• Buffalo Bills Season Preview

    June 4th, 2020 - By Brandon Barbour

    In just the second season with quarterback Josh Allen and the third season with head coach Sean McDermott, the Buffalo Bills went 10-6 and marched into the postseason in 2019. Ultimately, they would lose the Wild Card game in overtime to the Houston Texans. The Bills were even good going up against legit NFL spreads, as they finished the season 9-6-2 against the line covering 60% of games. This surprisingly made the Bills on of the top NFL picks against the spread for last year’s campaign.

    As you already know, Tom Brady is out of New England, opening the door for Buffalo to take control of the AFC East. The Bills had a quiet offseason and return with a very similar starting group on defense. This is great news, especially when you consider they allowed the third-fewest yards per contest in 2019 (298.3) and the second-fewest points per game (16.2).

    They also return with the similar offense, but with some additions to take note of. They spent a third-round pick on running back Zack Moss to compliment Devin Singletary. Moss will take over the Frank Gore role as an in between the tackle and goal line runner. At 5’9”, 223 pounds, he’s a bruiser.

    The key addition was sending off their first-round selection (and many other picks) to the Minnesota Vikings for Stefon Diggs’ services. The 26-year-old has two-consecutive 1,000 receiving yard seasons, including 18 touchdowns over his last 33 games. He immediately slots in as Buffalo’s top wide out ahead of John Brown and Cole Beasley. This is a major acquisition when you consider that the Bills accumulated the worst drop rate in football last season at a whopping 7.0 percent.

    The help is here for Josh Allen. The big quarterback improved his completion rate by 6.0 percent in his sophomore season and reduced his interception rate from 3.8 percent to 2.0 percent. He even put together four fourth quarter comebacks and five game winning drives. If you think Diggs won’t take Allen to new heights, then think again. Diggs posted the 10th-best DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) among wide outs last season, including the seventh-best DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).

    The Bills are tied for the fifth-toughest schedule in the NFL this season. Luckily for them, the Patriots have the most difficult schedule based off of 2019 opponents’ win percentage. Buffalo lost both meetings with New England last season, so they’ll need to improve against Bill Belichick in 2020 in order to vie for the division.

    The Bills are coming, but have they arrived? Signs are pointing towards yes, but the offense will have to prove that they’ve grown. The 2020 NFL season is looking bright in Buffalo. It feels like their time to take a leap and continue heading in the right direction. Expect to see the Bills back in the playoffs.

  • Chicago Bears: Over/Under 8 Wins?

    June 16th, 2020 - By Brandon Barbour

    After finishing 8-8 in 2019, the Chicago Bears have much to prove. The defense was on top of its game, allowing just 298 total points (fourth-fewest) and the eighth-fewest total yards. Despite compiling the eighth-smallest blitz rate (23.5 percent), Chicago’s pass rush posted the fourth-highest hurry rate against quarterbacks, including a 25.2 percent pressure rate (sixth-best).

    The advanced stats show that Chicago’s defense was terrific as well. The defense posted the eighth-best DVOA. Khalil Mach did his thing, sacking the quarterback 8.5 times in 2019, including a quarterback hit an additional 14 times. Linebacker Leonard Floyd tacked on 12 quarterback hits and defensive tackle Nick Williams added six sacks. The Bears don’t return in 2020 with the same cast on defense, but it’s very similar.

    Mitchell Trubisky didn’t make any leaps or bounds in his third season. After going 11-3 over 14 starts in 2018, Trubisky dipped to 8-7 as a starter in 2019. His rating dropped from 95.4 to 83.0. He also accounted for 82 more pass attempts and accumulated less passing yards. Trubisky is looking like one of the most disappointing top NFL picks we have seen in a while.

