Welcome to the 2016 NFL season! Now let’s get down to business – Dan Schmidt and Randy Jobst have each picked out 5 futures bets with promise heading into Week 1. With kickoff right around the corner, now’s the time to get some skin in the game and put all that research to work. Football is here! And so is your official 2016 NFL Betting Guide.
RANDY: Face it, you’re reading this because you took a lot of losses in the sports gambling world last year and your significant other is threatening to cut you off from ever making a bet again. We’re here to help (mainly me). We’ve got some 2016 NFL season bets (not weekly) with big-time upside sure to set you up financially for life. I would just quit your job now in anticipation.
DAN: Please do zero of the things Randy just mentioned. But yes, we’ve each put together five futures bets that peaked our interest heading into the 2016 season. Some are win totals, some are division odds, and who knows, maybe we’ll even get into the first coach fired. (Jim Caldwell anyone???). As always, odds are from Sportsbook.com.
Dan’s Best Bets
Jaguars UNDER 7.5 wins (+105)
Important update – the Jags still stink, but you gotta love what Gus Bradley is building down there. Rome wasn’t built in 4 years, you guys. Anyway, I don’t think this team is three wins better than last year. The biggest additions on defense are rookies Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack, 2015 first rounder Dante Fowler, and former Giants corner Prince Amukamara. That’s three guys who haven’t played a game yet and a cornerback even Steve Spagnuolo didn’t want. On offense, they added former Penn State offensive coordinator John Donovan to the staff for some reason. Donovan, who thought accuracy was one of Christian Hackenberg’s strong points, should feel right at home watching Blake Bortles run for his life behind this offensive line. The Jags get the tough AFC West on the schedule this year, as well as an opening day game against Green Bay. Where are these 8 wins coming from again? Jacksonville has been a “trendy” pick in Vegas, which usually means avoid, avoid, avoid.
The NFL’s 2nd best QB named Carson
Cardinals +140 to win NFC West
The Cardinals only gave up 39 more points than the Seahawks in 2015 and Bruce Arians’ offense is one of the NFL’s best (unfortunately). You’re getting a positive payout on a division title for one of the four teams with a legitimate Super Bowl chance in the NFC (Packers, Panthers, and Seahawks being the other three). The Seahawks and Cards will face the exact same teams this season with two exceptions – Cardinals get the Redskins and Vikings, while Seahawks get the Eagles and Packers. I’d prefer Skins/Vikings now that Teddy Bridgewater’s leg has turned into Play-Doh and Sammy Sleeves will be under center. Cardinals are winning this division again.
Aaron Rodgers +600 to win MVP
Rodgers is primed for a monster year after a disappointing (by his standards) 2015 campaign. He’s got his favorite target Jordy Nelson back, plus Jared Cook is a huge upgrade at tight end. Throw in a slimmed down Eddie Lacy and the Packers offense could be unstoppable. The Packers first six games are: at Jaguars, at Vikings, and then four straight home games against the Lions, Giants, Cowboys, and Bears. That’s a feast of bad defenses. In fact, outside that Vikings match-up, the Packers won’t face a quality defense until DECEMBER when they visit the Texans. Rodgers is putting up 5000 yards and 40 TD passes and running away with the MVP. The only other guy I’d consider throwing down on is Russell Wilson (+800), but he doesn’t have the receivers Rodgers has.
Bucs +235 to Make Playoffs
Someone has to get that 6th seed in the NFC and I think it’s going to be Tampa Bay. The Bucs started 6-6 last year before losing their final four games to finish in dead last in the NFC South. They check the Promising Young QB box, with plenty of dynamic talent at the skill positions to help him. The playoff “locks” in the NFC are the Packers, Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks (with Seattle or Arizona getting a wild card). So who’s left? The Vikings are the popular pick, but new QB Sam Bradford has just as many playoff appearances as Jameis Winston and it’s likely not even AP can drag him to 10 wins. I’m sure as hell not picking a second NFC East team to make the playoffs either. That leaves the Bucs, Falcons, Saints, Rams, and 49ers as potential wild card winners. Since the Rams and Niners might not even combine for 10 wins, we’re left with the 3 NFC South teams. The Saints can score, but their salary cap chaos has left them with the league’s worst defense. That leaves the Falcons and Bucs, who have identical +235 odds to reach the postseason. Both teams had good luck in close games last year (6 of 8 Falcons wins were by 7 points or fewer, 5 of 6 for Bucs). The Bucs gave up 72 more points than the Falcons, but their defense was 10th best in yards allowed (Falcons were 16th) and better by DVOA. These are both decent options at +235, but I’m leaning Bucs. With more talent on defense and a QB whose arrow is pointing up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win 9-10 games and make the playoffs.
