A Handicapper’s Look at the 2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Season/Betting Opportunity…
*Forgive any typos, grammar. This is just a transcript of an email chat about the Jacksonville Jaguars season/opportunity for wagering between RC and Skol (from our Handicapping group), the people who brought you all the Chicago Bears wagering profits/prophets last year at this time.
This is 4,000+ words, so settle in...
RC: Skol and I were in total agreement with the Bears being the best bet for the 'over' win total out there in Spring 2018, and we crushed that bet. Skol had bets on the 'over' win total, the Bears +7-8 and the Week 1 +the points against the Pack (covered), to win the NFC North (bingo), and long shot tickets on them winning the NFC and going to the Super Bowl. We shared this like a broken record all early 2018, and many of you cashed in.
Without discussing it ahead of time, we realized that we have a big affinity for the Jaguars 'over' 8 wins this year -- and I see a lot of rationale for this to be the best 'over/under' bet of the year. We'll get into why, but I'm tossing it to Skol first because he surprised me a bit being so strong here -- I'm known as a Foles defender, so no one is shocked by me being here (and my reasoning runs much deeper than just that) but I didn't know I'd have company on my love here...I usually don't with Foles.
Skol, before we look through the schedule week-by-week -- what bets have you already made/are prepping for and why are you so strong on them for 2019?
Skol: Aside from a player or two on defense that wants to get paid I think we have the perfect storm of motivation in Jacksonville. Plenty of people who will have the Eye of the Tiger in 2019. Eye of the Jaguar if you will. We all know first Foles wins a SB, then if Alshon Jeffery doesn’t have the ball slip through his hands at New Orleans last year maybe Nick is only 4 rings behind Brady. I believe Foles presence will elevate everyone in this team...offense and defense. Reunited with DiFilippo who went to a strange situation in Minnesota last year. Clearly Zimmer and DeFilippo didn’t see eye to eye and Stefanski was on the staff after having interviewed for the OC job...I think a fresh start with the QB you won the Super Bowl with is just what the Dr. ordered. Max focus. I’ve read that the Jags have questions on the OL (who doesn’t) but I look at it and say they have answers on the OL. 4 of their 5 starters were injured last season and they drafted Jawaan Taylor. No reason this can’t be a good offense...who winds up being Foles “go-to” WR...who cares? It will be Westbrook or Lee or Cole or D.J. Chark or Conley or a mix of all. I think Fournette is going to be good this year...he showed up in shape last year but put in one day of minicamp then left. He’s still a fit 223 but I see pictures of him and Foles so maybe he’s all in...if he isn’t there is depth with Blue, Rawls...again whoever. Obviously better if it’s Fournette...I just feel he can help huge but if not he won’t kill them.
Oh, and they added Josh Allen to what I think will be the best defense in the league.
So far, I have the Jaguars to win the Super Bowl 50/1, to win the AFC 25/1 (took those before the Foles signing because it seemed like such a given that he would land there). Thought I was so smart getting in early but the odds haven’t changed much. Jaguars to make the playoffs (+345). Everywhere I go I’m looking for week one Jaguars +5 vs KC...I do have a little at 4.5 and also money line on that game. I haven’t done their win total since they are just coming out and I’m glad...I see 8.0 but I also see 7.5 (-140) at FanDuel and 7.5 (-120) at William Hill...I’m ready to hit that hard!
RC: The odds are not changing with Foles there because everyone in football still thinks he's a joke, which is what makes this bet so perfect. One of the best, proven QBs in the league joining a high-end defense, maybe the best defense in the NFL.
The O-Line critiques by people is another hidden value. This O-Line was a boss in 2017. Everyone knew they were running the ball, because of Blake Bortles, and they still led the league in rushing and went to the NFL Final Four...and had a chance to take down the Pats at NE late in the game, but 'Bortles'. Their crime in 2018...the entire line got hurt and missed chucks/all of the season. Cam Robinson, their best OL, was gone after a few games.