    The offensive line didn’t help Trubisky a ton, as the quarterback had the sixth-least amount of time to throw on average (2.64 seconds). Trubisky’s DYAR was pathetic and ranked eighth-worst among 34 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts. His DVOA ranks him in the same spot. These are all reasons why the Bears acquired Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    We all know that Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl win in 2018 over the New England Patriots. It’s worth noting that Foles has a winning record over his career. He’s 26-22 as a starter. Expect Foles to gain an opportunity to start, as the club could be tired of waiting for Trubisky (former second overall pick) to mature.

    The Bears are tied for 13th for the most challenging schedule. They’re right in the middle of the pack as far as strength of schedule goes. If their defense can continue to hold opponents under 20 points in 2020, then they should have a successful season. They’ll host the Detroit Lions and visit the New York Giants to start the season. The Lions should be improved, but this should be a 2-0 start for Chicago.

    Next comes a visit to the Atlanta Falcons, followed by hosting the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This could result in three-straight losses. Atlanta could be better than most think in 2020 and the Colts have improved drastically with their new quarterback addition in Philip Rivers. Let’s get back to the winning side of things. Week 6, Chicago will visit the Carolina Panthers, followed by a road date with the Los Angeles Rams. These are two winnable games and should push the Bears to 4-3.

    Then, they’ll host the New Orleans Saints, visit the Tennessee Titans, host the Minnesota Vikings, visit the Green Bay Packers, host the Lions, host the Houston Texans, visit the Vikings, host the Jacksonville Jaguars, and finish at home against the Packers. Let’s say they split their matches with the Vikings and Packers. Let’s also say they take down the Lions for the second time and beat up the Jaguars. The Saints and Texans feel like losses, but a defense this great could keep them in the games, including their battle with the Titans. If you are a bettor when you see these NFL lines and how much will Vegas either be favoriting or helping the Bears to try and cover these games. 

    Disregarding the Saints, Texans, and Titans games, the Bears could be at 8-5. This means they would need to pull off one of the games against the Saints, Texans, or Titans. If they’re smart and roll out Foles all season, then they should be capable of pulling out a 9-7 season. Foles is making nearly double what Trubisky is making in salary, so expect the Bears to want a veteran at the helm. Taking the over on their NFL over under of eight wins isn’t a slam dunk, but it’s a decent wager to place at this point in time. Chicago won eight games last season with terrible quarterback play. Think an upgrade at the position is worth an extra win?

  • Cincinnati Bengals: Over/Under 5.5 Wins?

    - by Brandon Barbour

    The Cincinnati Bengals have moved on from Andy Dalton with the Joe Burrow era officially beginning. The Bengals didn’t screw this draft up and took the local kid with the top overall selection. They even provided him with a new toy at wide receiver in Tee Higgins in the beginning of the second-round. John Ross finished as the best wide out on the club last season, but his 57th-ranked DYAR shows a lack of talent.

    Returning at left tackle is last season’s top selection for Cincinnati. Jonah Williams missed all of 2019 after being the first offensive lineman taken in the draft. This should help an offensive line that tied for the fifth-most allowed sacks (50) in the NFL last season, including a stuffed rate that was tied for fourth-worst at 22 percent. The Bengals were one of the worst teams across the board last year but especially against the spread. The Bengals were 6-10 against the spread and covered 37%. Although they are making updates to the roster this team should never be one of your top NFL picks.

    The AFC North is simply a brutal division. The Baltimore Ravens are one of the AFC’s top-two teams and the Cleveland Browns are intriguing on paper. On top of that, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a terrific defense and welcome back Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals are nowhere near a playoff contender, but how does this bode for their projected win total?

    Cincinnati may struggle to win their first game this season. The schedule starts out strong with the Los Angeles Chargers, at the Cleveland Browns, at the Philadelphia Eagles, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars, at the Baltimore Ravens, at the Indianapolis Colts, hosting the Cleveland Browns, hosting the Tennessee Titans, at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wow, that’s rough. Maybe, just maybe the team could pounce on the Jaguars to take their first win in week 4. If they miss out on that opportunity, then it’s not that crazy to speculate an 0-9 start. Let’s go with 1-8 to be reasonable.

