Raymond Summerlin

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2018 NFL Win Totals

Friday, August 31, 2018


Rich Hribar and I will bring you our best bets every single week of the NFL season in Rotoworld’s Season Pass, but we thought we would prime the pump a bit ahead of the season opener with some of our favorite win totals.

*Note: All totals and odds found at OddsShark

Chiefs under 8.5 wins (-125)
Rich:
Flying in the face of Andy Reid is something I’m not happy with as the Chiefs have hit the over on their projected win total in each of the past five seasons with an average of +2.1 wins than expected. Welp. The difference here is all five of those seasons were helmed by Alex Smith. Smith may not have the raw tools of Patrick Mahomes, but one thing that we inherently know correlates well with winning football games is winning the turnover margin, something at which Smith is the best in the league. Since Smith joined the Chiefs, Kansas City has the largest turnover differential in the league (+61) and has won the turnover battle in a league-high 46 games over that stretch. Their record in those games? 39-7.  Their record when they lost the turnover battle over that span? 25-26. Mahomes will have to protect the football not only on a good level but an elite level to match those types of margins. There’s also not really any room for the Chiefs to grow on offense even if Mahomes is incredible, either, as the 2017 Chiefs were already by far the best offense Reid has ever coached in his career and a top-5 NFL offense. On top of all that, the Chiefs draw the 28th ranked schedule against the spread according to Warren Sharp. Their opening eight games are especially rough, playing four of their first six games on the road with their home games coming against San Francisco and Jacksonville over that stretch. With a declining defense and a first-year starter at quarterback, I’m looking at this being the year to go against Reid and the Chiefs.

Raymond:
Andy Reid has been an NFL coach for 19 years. He has won at least eight games in all but three of those seasons, and he has won at least nine games in all but five. Since joining Kansas City, Reid has overseen win totals of 11, nine, 11, 12, and 10. All of that information suggests taking under 8.5 wins is a bet only a fool would make. I have never claimed to be smart, so that might be the correct conclusion. Even so, there are reasons to believe this year’s team will struggle more than Reid’s previous Kansas City squads. The first and perhaps most important reason is at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes is exciting, talented, and brings something extra to this offense than Alex Smith was able to offer. Unfortunately, he is also likely to bring more turnovers. Smith was incredibly good at taking care of the ball as a Chief. From 2013 to last season, only Tom Brady had a lower interception percentage among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 attempts, and the Chiefs ranked 2nd, 21st, 2nd, 1st, and 2nd in turnover differential during his five seasons. That 21st in 2014 obviously stands out, and it is notable both because it is the only season Reid has failed to make the playoffs in Kansas City and because it featured a lackluster defense – 19th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA – which could not create big plays. This year’s defense looks even worse, and it will not have the advantage of Smith limiting turnovers to help out. Add a reasonably difficult schedule to the mix, and this looks like a squad which will set a new low bar for wins in the Reid era.

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Giants under 7 wins (+120)
Rich: The Giants’ win total is more than double than the three wins they posted a year ago. Since they were a playoff team two years ago and were decimated by injuries last year, sharp bettors have pushed this win total up to a clear seven games after it opened at 6.5. While their team certainly can’t play much worse on offense getting Odell Beckham back and acquiring Saquon Barkley in this year’s draft, I still believe they have a daunting task ahead of them to get to that seventh win. For one, their starting quarterback could be washed.  37-year-old Eli Manning has his passing yardage per drop fall two years running and has been below league average in nearly every passing index measure there is in each of the past two seasons, accounting for a fully healthy Beckham in 2016. Second, the offensive line is still a mess and the defense – especially at linebacker and defensive back – have deteriorated from that strong 2016 unit. To pile on, the Giants face a ludicrous schedule and are only favored in three games to start the season. Their opening nine games are particularly brutal, opening with Jacksonville, @ Dallas, @ Houston, New Orleans, @ Carolina, Philadelphia, @ Atlanta, Washington, and @ San Francisco. At that point of the year, they could be sitting on three or fewer wins and moving on from Manning altogether in a potentially lost season. 

