2020 Over/Under Win Total Bets/Analyst’s Chat: RC, Xavier,Chris (#1 picks)
INTRO: Myself, Bet The Close Podcast's Chris Bilello, and Mock Draft Guru Xavier Cromartie picked our top 3 over/under win total bets and used a fictitious $1,000 stack to bet them with. Of the nine (3x3) bets proposed, only one team/bet did any two people agree on...and you'll see that on the second installment of this series.
We looked at each other's proposed plays, and we're going to discuss our #1s in a chat, then #2 and #3 for three installments to the series.
Here are each of our #1 picks/plays using Betonline for the lines as of early July...here's our #1 picks and some commentary on why, and we'll follow that intro with an open discussion/critiquing/debating what we think of each other's picks.
Our #2 picks will post tomorrow and we’ll wrap up with our #3 picks and discussion the next day. Please forgive typos/grammar we were emailing comments back and forth.
THE #1 PICKS FROM EACH ANALYST:
#1) Rams under 8.5 (-125)
($340 to win $272)
...if the expanded playoff format were in place last year the Rams would have been in...and Greg the Leg missed an easy FG to lose a game vs SEA...I’ve heard those things a few times as reasons for optimism. Both of those things are true but so are a mountain of negative things like losing many defensive players (Littleton, Fowler, Robert-Coleman, Matthews “ok, Matthews is not a big deal) but Wade Phillips is!...especially in a Covid off-season. OL is still no prize either. Schedule is tough (they have to play Arizona twice) all I need is to hold this team to 8-8.
#1) $334 on the Baltimore Ravens, Over 11.5, -115 ($625 payout)
All three of my bets are going to be very similar. I am going as conservative as possible. Using projections is a pipe dream. I have tried to warn the world that we are experiencing revolutionary times on a scale larger than the football institution. Thus, the traits that I'm looking for in a team are (1) minimal changes from the previous season, (2) elite coaching, (3) a rushing system capable of running 30+ times per game, and (4) the ability to stop the run. Teams that rely on a star passing QB or QB-WR relationships are at high risk of failure for multiple reasons.
Therefore, my first choice is $334 on the Baltimore Ravens, Over 11.5, -115 ($625 payout). The team should maintain the same identity that worked very well last season. John Harbaugh has been around since 2008, and he has always been successful despite having Joe Flacco at QB for way too long. Most importantly, this team was easily the most effective rushing team in 2019, and it could continue that identity with its backup QBs (RG3 and Trace McSorley). The Ravens have always had a strong defense.
1) L.A. Chargers ‘under’ 7.5 wins (+100)
Bet $400 to win $400
The worst team in the AFC West which will start the season with the #1-2-3-4-5 worst QB in the league…I’ll play that under win total for (+100)!
I could easily see LAC going 2-4 in conference (LVR and DEN are really good teams)…thus needing 6 wins in their other 10 games to pull this one out. Road games at TB, at NO, at MIA, at BUF are on the schedule…at least three losses there. Home with New England and Atlanta will see them as underdogs. And LAC has no real home field advantage anyway, whether they play in LA or elsewhere this season for home games due to California COVID restrictions.
This team will start with Tyrod Taylor under center and then at some point turn to Justin Herbert…probably making the change as the schedule gets more difficult. If LAC loses to Cincy opening day…and that’s very possible at Cincinnati with a new QB to confuse the defense – then this one is just about in the bag.
I get a bad QB situation + a weak NFL coaching staff that’s got this team on a downward trend in a tough conference where they are the worst team/roster…I like the set up here. Their defense is solid but getting older in the secondary and a rookie ILB, and they were solid last year and it did little for them.
RC: My first comment on our #1 plays...it's the way I would bet all of them, if I had to bet.
However, I never seriously considered either BAL or LAR as an O/U bet for me. If I had to pick one or the other to bet, I might go Baltimore over...just because I could see the Ravens winning 13-14 games if Lamar plays 15-16 games.
Honestly, I don't know what to do with the Rams in 2020. I fear betting against a really good coach...if that's what McVay is...to only have to get to 9 wins in this era. I'd bet the under because of too many changes downward and no backup QB to step in if needed and I want to bet unders on O/U anytime I can...but I have a slight twinge of 'fear' that McVay was whipping them into shape late 2019 season...and Gurley dependency was killing them, and he's gone...and most of all that the NFC West could take a big step back in 2020. If Seattle loses Q. Dunbar, the 49ers' defense stumbles, and Kliff Kingsbury drags the Cardinals down to mediocrity -- the Rams could be an 8-8 talent that scraps to 9-7 because their division got to be a sloppy/choppy/erratic mess.
And, as an aside -- I really don't love any over/under this season. Usually, there's that ONE TEAM that stands out to me (whether delusional or not)...not so this year. I like my #2 bet (readers will see soon) but the money line is terrible, and I like my #3 bet but it's an 'over' and 'overs' make me nervous in general.
The Chargers give me enough to get semi-excited about -- a bad QB, a strong division above them, no home field advantage ever, but most importantly with that...I get a good betting line and an 'under'. It's also a way for me to differently play my respect for Las Vegas and Denver this year, with a better betting line situation (to me).