Quietly, you might have one of the best O-Lines in football + Fournette (one of the best RBs in the league, if not the best at full health) + the top defense from 2017 (and very good 2018) + now a top QB. I'd backup the truck on 7.5 wins, and pretty much so at 8.0. I'm more looking at how much to drop on the AFC South title AFC title, and Super Bowl as long shot bets. The Jags upside is better than that of the Bears last year, and we both loved the Bears upside.
We’re on the Jags train, but let's see what the schedule will do to help/hurt them...
Week 1...we don't start easy. Hosting KC. Andy Reid with time to prepare is tough. We don't know if Tyreek will be there (I’d guess not). The Jags first 6 games are pretty tough/unfavorable set ups/not easy. They need to not fall fast and implode after 5-6 weeks with coaching change rumors and Jalen Ramsey shooting off his mouth. What do you see Week 1...Vegas sees -4 for KC?
Skol: In my mind the two biggest variables for the week 1 matchup are Tyreek and the temperature in Jacksonville. With the limited reps in pre-season and the CBA limiting practice time, players are still getting in shape the first few weeks of the season. If it’s a humid 90 degrees it’s obviously an enormous advantage to the home town team. For purposes of this exercise I like to be conservative so if we exceed the win total at the end it is certainly a good bet. I’d be willing to take a loss or even better throw this in the 50/50 bucket...but my true feeling is Jacksonville is going to win this game. In real life I took the points and the money line. The Jaguars offense you described with a healthy line, Fournette, Foles vs the KC defense? I’m willing to put my money on them matching or exceeding what St. Patrick can get done on the road vs the best defense in the NFL.
RC: I think for Week 1, the Jags have the 'home field' advantage...BUT they also have the fact that they were the only team to not allow Mahomes a passing TD, plus held Mahomes under 58% passing and picking him twice. That was when KC was cooking, and the Jags were still alive (3-1 coming into the game). I don't know that the Jags are intimated by Mahomes, more so they are probably ready to show the world they are 'back'.
I think with Tyreek likely gone this game. A wobbly KC defense. At Jacksonville. I think it's safe to put a win in the Jags column here. The Chiefs started 2018 with a 9-1 record, and then went 4-4 their next 8 games (incl. playoffs)...4-4 and lucky not to have gone 3-5/2-6 and lost the AFC West to LAC in the end. It almost happened. We remember early KC greatness, and forget they floundered some as the season wore on. I don't like betting against Mahomes but picking the game...I say Jags here at home.
It's probably more likely the Jags lose the following week to the Texans, because 'at Houston'. I could see the Jags winning Week 2 and jumping to 2-0 and scaring the NFL that they are truly back (that 2017 team), but let's be fair/punishing by saying the Jags are 1-1 after two weeks, however they get their win and loss? Makes sense?
2-0 maybe, 1-1 probably, 0-2 unlikely.
We then have them hosting Week 3 at home on TNF vs. TEN -- which is 'advantage' Jags, right? So, they are 2-1 after three weeks?
Skol: I’m comfy with 2-1 after three weeks. It’s a big advantage to be the home team on Thursday and even a bigger advantage to be the better team in the Thursday Game. I wish I could bet this week 3 game right now...TEN don’t impress a me much.
Week 4 at Denver is interesting because from the perspective of the Broncos, the Jaguars home game is sandwiched between @Packers (Fangio’s biggest rival for the past many years) and @LAC the most likely team you need to knock off to win the division. I’m still hesitant to bank a road win at a tough place to play vs another team I think can be sneaky good...2-2?
Curious your thoughts on Telvin Smith. I read maybe Jamie Collins or Sam Acho as speculative replacements. (Just a writer guessing). How much of an impact on the defense?
RC: I think we have to be fair and call it a loss Week 4, being at Denver. However, I really want to call it a win, but we'll play the odds with a loss...just because Denver is such a home field advantage. If Denver trades Chris Harris or he sits out...then this is a Jags win, as of what we would know today.
