NFL Futures

Coronavirus is fucking up pretty much everything right now. The casino I work at shut down on March 18th, so I’ve been doing my best to keep myself occupied. As a bona fide millennial I don’t see my day-to-day being altered too much. I mean I’m still playing video games. I’m still fucking off and watching shows on Netflix and Hulu. Even as the wheels of history are turning before our eyes, I think this crises is a lot harder on 40-somethings and 50-somethings than it is on anyone under 35.

That doesn’t mean I’m not ready to work. I am. I just fear that Donald Trump is going to open the economy back up sooner rather than later. It’s a cold reminder of what everybody already knows: markets are more important than workers. Profits are more important than people. The powers that be have to have done a cost-benefit analysis, and what they have concluded, or are prepared to conclude, is that a half-million, or million, or three million people dying is absolutely worth it if it means the stock market will get back to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Anyway, some NFL shit is going on so I’m going to use this time as a distraction to write about it. Here are some prop bets that are currently available on Bovada:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers to miss the playoffs (+110)

I love Tom Brady. I think he’s the GOAT. I think he’s going to have a pretty good year throwing footballs to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. This bet is all about a market correction. Before Brady signed with the Bucs, Tampa Bay’s over/under win total for 2020 was set at 7.5; after he signed it jumped up to 9.5. A two-win jump isn’t outrageous given the addition of a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. I just think it’s a lot for a 43 year-old HoF quarterback.

Tampa Bay’s common opponents with other NFC South teams include both the AFC West and NFC North. I think there’s good reason to expect the Packers, Bears and Vikings to at least be competitive, and the Chiefs and Broncos to be competitive. This is on top of having to play the Saints (who should be solid) and Falcons (who could be improved) twice.

There is certainly a scenario where Tampa Bay’s offense is top-5, and defense is top-10, and they magically roll into the playoffs at 11-5 or 12-4. I’m taking the under 9.5 because I believe Brady is much closer to league average than world class at this point in his career. And that’s an easy bet, since TB12 is no longer playing within the Patriots program as well as the fact that (did I mention?) he’s 43.

2. New England Patriots to miss the playoffs (+120)

You’ve got the greatest quarterback in the history of the game and the greatest coach, Bill Belichick, in the history of the game. And over a 20-year marriage you win 6 Super Bowls. That’s unbelievable. If I had to divvy up a pie giving credit where it’s due, I would give Belichick the edge over Brady somewhere in the range of 70-30. Neither could have done it without the other, but on their own over a 20-year span I would probably give Belichick 1- to-1.5 more Super Bowl wins than Brady.

This is entirely subjective, since we all know how their marriage played out. It’s never happened before and it may never happen again. Betting on the Patriots to miss the playoffs is obviously a stupid bet, but not if you consider that there’s at least a 25 percent chance Belichick decides to spend a year retooling. Next year’s quarterback draft class includes both Trevor Lawrence from Clemson and Josh Fields from Ohio State. I’m not an extreme fan of tanking for a high draft pick, but for a team like New England that just let their HoF quarterback walk, that just won 6 Super Bowls in 20 years, it wouldn’t be the worst strategy in the world to take a year off.

Their schedule in 2020 includes the Chiefs (road) and Ravens (home), along with the jam-packed NFC West (49ers, Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals) and AFC West. While the Patriots could certainly go 10-6 and win the AFC East, or while they could go 3-13 and get the #1 pick, my bet on them missing the playoffs leans closer to the latter scenario playing out rather than the former.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers to win AFC North (+350)

The Steelers managed an 8-8 record last year despite being without a competent quarterback. That has to be one of the most absurd storylines from the 2019 season, that a team many believed was on the verge of tanking went on to be an eyelash away from making the postseason.

Betting on the Steelers to win the AFC North means a couple things: (1) the first is that the addition of Ben Roethlisberger should be worth at least a win, but probably closer to +1.5 wins; (2) the second is that the Ravens will be playing a first place schedule and are likelier to go 11-5 than 14-2. If you combine those two possibilities, then you are looking at a scenario where Pittsburgh is a couple wins better and the Ravens are (at least) a couple wins worse, and you are getting 3.5-to-1 on your money. Heads-up I think Baltimore is likely to be the better team, but at the price you are getting on the Steelers I don’t think it’s the worst bet in the world.

4. San Francisco 49ers to win NFC West (EVEN)

There’s a good chance for the second year in a row that the NFC West is the best division in football. And for the second year in a row, I think there’s a good chance that the 49ers are the class of it.

San Francisco was the better team for most of the Super Bowl. Objectively speaking, if you spotted them the same 10-point lead they had, with possession, in the 4th quarter against the Chiefs, and started flipping coins after that, the 49ers probably win that game nine times out of ten. How Kansas City managed to win I still don’t know, but I’m guessing Patrick Mahomes played a large role. Just a guess though.

This bet is on the 49ers having the best roster in the AFC. As the Cardinals are trending upward, the Rams somewhere in the range of 7 or 8 wins, and the Seahawks somewhere in the range of 9 or 10, I still see the SF having the best foundation and least amount of variance. They have a solid defense and a good running game. They may not go 13-3 again, but I think their floor remains somewhere around 11-5. If you can get them at even money or better to win the West, you should pull the trigger.

5. Over/Under Team Win Totals

  • Chicago Bears over 8.5 (-105): I’m catching a strong whiff of mutiny against former 1st round pick Mitch Tribisky here. The Bears brought in Nick Foles to be the backup, but while some see it as competition for Mitch I think there’s a better chance he was brought in to be the replacement. If Chicago opens 1-2 and Tribisky isn’t up to snuff, look for Foles to take over and juice this team up for a potential Wild Card berth.
  • Dallas Cowboys under 9.5 (-120): I wasn’t all that jazzed about the Mike McCarthy head coach signing, and I think it probably takes a year to get used to his new offensive system. Dallas has a decent roster in terms of names, but when you are paying boatloads for QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekial Elliot, and WR Amari Cooper, it’s hard to spread enough money around at other positions.
  • Miami Dolphins over 6 (-160): This is all about culture. Miami beefed up their defense during free agency, and if last season was any indication — where they won 5 of their last 9 games despite being in a “tank” year — there is reason to expect a step forward. With three first round picks, they are the favorites to trade up and draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

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