The heartening level of degeneracy displayed in the comments 'neath Scip's CFB Season Wins article made me think there might be an appetite for some NFL wagering talk as well. I pretty much tail people I trust for any college betting, but I spend a decent amount of time analyzing the NFL so I'd love thoughts on some of the pre-season's more intriguing lines.
For the sake of interest, I'm going to put up thoughts on the direction I'd go if I WAS going to wager in the following categories, but vis a vis the value comment above I'd consider all of these to be entertainment plays at this stage unless otherwise noted. Also, the lines/odds I'm using are ones I updated several weeks ago, but at the moment of writing this updates would involve a metric fuckton of iPhone scrolling. Obviously if you get in on any of these, give careful consideration as to whether any line moves have completely eroded value.
NFL SEASON WIN TOTALS
Bills OVER 7.5 Wins (-135, Bookmaker): This line has seen some big movement - Buffalo opened at 7.0 in a lot of places and where they haven't gone to 7.5 the over is now at like -190 or so. I like the Bills for three main reasons:
* Ryan Fitzpatrick should be considerably better after playing the last half of the season with some badly damaged ribs - check out his game-by-game log and see if you can guess the game where that injury occurred.
* Their DL got transformed from an outright mockery to possibly a Top Three unit with the addition of Mario Williams and 13-sack man Mark Anderson at DE and the return of Justin Smith clone Kyle Williams from injury to pair alongside second-year stud Marcel Dareus (you remember him), who will no longer be getting double teamed on every snap.
*Their schedule is a dream - they draw a 'should be better but still far from good' NFC West and a 'contains Indy and Jacksonville' AFC South in the rotation this year, with their schedule-dependent games being a dire Browns squad and the fair-to-middlin' Chiefs. The prospects of a meltdown by the Jets and an early Tannehill sighting in Miami only add to the fun.
Seahawks OVER 7.5 Wins (-105, Bookmaker): I initially got this one at over 7.0 -140 at 5Dimes, and things have been moving in a pro-Seahawks direction since then. I'm a little less sanguine about their prospects than I was a couple of weeks ago since their search in every hollow, glen and dumpster for a WR doesn't betoken great faith in Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. However, I still like Seattle. I think Matt Flynn, despite a limited track record, may be pretty close to a Matt Schaub-caliber dude which would be a serious upgrade from the JO session they've been having at that position lately. Their D has talent at every level, and while Bruce Irvin was a reach at 15 he's as likely as any rookie to provide pass rush heat out of the gate which was their only real deficiency last year. Their home field advantage should give them a puncher's chance at home against SF and they are appreciably better than the Rams and Cardinals. The rest of their schedule probably evens out to average. Their OL and WR concerns give you some pause, but both areas should at least improve on last season. This feels like a 9-win squad to me.
Falcons OVER 9 Wins (-155, 5Dimes): I'm fairly fired up about this Falcons team. Matt Ryan isn't a great downfield thrower, but he keeps getting better every season and he's got a pair of outright studs at WR in Roddy White and Julio Jones (who is going to just ravage the league if he stays healthy this year). They're moving to a more wide-open no huddle style that will also feature Jacquizz Rodgers in a Darren Sproles-type role, and even though their OL is just average they will score points this year. They will probably have the NFC's best secondary with the addition of Asante Samuel from Philly, their run D is stout and if a healthy Ray Edwards or an emerging guy like Lawrence Sidbury can help John Abraham bring the pressure then they may have the conference's best pass defense. This is no slam dunk as the Saints are still tough and there's the chance that Carolina could gel a year early, but I really think Atlanta ends up 11-5 or so.
NFL DIVISION WINNERS
PHI +145 (5Dimes)
NYG +225 (Sportsbook)
DAL +265 (5Dimes)
WAS +1120 (5Dimes)
I'm sad to report that I think Philly takes the division this year, but Dallas and the Giants are too good for there to be any value in a +145 number. That plus the fact that the division draws the tough AFC North and tough-at-the-top NFC South increases the likelihood of a very jumbled finish. There's honestly some value in Dallas at +265, though their utter inability to keep guys out of the trainers' room thusfar casts one of those familiar dark palls.
GB -280 (5Dimes)
DET +510 (5Dimes)
CHI +575 (5Dimes)
MIN +3250 (5Dimes)
Green Bay's odds are much less favorable than -280 in the other offshores, but it's hard to ever get much value in anything -250 or below. Chicago should be pretty good and +575 would be pretty attractive in alot of circumstances, but I don't wake up every morning and just rush to find ways to bet against Aaron Rodgers. If the Bears' plane crashes into the Packers' practice facility then that +3250 would get pretty darn enticing.