With a Week 4 loss, the Jaguars fall to 2-2...but I could see 3-1 more than 1-3 after four weeks. We both want to pull the trigger on a Jags road win at Denver, but I think the following at Carolina is the more likely road win. One way or the other, Weeks 4-5 at DEN and at CAR...Jacksonville splits those two games. Agreed? For a 3-2 Jaguars team about to hit a bit of a sweet spot in their schedule the next 4 weeks.
The Telvin Smith loss hurts, obviously, he was a very good player...but that's where them signing Jake Ryan was so smart in free agency. Ryan was a nice Packers starter for a couple years and then lost for the year with injury last preseason. He should be a full go for training camp for Jacksonville. He's a legit starter. Smith could also change his mind. I wish, for our premise on the Jags being a great over/under bet that Telvin was still there, but it's not a death blow. The only death blow for Jacksonville is if Jalen Ramsey is traded or does something stupid. Quincy Williams may shock the world in Telvin’s place as well.
The Jags have four winnable games after the Carolina game...hosting NO, at Cincy, hosting NYJ, and then in their 2nd home of London vs. HOU. They probably go 3-1, but I don't know the obvious loss there...I say it's four wins in the books unless we want to say 3-1 to hedge our bets?
Skol: Let play it conservative (for us) and say 3-1. Maybe the Saints come to Jax and get a win. In fact, CG Technologies recently release their lines for every NFL game and the Jaguars are +4 hosting the Saints, PK at Cincinnati, -4 hosting the Jets and PK “hosting” Houston in London. I’d really like to bet Jax (+4) with the Saints rolling into town as well as a PK in their home away from home in London.
So, that suggests 4-0 is probably too optimistic, 3-1 is right, 2-2 is a disappointment. So that would bring the record to 5-3, entering the bye correct?
We get the Bye after London then head to on the road to face the class of the division @ Indianapolis. I’m ok with @ Ind being booked as loss...probably the toughest road game. CG has our Jags getting 6.5 in that one so a solid “L” for season win purposes...agree?
If so, next up is @ Ten (look ahead is Jax +3).
RC: 6-3 projected through Week 9, then Week 10 bye...and off to at IND, then at TEN. Weeks 11-12. I think we'd both have an urge to say JAX splits the two-game roadie, that they won't lose in two in-a-row, but let's just be super conservative and say they loss both road games (both IND and TEN are good+ teams) to fall to 6-5 (and we'd both likely think/project 7-4 here). If they are 6-5 at this point...they still only need two wins to 'draw' on the 8.0 win total.
If we hit them with two losses Weeks 11-12 because 'road games', then using the same logic would book wins Weeks 13-14 on a two-game home stand with TB and LAC. If they hit those two games, we're at 8-5 (we'd probably privately project 9-4)...now, we've tied the 8.0 win-total mark and need to find one more win for the payout.
Weeks 15-17 at OAK, at ATL, IND.
They would be favored against Oakland...that could be the win we need. The Falcons will probably be out of the race and their home field advantage be cut in half at that point...that is the least likely win. Week hosting Indy is in their favor, and likely a showdown for a playoff spot game. I would say they at least win one of the final three games, but I'd give them the edge to win two, and a sweep of all three wouldn't be crazy. So…9-7 worst case, 10-6 favorable, but 11-5 is not out of the question. How do you see the 2nd-half/post-BYE?
Skol: At a high level I think it’s hard to project anything but a 3-3 division record in the AFC South for Jax season win purposes...win your home games, lose your road games. So, coming out of the BYE @ Indy and @ Ten are ok booked losses with the idea that we can steal a win just as easily as we can lose at home. Booking TB at home as a “W” is the only way to play it and even if the Chargers are the Chargers of last year (which is not a given) I would have a problem betting them to win @ Jacksonville, especially playing @ Denver the week before. Jaguars @ Oak week 15...I think when the time comes Jax will be favored but the look ahead is PK. If you don’t think the Jaguars can get a win @ Oak or @ ATL then I would not recommend playing over 8 wins. Indy at home in week 17 is impossible to predict...Indy could have the #1 seed locked up or be playing for a spot in the playoffs or anywhere in between.
