- Which NFC playoff team with a high win total is primed for a stumble this season? How about a few NFC playoff sleepers with a lower win projection from Vegas? Here are all of our favorite bets before the season kicks off
The NFL preseason is in full force, signaling that meaningful football is rapidly approaching. To help get you prepared for this momentous occasion, The OTL staff has revealed our seven favorite win total bets for you to consider for this upcoming season, with the current odds from bookmaker William Hill listed.
Arizona Cardinals OVER 5.5 Wins (-170)
Not much juice on this one, but the number is too low to pass up. Sam Bradford is a top-half-of-the-league starter when he’s healthy. The problem is that he’s never healthy. But the Cardinals are backing him up with the most pro-ready rookie QB in this year’s class. Plus, David Johnson returns behind an offensive line that won’t be good, but should be league-average after a couple of horrific seasons. Yes, I know, A.Q. Shipley’s injury is a tough way to start the summer, but Mason Cole was once a Day 1 starter at Michigan, and he should be able to hold his own as a rookie. Throw in Justin Pugh and Andre Smith providing some level of veteran stability on the right side, and another year of growth for D.J. Humphries, and that unit will be all right.
The defense is interesting. It’s loaded with talent, even after losing Tyrann Mathieu (and Budda Baker’s emergence as a star cushions that blow). Then there’s the Steve Wilks factor. Wilks caught opponents off guard early last season by turning the Panthers from one of the least blitz-happy teams in the NFL to the most blitz-happy team in the NFL. (It worked early in the year, though teams caught on by the end of last season.) What will Wilks do with ex-DC James Bettcher’s personnel? We’ll find out in September, which is when the rest of the league will find out too.
With the potential to be above-average on both sides of the ball and a more comfortable QB situation, it’s tough to figure how this team’s number is lower than seven or so. I’d go so far as to call the Cardinals a playoff sleeper in the NFC.
New England Patriots OVER 11 Wins (-155)
It’s a boring pick, but isn’t that what we’re looking for? It’s been nearly a decade since the Patriots didn’t have more than 11 wins (they went 10-6 in 2009). Adding to the fact that they’ve been the most consistent team in the NFL this century, they have six games in a division that doesn’t have a lot of bite to it this year. Plus, Tom Brady will be extra motivated to earn that extra $5 million in performance-based incentives (kidding on that last one). Another good option is the Giants going over 7 wins; with a new coach, improved offensive line and shiny new running back, here’s betting they’re closer to the 11-5 2016 team than the 3-13 2017 squad.
Minnesota Vikings OVER 10 Wins (-120)
The Vikings will win more then 10 games this season. Minnesota upgraded at quarterback with Kirk Cousins, and essentially added another important offensive weapon in second-year running back Dalvin Cook, who only played 3.5 games last season before tearing his ACL. Minnesota also hired ex-Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo to be its new OC. He was instrumental to Carson Wentz and Nick Foles’s success last season, which bodes well for Cousins.
The Vikings also added Sheldon Richardson in free agency to a defensive line that already included Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. Their linebackers and secondary are also loaded with talent, and they drafted cornerback Mike Hughes to build on a unit that ranked as the league’s No.1 defense.
The NFC North is going to be a tough division with a Lions and Bears team that look improved with new coaching staffs and a Packers team featuring a healthy Aaron Rodgers, but the Vikings improved in several spots and I think are still the most complete team in the division.
Carolina Panthers UNDER 9 Wins (-155)
Let’s make some enemies and talk about an under. Carolina was 11-5 last year, but went 8-1 in games decided by a single score. If it has the exact same season but goes 5-4 in those contests, we’re discussing an 8-8 club. In the offseason, the Panthers lost All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to free agency and gained new coordinators on both sides of the ball, with 66-year-old Norv Turner brought in to improve the offense and first-time coordinator Eric Washington promoted to keep the defense strong. The team will also be without veteran linebacker Thomas Davis for four games as he serves a suspension. Can you see the doubt piling up?
If the Panthers’ top two picks, wideout D.J. Moore and corner Donte Jackson are difference-makers right away, Carolina has a chance to put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. But it’s unlikely the NFC South produces three playoff teams once again, and if we’re thinking about which team might get left out this year, I’ve got Carolina in my mind.