    After the brutal start, Cincinnati will visit the Washington Redskins, host the New York Giants, visit the Miami Dolphins, host the Dallas Cowboys, host the Pittsburgh Steelers, visit the Houston Texans, and finish by hosting the Baltimore Ravens. Ok, this gets a bit more interesting. The Redskins and Giants contests should be very interesting. By this time, it’s fair to think that the offense and Burrow could be clicking a bit more. Let’s say they win both. Best case scenario, they’re 3-8 at this point.

    The Dolphins are much improved and could be starting Tua Tagovailoa by this point, making a terrific rookie quarterback battle. Even if the Bengals pull this one out, the remaining schedule is brutal and they’d be stuck at four wins. Let’s say the Ravens are resting many starters for week 17 and the Bengals steal one. That puts them at 5-11, still under their NFL over under line of 5.5 wins. While the last two wins mentioned aren’t as practical, they’re possible. Even with the doubt, the Bengals fall short of their projected win total by sportsbooks.

    This is quite a time to be a rookie quarterback in a league that’s built off repetitions, chemistry and timing with teammates, and overall knowledge. With the Covid-19 epidemic hammering sports leagues, practicing with large groups has been impossible. The 2020 season was already going to be a challenge for rookie quarterback Burrow, but this is a whole new challenge. The other teams in the AFC North won’t be dealing with the same offseason burden, as they have been with their organizations long enough to be comfortable without the reps. The future is definitely bright for the Bengals, but betting under 5.5 wins is a no-brainer, and it will be interesting to see what the NFL point spreads look like when real teams go up against this Bengals squad.

  • Green Bay Packers Season Preview

    - By Brandon Barbour

    After a controversial draft that saw the Green Bay Packers spend their top draft selection on Aaron Rodgers’ replacement, many are wondering what to expect from the Wisconsin team in 2020. They made a run to the NFC Championship game and were whacked by the San Francisco 49ers (37-20) for the second time over the entire season.

    Green Bay’s defense was above-average in 2019. They allowed the ninth-fewest points per contest (19.6), despite allowing the 15th-most yards per game (352.6). Their 25 takeaways tied for the seventh-most in the league. The defense wasn’t an issue last season and they won’t be in 2020, as the majority of this defense is returning. The Packers played pretty well on both sides of the ball which made them one of top NFL picks ATS for last year. The Pack finished the season 11-7 against the spread, which made them #6 overall at covering NFL point spreads.

    The Packers lost Geronimo Allison to the Detroit Lions in the offseason and added Devin Funchess from the Carolina Panthers. It’s unclear where Funchess stacks up on their depth chart, but he will run with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Allen Lazard. This is an area that most thought the Packers would spend a draft pick on upgrading, but instead, they added a tight end and a running back.

    The Packers selected A.J. Dillon in the second round of the draft, a nice compliment to Aaron Jones. Dillon should take over as the goal line and between the tackle rusher and kick Jamaal Williams down a notch. This is an indication that the team is ready to pound the rock in 2020. Green Bay was in the middle of the pack in pass percentage last year (59.81 percent of plays), so expect that number to decline a bit. Jones posted the fourth-best DYAR among running backs last season.

    The Green Bay offense posted 23.5 points per game last season, good for 15th-most in the NFL. This is why fans expected the club to spend on a wide out in a draft that was wealthy in that department. Sure, the Packers won 13 games and their division last season; however, they won eight of those games by one score or less.

    Rodgers can only do so much. He still managed the eighth-best DYAR among quarterbacks last season. He only threw four interceptions on 569 pass attempts, partly because he throws it away often and doesn’t take unnecessary risks. The offense may need to take more of those risks in 2020.

    The Packers draw a schedule that’s smack dab in the middle as far as strength of schedule goes. They’ll play the entire NFC South this season, the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans, etc. Unfortunately, it just seems implausible that the Packers will reach 13 wins again. The Packers swept their division last season, so don’t expect a repeat 6-0 against the NFC North again.