I thought it was interesting to break the Jacksonville schedule down in this way...(There are no week 17 lines)
Favorites: Week 3 (-3) TEN, Week 8 (-4) NYJ, Week 13 (-4.5) TB
Pick ‘em: Week 7 (PK) @CIN, Week 9 (PK) HOU, Week 14 (+1) LAC, Week 15 (PK) @OAK
Underdogs: Week 1 (+4) KC, Week 2 (+3.5) @HOU, Week 4 (+3) @DEN, Week 5 (+3.5) @CAR, Week 6 (+4) NO, Week 11 (+6.5) @IND, Week 12 (+3) @TEN, Week 16 (+5) @ATL
I’ll let you share thoughts on this first...then let you know what it has me thinking...
RC: Are you thinking bet the entire season/each game equally(ish) right now on the early ones -- and plan to go 9-7 in the best worst case? Like, treat the Jags as an IRA, a basket of stocks investment that the winners will outshine the losers? Or just bet all the ones they are dogs in with the same mindset?
I agree, you can start the Jags projection out with a 3-3, and then look for 5 wins from there (to 'push' the 8.0 'over' for safety)...
Out of division, likely to win (to me): at CIN, NYJ, TB, at OAK
Out of division, 50-50 toss-up: KC (Week 1, no Tyreek), at CAR, NO, LAC, at ATL
Out of division, more likely to lose: at DEN
If they get 75% of the likely to win...there's three more wins. Can they get two from the 50-50 toss ups? I think, 50-50 math they should.
I think 8 wins is so solid for Jacksonville this year (staying relatively healthy), that it's the perfect 'over' 8.0 bet...with the protection of if Foles goes down Gardner Minshew is a generic brand Baker Mayfield that would hit the ground running if needed.
Skol: I would do the IRA idea and bet every game because I do think the winners would outshine the losers. I also believe if we bet every game now, in most cases we would have a favorable bet on the look ahead line vs the actual point spread available when we get to the week of the game.
Breaking down the schedule in that way has me thinking a couple of things.
First, quicker and maybe less important is if we win and favorites, lose as dogs and split at PK Over 8 wins is no bargain it actually brings us to 5 wins! Perhaps that explains why the win total crept from 8 to 7.5 (-140) in a few places. We disagree with the market’s outlook for the team so it doesn’t spook me from betting it but just interesting to me that those things don’t line up at all. Makes me want to do the same for all teams...I will...and I will share.
Second, and maybe much more important, is I feel looking at games in that way allows us to compare similar wagers (for example, it had me thinking I’d rather lay (-4) vs the Jets than (-4.5) vs TB). Both home games. There is some factor of weather (Bucs are in Florida, much has been made of the Jets never leaving the Eastern Time Zone this season, so could it be their hottest game of the year by 15 degrees). I’m looking at you Bears @ Miami. Also, IMO TB coaching is light years better than the Jets. I like that the bet is Week 8 Jets vs Week 13 TB. Jets game is the week before London, so I want to research how they do the week before heading to their home away from home...but the broader point is knowing which game is a more favorable bet before the season.
Another example is I’d rather get (+4) hosting KC than (+3) @ Den. Doesn’t matter if you agree with my opinion on the specific games, it’s the concept that has me intrigued. I think I’m going to spreadsheet every team and do this same exercise. The next 100 days are going to fly by!
RC: Last year, the smart people saw the Bears as one of the worst teams (via win total) in the league. Why? They hate Trubisky...the masses hate him because the football people hate him. He was supposed to fail. He didn't. We bet that heavy and won -- upstart defense with an offense totally underrated by everyone and a QB we had some faith in. That bet paid off huge. The year before that was the Rams as a low win total team McVay's 1st-year. Why? THEY all hated Jared Goff...already labeled him as a bust. What happened...won the division.