XC: Let's start by saying that all of these bets are contingent on a 16-game season. No one can bet 'under' using the logic that the season will be shortened.
Anyway, in normal times, I doubt that I would take the Ravens. I know that they are a 'hype' team. But under the current conditions, I think they are the safest pick. And I believe that I have an excellent justification: the Ravens have won 17 straight preseason games. This fact shows that the Ravens have excellent depth and coaching. Now imagine that every game this season could be preseason-like because teams will need to utilize their depth much more than usual. The Ravens' proven excellence under similar conditions makes it plausible that they could go 16-0. Although they are talented, I am not saying that they can go 16-0 because of talent. I am saying that they are the team most capable of dealing with the uncertainty of this season. Thus, it seems obvious to take the over.
I concur that the main concern with betting against the Rams is that Sean McVay is a good coach. But the talent of the team is right around the 8-9 win area. If the offense gets derailed, the whole team could go into crash mode. A factor supporting the under for both the Rams and Chargers is that California is likely to have some of the harshest coronavirus restrictions. It could be an added challenge just for the teams to do basic things like traveling or working out. The Chargers are used to having no fans, though. The Chargers are a bounceback candidate after severely underperforming their abilities in 2019. They were 12-4 in 2018. I expect them to win about 8 games. I don't expect Tyrod Taylor to last long. The best argument for the Chargers to go under is that Anthony Lynn is an absolutely terrible coach. I'd say he's the worst head coach in the league.
RC: Just for clarity...I'm an all 'unders' fan in over/under betting just because it's so hard to expose teams with the Vegas lines as it is, but a real in-season QB injury sinks most teams, so in a general sense I think 'under' is the way I like to go just in case a serious QB event happens. Rare team improves with a QB injury to deal with. Most can overcome an injury to any other position/star player except QB...QB can bring them down fast. Like betting all underdogs just because points are better than not, in general, I like/have bias towards 'unders'.
But I would take Ravens 'over' if I had to for the same sentiments Xavier has. I think there is one 'over' on a team that has that same Ravens-logic vibe that is almost too good to pass up on and I really can't wait to get you guy's sentiment on my #3 pick in this, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
The Chargers are like a team that suffered a major QB injury in 2020, in a sense. They severely downgraded at the key (QB) spot, so I like the bet. What scares me on the bet is -- there are good pieces there, and if Sean McVay or Jim Harbaugh took over the Chargers tomorrow, I would not take this 'under' bet.
Do you guys believe the Chargers are the clear worst team in the AFC West? I think Denver and LV are playoff potentials, and obviously the Chiefs are the Chiefs...it puts pressure on LAC to not be able to hit 8 wins being the clear worst team in the division, if you think they are?
If Lamar tears an ACL 9/1/20 and they have to go RG3/McSorley/Huntley on the fly for the entire season...who is your pick to win the AFC North? Ravens find a way, Steelers re-rise, Browns finally come through?
Chris BIlello: I am waiting with great enthusiasm to bet the Baltimore “under”...next offseason. For now, I completely agree with the 2020 over. While I’m confident we will see regression because the Ravens offense was not only the healthiest in the NFL in 2019, but they also scored on 57% of their drives (matching the 2007 Patriots for highest in league history)...the average over the past decade is 37.7%. Regression doesn’t mean doom...remember KC regressed from Mahomes ridiculous numbers in 2018 and they still won the SB. If the Ravens have 4 losses in the first 14 weeks, I think Xavier is still in good shape closing the season with JAX, NYG, @CIN. In the first 5 weeks, the Ravens face the #1 easiest schedule of run defenses. What a schedule.
I know we are bound to these lines but anyone betting the Chargers “under” has to grab one of the 8’s out there. I don’t have a strong feeling here because I don’t want to bet on the timing of a QB change but did recently listen to a podcast where they made a passionate case for the LAC “over”...their case was (1) LAC brought in 2 stud OL in Bulaga (GB) and Turner (CAR). (2) Before the week 10 bye they must play, and likely lose to, KC, NO, TB...but the other 6 games are (CIN, JAX, LV, CAR, NYJ, MIA). That speaks to what record do they need to pull Tyrod at the bye week? Tyrod TD/INT in ‘17 - (14/4), ‘16 - (17/6), 15 - (20/6). (3) If the defense is top 5 (they seemed to think the Chargers were the ‘85 Bears defense, I know there are names on this defense but they were middle of the pack last year) and if Tyrod limits turnovers (as he does) and the revamped OL could allow them to run the ball 8-8 doesn’t seem crazy and maybe they get to the playoffs.
I’ll say a consideration for under bettors here is the KC game in week 17...remember there is only one bye, you’re happy if BAL and KC need to play for the #1 seed...likely unhappy if BAL rides their easy schedule to the top seed and KC takes the week off.
XC: A QB injury does make it much easier to hit an under. But you have to assume that the injury risk probability is baked into the line. And sometimes it doesn't matter. Mahomes and Brees went out injured for a while last season but both teams still went over. It makes sense when there's a star QB carrying the whole franchise including the coach, like Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers when they went out injured.