Pictured: the entire Vikings offense
Vikings UNDER 9 wins (-110)
Did I mention I’m bearish on the Vikings? Because I’m bearish on the Vikings. Sam Bradford has never won more than 7 games in any season. Minnesota’s offense is entirely dependent on a 31-year old running back coming off a season in which he had 382 touches. Including the postseason loss to the Seahawks, AP had 155 carries for 569 yards in his final 8 contests for a very pedestrian 3.67 ypc average. Bradford’s main jobs this season will be handing the ball to Peterson and not throwing interceptions, but the Vikings overachieved last year thanks to a dysfunctional Packers offense and two other weak division opponents. Don’t expect them to go 5-1 in the NFC North again. Minnesota beat up on bad teams last year, defeating only 2 opponents (Chiefs and Packers) with winning records. The other 9 Vikings wins came from the Bears (twice), Lions (twice), Giants, Falcons, Chargers, Rams, and Raiders – not exactly Murderer’s Row. The Vikings have some talent on both sides of the ball, but they’ll need some good fortune to match last year’s success. And if Peterson gets hurt, the first round pick the Eagles got from them will be looking beautiful.
Randy’s Best Bets
Is this (finally) the year for Tannehill?
Dolphins OVER 7 wins (+115)
This one feels like a bargain to me. Not because the Dolphins are going to be a surprise contender this year, but because they have a really soft schedule, a much improved offensive line and a head coach who will maximize that offense. Eight wins is very doable for this team. They have home games against four teams who I think will struggle to get to five wins this season: The Browns, Titans, Bills and 49ers and they also get a road match-up against a really bad Rams team. On top of that they also have their road game against the Patriots in Week 2 during Tom Brady’s suspension. If they have a pulse they should win at least five of those games. They would only have to win 3 out of their other 10 games, four if they slip up twice in those 6 games I just mentioned.
I also like what they did to improve their roster. They added a veteran back in Arian Foster who is still a complete back and drafted Laremy Tunsil (my top draft prospect) to play next to Branden Albert. Their offensive line just got a lot better which has been the main issue that has held them back the last few years. Remember, this bet isn’t about the Dolphins getting to 10 wins and competing with the Patriots for an AFC East title, this is about them getting to 8 wins. This is easily a .500 win team right now. Add a cupcake schedule and this is easy money.
Cardinals OVER 9.5 wins (-230)
Less payout with this one, but I thought I would go with an easy money bet since the next three are more of the low, risk, high reward variety. The Arizona Cardinals have a stacked roster, the next great running back in this league, three outstanding wide outs and a very fast defense that loves to attack. They also play the 49ers and Rams four times this season. I think this is a 12 win team that should be in the NFC Championship game this year.
Ten wins feels like a lock with this team, even if Carson Palmer goes down at some point. This roster is just too good to fall to 9-7 or worse this year. They attack on both sides of the ball better than any other team in football right now.
Eagles WILL make the playoffs +450
Carson Wentz will get the Week 1 start for the Eagles
Homer alert right? This one, along with my next two, are all about big payouts. The Eagles are starting a rookie quarterback from day one, but physically and mentally Carson Wentz is NFL ready. He came from a very sophisticated pro style offense in college and at 6’5, 235 you don’t worry about his ability to handle himself in the pocket.
I also really like this Eagles roster. It’s not top heavy on offense, but they have decent depth and that defensive line and safety duo are both elite. They have a tougher schedule than a 7-9 team should (Bengals,Packers,Seahawks,Steelers) but they start they start the year off against two garbage teams in the Browns and Bears. That’s a great chance to get two wins very early and gain some confidence heading into a tougher portion of the schedule. They also happen to play in the worst division in football. They don’t need to win 12 games in order to win this bet, it actually may only take 8 or 9. Not bad for the team with the third worst odds to make the playoffs right now.