NO +125 (Sportsbook)
ATL +140 (Sportsbook)
CAR +570 (5Dimes)
TB +1800 (5Dimes)
I professed my love for the Falcons above, but I can't tell you with a straight face that there's value in a +140 number with the high-quality Saints and high-beta Panthers in the mix. Atlanta's sked is more attractive than New Orleans', as the Saints get Green Bay and San Fran in their record-determined games while Atlanta gets the Lions and Cardinals, so there's that. The prospects of Newton enjoying a sophomore surge could warrant an entertainment play at +570, but that defense is still likely to suck out loud.
SF -250 (5Dimes)
SEA +500 (Sportsbook)
ARI +790 (Bookmaker)
STL +1000 (Sportsbook)
Bill Barnwell (of Grantland by way of FootballOutsiders) went on at length about why the Niners are due for a fall this year - at such tedious length, in fact, that I nearly went out and put a bet on San Fran out of spite. (And yes, I, in the midst of a 2000 word freaking FanPost, just needled a guy for going on at tedious length). With that said, there is a chance San Francisco stumbles this year despite looking improved on paper, and Seattle at +500 would be the most likely candidate to pick up the pieces. The Rams' D should be much improved and could give them a puncher's chance, but I can't tell if that look on Sam Bradford's face is just the lazy eye or if it's a stunned, David Carr-style thousand yard stare settling in.
NE -390 (5Dimes)
NYJ +685 (5Dimes)
BUF +800 (Sportsbook)
MIA +1500 (5Dimes)
There's no getting around the fact that the Pats are loaded for freaking bear this year with the addition of Brandon Lloyd at WR and a shit ton of attention getting paid to at least bringing that defense up to average. For me, the likelihood of a Jets fiasco makes me want to arbitrage this with a big play on New England hedged with a small Bills bet. Of course, those kinds of strategies can lead to sadness in a hurry. Plus, depending on your wagering capital you're really tying up a lot in a full-season bet just to get a -390 payoff - that capital can probably be more profitably employed elsewhere.
PIT +135 (5Dimes)
BAL +140 (5Dimes)
CIN +385 (5Dimes)
CLE +3300 (5Dimes)
I really like the Steelers this year as they may finally boast a legitimate OL for the first time since Alan Faneca blew town. The Ravens lost a lot on D - including reigning DPOY Terrell Suggs - and will be counting heavily on some young dudes stepping up and old dudes maintaining to keep their defense at a top-drawer level. Plus Roethlisberger is just worlds better than Flacco, so if I was going to do something here it would be Steelers. I'd want some assurance that WR Mike Wallace won't be missing the first ten games after Pittsburgh slapped him in the face by handing his contract extension to Antonio Brown, however. I liked the Bengals' air of friskiness after a strong draft, but it's looking more and more like their secondary could be a mess (Terence Newman sighting!) and Andy Dalton needs to prove he's more than just the product of a hot start against lockout-addled defenses.
HOU -450 (Sportsbook)
TEN +475 (5Dimes)
JAC +2500 (5Dimes)
IND +3300 (5Dimes)
Houston, as the odds reflect, has the biggest talent gap between it and its division foes of anyone outside of possibly New England. Since the odds suitably reflect it, though, there's not much value to be had and the 'tying up your capital' caveat certainly applies here as well. But Tennessee ain't winning the thing with Jake Locker completing 55% of his throws, and Jacksonville and Indy ain't winning the thing if they fielded a combined squad. So if you're a wealthy Houston oil man, a Texans' bet could at least offer a better IRR on any cash you have ticketed for a money market account, I suppose.
DEN +165 (5Dimes)
SD +180 (5Dimes)
KC +375 (5Dimes)
OAK +650 (Sportsbook)
I like the Chargers here. Philip Rivers' season wasn't nearly as bad as you might remember, Gates appears to be healthy and Mathews is ready to become Norv Turner's next fantasy sensation. The defense should be vastly improved with the addition of talented rookies like Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes, strong free agents like Jarrett Johnson and a return to form from Quentin Jammer whose head was nowhere close to right with ball last year in the midst of a painful divorce. In Denver, no one has yet said one good word about any Peyton Manning pass that's traveled more than 20 yards in the air while the defense is a Champ Bailey slowdown away from fielding a flat-out poor secondary. In KC, no one has ever said one good word about any pass that Matt Cassel has ever thrown, and in Oakland a ring of ambulances and fire trucks are already surrounding the stadium to tend to Darren McFadden and the secondary, respectively.
LONGEST FANPOST EVAR. I'll follow up with some individual player prop thoughts if there's interest.