I think the Broncos are the worst team in the AFC West. I don't think that the Chargers or Raiders are particularly good either. Like many others in the league, I've never liked John Elway. I don't expect much out of the Broncos offense. The Chargers shouldn't be afraid of the Broncos or Raiders. The Chargers schedule as a whole looks fairly mediocre.
Ordinarily, if LJ went out, projections would drop from 11-12 wins to 8-9. The Steelers would probably be in line to rise up because they should have a top defense. But, this season I would expect every team to rely on depth much more than usual. And game plans will have to change to reflect having players out. It would not surprise me to see a lot of Army-Navy style football games in the NFL this season. For those unfamiliar, last season's Army-Navy game featured 7 passes and 102 rushing attempts. Military academies run the flexbone offense because obviously they cannot recruit future NFL stars, and so they have to maximize their ability to compete with limited talent. If NFL teams find themselves at a talent disadvantage because many of their players are out, they will have to try to win with the run game. That is why I focused on teams that already have a system in place to effectively run the ball and stop the run. If all teams end up relying on the run game, teams like the Ravens should continue to dominate even with backups playing. I should add that it would not surprise me whatsoever to see the Patriots come out week 1 running flexbone concepts. Only smart coaches would do something like that though. Most coaches will hand the ball to the running back and tell him to run into a brick wall.
RC: Xavier, in that run game theory...are the Raiders lying in wait with pro-run game Gruden + decent O-Line + Jacobs-Richard-Bowden are solid + a possible move to Marcus Mariota?
I like the Raiders as taking another step this year no matter who is at QB -- they are quietly becoming one of the best personnel acquisition/change teams in the NFL the last year+. If they didn't have the worst corners ever…they could be a 9-10 win team, I think.
XC: The Raiders are fairly competent on offense. Josh Jacobs ended up being pretty good, but the team is not really run-focused. They overachieved last season. The Raiders haven't had a good defense since the Rich Gannon era. Mayock is doing a fine job. NFL teams should hire more 'outsider' draft analysts to GM roles. Overall, the team is not very exciting because the defense isn't getting better. The over/under was 7.5, and that's where I expect them to be.
Chris BIlello: The Raiders run game is pretty good...but they are no Arizona Cardinals.
To tie up a couple of loose ends on discussion #1...RC you mentioned you like season win “unders” because of QB injury...also the lines are shaded pretty strongly toward bettors “over” bias. Each season there are 256 wins available...currently FanDuel win totals add up to 259.5. Even with that skew toward over...currently the cumulative “juice” nets out to an additional -170 on the “overs”...every 50 cents is a half win so call the total 260. That’s 4 more wins than there can be even before we potentially lose one or two more for ties. We can certainly hit “over” bets...but historically slightly more “unders” cash than “overs” and I don’t have the data but I’d bet the “juice” is always skewed toward paying a premium for the “overs”. I’m really enjoying using quotes today.
Also, an interesting stat I heard that I neglected to mention on the Chargers...last year’s records and net yards per game
KC 12-4... KC was +29.6 YPG
LAC 5-11...LAC +54 YPG.
RC: That is a wild stat on LAC. What the Chargers did on offense in 2019 is meaningless to me...new QB, new RB rotation, new O-C. I'm betting against the new group. If Rivers was there, I'd pass on this bet.
Arizona was bottom five in that YPG stat, so hopefully Isaiah Simmons closes the 1,000 yard gap this year for your ARI bets ;). Of all the bottom feeder teams from 2019...LAC was the only one positive on the total yards metric...the rest got rocked in it. Good thing they identified Rivers as the problem last year...and Tyrod to fix it...
Chris Bilello: The last 3 weeks of the season Arizona was 4th best in net yards per play...add that nuclear bomb of a defender I.Simmons and you get 7 wins by Thanksgiving.
Tied for last place over the last 3 weeks?...LA Rams and Denver. Sell, sell, sell!
RC: Could you re-run that Arizona stat to a bigger sample size...like let's say the last 6 games of 2019 and we get most of that post-BYE action. That should be a better view. How does it look...did they move to #1 best?
Chris Bilello: I got that from Odds Shark...they had tabs for season and last 3 only...I’ll keep searching because I’d like to know the 6-week numbers as well. I’m guessing still good, but not as good as the last 3. Kliff didn’t want to peak too early.
RC: In their final six games of 2020 season, Arizona produced 1,950 yards and allowed 2,307 yards…a net -357 yards. I’m not sure what their ‘per play’ was but in reality, they were upside down overall to their opponents as well as outscored in total in that stretch (-22 pts) and went 2-4.
In general, the Cardinals did not improve all that much as the season went on.
3-4-1 in the 1st-half of the season with +2 turnover margin.
2-6-0 in the 2nd-half of the season with -2 turnover margin.
The offensive scoring improved (+20 points) 2nd-half output vs. 1st-half, and defense was flat (-4 points) 2nd-half vs. 1st-half.
There’s hope the offense breaks out to another level, and I hope it does…I just don’t think they’ll win games with their offense because the defense will give up more…like Kliff did all his time at Texas Tech.
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