John Harbaugh next coach fired +8000
On paper this sounds completely idiotic, but forget about the Ravens Super Bowl season in 2012 for a second. In the three years since they have made the playoffs just once and haven’t finished in the top half of their division in that span. They’ve gone 23-25 in those three years with a very high payroll and they don’t have a roster that can compete with the upper half of the AFC right now.
A counter to this bet might be that the Ravens like stability as they have only had three different head coaches since they moved the team here in 1996. But take a lot at 2006 and 2007. Brian Billick had brought a Super Bowl to this franchise a few years back. In 2006 he went 13-3 and won the division. The following year he went 5-11 and was fired. That’s quite the 180 on a Super Bowl winning coach that was a year removed from winning 13 games.
Sometimes with a long-tenured coach you just have to move on. Teams change direction, players need a new voice, the fans need a new hope and a very successful coach gets the axe. With this current Ravens roster, which is pretty pedestrian in my opinion, a quick rebuild might be in the works and a coaching change might be best for everyone involved.
Now I know Harbaugh isn’t the most likely coach to get fired first, but keep in mind there are a ton of bad teams with coaches in the first or second season with that team. It’s too early to pull the plug. Nobody wants to be viewed like the Browns right now. Two teams are key to winning this bet, the Chargers and Lions. Both have coaches firmly on the hot seat. If both can do enough to save their jobs I think John Harbaugh will be the first coach fired and at +8000 that is a big payoff.
Packers vs Bengals in Super Bowl +4500
I loved seeing these two teams as a Super Bowl match-up with lower odds than it should receive. I love the Packers this year. Jordy Nelson is back, the defense is better, Eddie Lacy is less fat and boy is this team due for another Super Bowl run.
I also think Carolina and Minnesota take a step back this season and the NFC East lacks a legit title contender. I think Arizona and Green Bay are the real contenders in the NFC and I like the Packers a little bit more because their schedule will allow them to get home field advantage in the playoffs and that’s where Aaron Rodgers is almost unbeatable.
The Patriots are my Super Bowl pick in the AFC (pissed off Tom Brady is bad news for every other AFC team) but a Pats/Packers Super Bowl doesn’t allow for this kind of payout. I really like the Bengals this year. The roster is deep and though they lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, you still have A.J. Green with Tyler Eifert and the best one-two punch backfield in the league in Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. I also think Tyler Boyd will have a quick adjustment to the NFL at wide receiver (+5000 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year). He’s a pretty polished wide out already so he can make an immediate impact that more than makes up for what we were always waiting for Sanu to do.
DAN: While I’m not against long shots, John Harbaugh being the first coach fired would blow my mind. He’s been in Baltimore since 2008 and just had his first losing season. He’s won at least 10 games in five times already and his playoff record is a phenomenal 15-10. He actually has a higher winning percentage in the postseason (.667) than the regular season (.602)! If Harbaugh were to be fired, he’d be unemployed for approximately 1.3 seconds before landing another NFL head coaching job. Remember how quickly Andy Reid found a job after the Eagles fired him? Halve that Harbaugh. He’s still a great coach and I wouldn’t bet against a Ravens rebound in 2016. Randy, I think you need some smelling salts. This is a bad bet and you should not take it.
RANDY: What happened Dan? These bets were so ultra-safe, I don’t even think I can tear them apart even a little bit. Dan has become the coach who punts on 4th and inches at the 35 yard line. I will say this though, I love his Vikings bet, no way that offense is a part of a 9+ win season. I mean they needed a late round receiver from Maryland in Stefon Diggs in order to have a pulse on offense last season. Take away AP and Sam Bradford will feel like he is playing for those putrid Rams offenses again.
The one bet from Dan I didn’t like was the Jaguars under 7.5 wins. I went through the entire NFL regular season last night and predicted each game to see where each team would finish in the standings. I had Jacksonville at 9-7 and I’m not even that high on them. You should bet on the Jags this season for three reasons. One, the AFC South is garbage, mainly the Colts and Titans. Two, they can put up a ton of points. Three, their schedule isn’t daunting at all. I’m not saying take them as a Super Bowl favorite or even to win a playoff game, but this team will have to fall apart to lose 9 games or more this season.