MVP at 100-1, even though it’s impossible these days for non-quarterbacks to win.
SP: If Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, and I realize that’s a big if, Pittsburgh is dangerous. Fun skill guys, loaded defense. He’s 50-1 for MVP and 22-1 for most touchdown passes.
Drew Brees at 20-1 for MVP is also interesting; not that I think he’ll win the thing, but if the Saints are the NFC’s No. 1 seed (and New Orleans probably has the best roster in the conference), Brees could get some MVP steam as a lifetime achievement award. Yeah, he was robbed in 2009. Peyton Manning won on narrative, but Brees had the better year (and, of course, got the last laugh).
Remember to ignore non-quarterbacks with your MVP chasing; respect how the media votes. If you like a running back or wideout to break through, you have to get at them in other ways. (MGM has a ton of fun props, including over-under totals on player fantasy points.)
What’s your Super Bowl pick?
FS: The best value to me is the Pittsburgh Steelers at 30-1. If Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers have a much higher ceiling than many teams with lower odds. I’ll pick the Baltimore Ravens to beat the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl, but it’s not like there’s much betting value on the Ravens at +650.
SP: It’s so boring when we agree. Baltimore over New Orleans is my pick, too. Pittsburgh and Dallas are two frisky value teams, though the price on them is likely mitigated by their popularity.
Two name-brand teams I’m unusually cool to this summer — the Patriots and the Packers. Belichick will pick on the NFL again, but not with this current roster. Green Bay’s offseason decision-making was baffling.
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