We could analyze schedules all month long and it would be a small part of this. The big part is -- follow where the NFL establishment is wrong about a QB, but we know differently well ahead, and Vegas sets the line with the will of the people/media – the Jags line is declining because the masses hate Nick Foles more than they hate any other QB, because the media tells them to...and all he does is win.
Now, you place Foles with 2017's best 2-3 O-Lines in the league (they ran at will 2017...all hurt in 2018), and arguably the best single RB talent in the NFL aside from David Johnson, and a WR group THEY all hate but I think has plenty of talent, and they must too as they did nothing of note in the WR market this year (Cole-Chark-Conley-Lee, and my least fave Westbrook). This is a better offense than they had in 2018 and 2017, by a mile. Foles is perfect to bet on because they all bet against him. If Foles goes down, we got a rookie QB ready to go. I know it. He'd be fine thrust into starting right away. Not as talented as Foles, but plausible...not doomed (like GB if Rodgers goes down or KC if Mahomes goes down).
Then you have the NFL's top 1-2-3 defense the past two seasons. As long as Ramsey stays, they got a chance to be great for another year.
The Jags have the best QB, RB, Defense in the AFC North...a legit team to win the division, and do better than 3-3 in-division.
Yes, I just noted that Foles is better than Luck...similar QB rating/win percentage as starter/comp pct./age...only Foles is a Super Bowl MVP, and yet Foles has never been given the offense to himself...he's been with five different coaches and was the Week 1 starter on purpose twice in 7 seasons. If he was ever given the red-carpet treatment of Luck, Foles would be debated as a possible Hall of Famer -- a better than Philip Rivers, Eli Manning type debatable HOF'ers.
I think Luck is very good and so is Foles...debatable on which one is better because Foles hasn't been given the same opportunities. The public thinks Luck is a '9' (1-10 scale) and Foles is a -2. We're betting on the public's brainwashed reaction to the football media's reaction to Foles here. The public, brain washed as they are, has more faith in Jameis Winston than Foles. The Jags are the perfect storm of letting the dumb public, duped by the ignorant media/analysts (who recently bet against Goff, Trubisky, Mayfield), take a line down probably 2-wins from where it should be...and you can probably add +3pts to every Vegas line for the 'Foles hate affect'. Add +3 to every line for Jacksonville -- and the Jags would be favored in 8 games, and toss-up in like six others.
The bonus is...Foles doesn't have to be Patrick Mahomes...he just has to not be Blake Bortles. The Jags probably would have won 8 games last year if their O-Line didn't all die and Fournette hurt most all the season. How much better is this team with anyone but Bortles, but everything else in check? I'd consider mortgaging my house on 7.5 win total 'over' on Jacksonville.
Skol: I totally agree with everything you wrote (it is a great closing argument for this discussion) with the exception of analyzing schedules being a small part of this. I want to make sure I’m communicating my thoughts clearly...it was less about Jacksonville and much more about getting at the value of what we’re betting on. If we need to win 9 games to cash one bet...we would win so much more betting Jaguars individual games because they are only favored in 3 of the 16 games that are listed. By definition they are expected to win as favorites, 50/50 as PK and lose as underdogs. The win total is either 8 or 7.5 and the game by game comes out to 5. Clear value on the game by game. I want to do this for all teams because this has never occurred to me before and I’m curious if all teams are “off” in this way. An example I’m sure is off would be New England...favored in 15 of 16 games (most heavy favorites) with a win total of 11. I don’t know the conclusion but this idea interests me a lot.
RC: It's an interesting concept...log in all the May lines and see how they did in the end. When they display a team 'vs. the spread' for ‘the record’ it was the line right before kickoff, with all the info, vision, issues exposed, etc. But how bad are they setting a line so early? They're really setting it to bait the public...and the public hates Foles and thus Jacksonville (but loved them as a 'team of the future' for years with Bortles). It would be interesting to see how that would've worked with the Bears last year with May lines...probably 13-14 wins vs. spread?
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