THE NFL ODDS-ON PREVIEW (NFC EDITION)
THE NFL ODDS-ON PREVIEW (NFC Edition)
There are a million football previews out there and a thousand columns that discuss the best bets on the board (both future bets and week-to-week). Anyone can give you the best bet to win the NFC West or preview all 4 mediocre teams in the AFC South, but here, I will use some of the odds that Las Vegas is putting out there as a vessel to highlight what I think will be the most interesting storylines of the year. Our job here at DL Reporter is to provide you with compelling content and information to use as tools – this column is no different. I hope you will be able to use some of this analysis to drop some serious NFL knowledge and maybe even surprise some friends and colleagues as the season goes on.
In a previous column, I discussed how sports gambling works. Even if you’re not betting, Las Vegas gambling odds are always the best metric to get a sense of how games and seasons are supposed to go. Here, I will not only use those odds and pick some of my favorite lines to discuss some of what I believe will unfold this season, but also interpret the lines to explore what the bookmakers think will happen.
The Philadelphia Eagles are -110 favorites to win the NFC East. Clearly Vegas trusts head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles to repeat the 10-win season success they had last year. Foles had an amazingly efficient season last year – throwing 27 touchdown passes with only 2 interceptions. While it’s highly unlikely that Foles will be able to repeat these numbers, Chip Kelly exudes success and knows how to build a winner. Kelly isn’t your average football coach and uses things like sleep metrics and body-monitors to prevent players from training when on the brink of injury. This is all in addition to his revolutionary offensive scheme, which was on full display in Oregon and is now finding success in the NFL. With the Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys all facing huge question marks this season, the Eagles have to be a solid pick to win the division this year. The Chip Kelly era might be upon us in the NFC East.
Speaking of coaches going from excellence in the college ranks to instant excellence in the NFL, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have coached the Seahawks and 49ers, respectively, to be among the elite teams in the League, each representing the NFC in the Super Bowl the last two years. This year, the NFC West still seems to be one of the toughest divisions in football, with the Seahawks -150 and the 49ers +220 to win the division. While the Seahawks bring back most of the key pieces of their Super Bowl team, the 49ers will start the season without three key players on defense, including Glenn Dorsey, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith (the first two to injury, Smith to suspension). With such key pieces missing on defense and a tough schedule to open the season, including games against the Bears, Eagles, Chiefs, and Broncos (all playoff teams last year) and division games at Arizona and at St. Louis (even without Sam Bradford, their defense is still nasty) in their first 7 games. With the 49ers distinctly lacking on defense, I think taking the defending champion Seahawks, who still, undeniably, have the best home field advantage in the league, is a safe call to win the division.
The NFC South is a fun division this year. The division boasts three of the best quarterbacks in the league (Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton) and some of the most dynamic offensive weapons to go along with them (Jimmy Graham, Julio Jones/Roddy White, Kelvin Benjamin). The defenses in Carolina and New Orleans were excellent last year, and new schemes in Atlanta and Tampa Bay (along with new head coach, Lovie Smith) mean that this division might become one of the toughest in football. And while I need to see more out of the quarterback play in Tampa Bay to really trust them this year (it’s going to be either Josh McCown or Mike Glennon – both of whom were impressive at times last year, but not proven), I can definitely see the Buccaneers becoming a force in the next few years as Lovie Smith continues to build the team.
HOWEVER, the NFC South has to play the NFC North and AFC North this year. This has repercussions such as having to play the Packers, Bears, Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals – all good teams who play in cold weather. I think this spells trouble for high win totals in the NFC South. With New Orleans’ win total at 10.5, Atlanta’s at 8.5, and Carolina’s at 7.5, I think the toughness of the division and challenging out-of-division schedules could mean that none of these teams will crack their over/under win totals. New Orleans takes the division with 9-10 wins and no one else in the NFC South finishes above .500.
Forget the NFC North odds to win the division (Green Bay is -160, Chicago is +350, Detroit is +450, Minnesota is +1000); there is no need to be coy. The NFC champion this year will be the Green Bay Packers. Based on Vegas’ over/under totals (the numbers that odds-makers set to get betting action on both sides), the Packers, coming off an injury-riddled season, and specifically quarterback Aaron Rodgers, are set to have a monster year. With the Packers adding Julius Peppers to their line-backing corps (along with mainstays Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk), both the defense and offense in Green Bay will be on fire this year. The Packers are 11/2 to win the NFC (in back of only the Seahawks and 49ers – the last two conference winners), a number that indicates the bookmakers expect a serious bounce-back year from Rodgers. In fact, Rodgers is 5/1 to win MVP (only behind Peyton Manning), 5/1 to win comeback player of the year, and has an over/under TD total of 34.5 (less than only Manning and Brees’ projected totals). As if that weren’t enough, receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both have over/under receiving totals above 1000 yards, which means Vegas is confident that Rodgers has plenty of targets to throw to this year. On top of it all, breakout running back Eddie Lacy has over/under totals of 1150 yards and 10.5 touchdowns, ranking him among the leagues elite rushers.
I feel plenty confident taking any of those over/unders, taking the Pack to win the NFC North, and taking them to win the NFC Championship and play in the Super Bowl this year.
(AFC Preview Coming Later This Week)
 All odds courtesy of Bovada.lv – odds elsewhere may vary. Please note, this is not an endorsement of gambling in any state where gambling is illegal, nor is this an endorsement of gambling in general. However, since bookmakers in Nevada make a living from predicting how people will gamble on football games, we can use their numbers to do some predicting of our own.
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