    The Minnesota Vikings are hot on their tail and looking for a rebound season. They’ll compete for the division in a major way with the Packers. As mentioned, the Packers won a ton of close games in 2019. Can this possibly continue moving forward? The challenges that await the Packers are the same ones from last season. How will they put up enough points to make a Super Bowl run? Will their offense be enough to get them back into the postseason?

    There aren’t many teams in 2020 that have as many question marks as the Packers do. It’s unclear what their end result will be, but we can think of a few possibilities, all varying from one extreme to the other. The uncertainty revolving around the Packers is alarming. We’ll have to wait and see what coach Matt LaFleur and company have in store for 2020.

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  • San Francisco 49ers: Over/Under 10.5 Wins?

    June 2nd, 2020 - By Brandon Barbour

    After going 13-3 in 2019, the San Francisco 49ers are hopeful of making another Super Bowl run. With regular-season NFL over unders as one of the main futures bets to focus on in the sport, bettors are breaking down schedules and offseason moves to figure out where they can make some cash. The 49ers have a 10.5 line for their win total in 2020. Which side of this bet should you hammer?


    Offseason Moves

    It was a fairly quiet offseason for San Francisco. They traded away DeForest Buckner, Marquise Goodwin, and Matt Breida. For Buckner, they received the Indianapolis Colts first-round selection, and replaced their defensive-lineman with a younger, cheaper lineman in Javon Kinlaw. Late round picks were swapped in the deals involving Goodwin and Breida.

    The 49ers also let Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency to the New Orleans Saints. They spent a late first-round pick on a new wide out in Brandon Aiyuk to fill the hole. Longtime offensive lineman, Joe Staley, decided to hang it up and call it a career. This prompted the 49ers to swoop in and pull off a trade with the Washington Redskins to acquire Trent Williams, a terrific offensive tackle. Despite losing some offensive weapons, the 49ers return with a very similar squad and starting cast.


    Schedule And Outlook

    Now, let’s break down the schedule. It wouldn’t be shocking if San Francisco got off to a raging start. Last year the Niners were one of the top NFL picks against the spread, they covered the spread in 61% of their games, so you have to think they will be close to this mark this upcoming year. They’ll host the Arizona Cardinals, visit the New York Jets, visit the New York Giants, host the Philadelphia Eagles, host the Miami Dolphins, and host the Los Angeles Rams. Clearly, the Eagles are the challenge in the first six weeks. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team started 6-0 or 5-1.

    This is where the schedule gets rough. They’ll visit the New England Patriots, visit the Seattle Seahawks, host the Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night Football), and visit the New Orleans Saints before a week 11 bye. That’s a ton of travel and a battle with the Packers on short rest. Let’s say San Francisco splits the four games. Worst case scenario, they’ve started out 7-3 and finished off the worst part of their schedule in 2020. Not bad! As a bettor you also have to be keeping your eye on the NFL spreads to make sure you are getting value on the bets. Against these other top tier NFL teams even the smallest point spread can make a difference.

    After the rough patch, the 49ers will visit the Rams, host the Buffalo Bills, host the Washington Redskins, visit the Dallas Cowboys, visit the Cardinals, and host the Seahawks. Conservatively, San Francisco would end up with at least 11 wins with the potential to win 12 or even 13.

    Last season, the 49ers went 5-1 against their division. The Cardinals and Seahawks will be better, no doubt, but the 49ers are still boasting a championship roster. It’s very possible that San Francisco only has three different playoff teams to get through on the schedule (Eagles, Seahawks, Saints). No one knows exactly what to expect from the Patriots, Packers, or Cowboys. So, while the schedule may appear scary, it isn’t so bad.

    This will be coach Kyle Shanahan’s fourth seasons with the club. He has built a championship roster and has fully implemented his ways into the organization. Last season was Jimmy Garoppolo’s first full season with the offensive guru, so expect some growth from the quarterback in 2020. All signs point to the 49ers going over 10.5 wins. This feels like a bet worth making.

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