Raymond: The healthy return of Odell Beckham, the addition of Saquon Barkley, and a new coaching staff have created some understandable excitement about the Giants. Those additions seem to have made the betting public overlook two important factors, however. First, Eli Manning was not just bad last season. He was also bad in 2016 when the Giants finished 25th in total offense despite Beckham playing every game. Saquon, Evan Engram, a hopefully better offensive line, and a better scheme should certainly help, but Manning might simply be washed at this point. Second, their defense is nowhere near as talented as it was in 2016 and might even be worse than last season. Olivier Vernon is their only pass rusher, the corner group is full of questions, including Eli Apple, behind Janoris Jenkins, and linebacker is still a concern even after adding Alec Ogletree. Perhaps better coaching is enough to get them over this bar, but this is not a playoff roster, especially with one of the tougher schedules in the league. 

Rich: 49ers over 8.5 wins (+140)
Admittedly, the 49ers’ win total feels like a trap, but I’m here to be a fish and fly in the face of danger. The lowest-hanging branch is they closed 2017 by winning all of their final five games, all starts by freshly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo. That accomplishment shouldn’t be treaded on lightly as San Francisco won two early start road games after dropping seven such games in a row as a franchise and then beat three playoff teams, although we should heavily asterisk their Week 17 games versus the Rams in that regard. Over that span, San Francisco led the NFL in yards and scoring rate per possession in the NFL while Garoppolo himself was third in the league in passing yards and led the league in yards per attempt (8.8 Y/A). This all occurred on a new team with a system he joined in Week 8 of the regular season that had a core offensive unit that was 28th in the league in scoring prior to him starting a game. Let that sink in. Looking forward to 2018, San Francisco is already preemptively favored in 10 games and draws a top-10 schedule in terms of outlook versus the spread.

Raymond: Browns under 5.5 wins (+115)
The Browns are getting some understandable love based on their shockingly talented roster, but if talent was all they needed, they would not have won a total of one game over the last two seasons, underachieving their expected win total during those two years by 5.8 wins. Despite what new GM John Dorsey said when he got the job, they had more than enough talent to be good on defense last season, but they finished 26th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA because of DC Gregg Williams. The offense will be quite a bit better, and Tyrod Taylor should be worth a few wins by himself simply because of his ability to protect the ball. Still, taking the over here means betting on a Hue Jackson coached team reaching their potential while playing one of the tougher schedules in the league – they get the AFC West and NFC South. I am happy to bet against that, and placing a wager on Hue Jackson to be the first coach fired (+350) makes a lot of sense. 

Rich: Titans over 8 wins (-130)
The Titans won nine games a year ago in a season in which they fired their entire coaching staff, ranked 30th in the league in touchdown passes (14), and had a negative point differential (-22) on the season. Despite their coaching staff approaching offensive football as it was played in the late 1970’s and their quarterback regressing to have his worst season over his short-lived, three-year career, you’re still getting a free square on Marcus Mariota regaining form under the new staff led by coach Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. While the offense should have some natural progression from their inefficiencies a year ago, Vrabel also inherits an underrated defense that can rush the passer and stop the run. Tennessee ranked fifth in the league in sacks a year ago and was ranked fourth in the league stopping the run against opposing backfields at 3.4 YPC. To tack on, Tennessee added Malcolm Butler to join Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson while drafting Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry to contribute to that defense. Tennessee draws the seventh lightest schedule versus the spread, and it clears up mightily after Week 8 when they should be finding their stride under the new regime.

Raymond: Dolphins over 6.5 wins (-135)
I cannot decide if I am more upset my only over is the Dolphins or that I am willing to pay -135 to make the bet, but here we are. Despite a disastrous 2017 which included losing their starting quarterback in training camp, watching Jay Cutler sabotage the team, and a Week 1 bye because of a hurricane, the Dolphins still managed a 6-10 record with an expected win total of five. The team did lose big names in Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh over the offseason, but this squad looks better in several key areas – pass rush (Robert Quinn), secondary (Minkah Fitzpatrick), and offensive line (Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore) – than last year’s. Perhaps more importantly, the last time Ryan Tannehill played, the team was 8-5 in his 13 games. That squad over-performed based on their point differential, but they still had an expected win total of 7.6. Playing what looks like a similarly easy schedule in one of the worst divisions in football, this team can match that assuming they avoid even half of the drama they endured last season…and playing Brock Osweiler at any point. As an aside, Miami is +125 to finish second in the AFC East. If they go over this total, that is likely where they end up.



Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
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