Avoid the Vig
NFL Futures: Best Bets
By Dan Rivera
Alright guys, before I get started, I need to make a few things clear. First, if you have a small bankroll, I would go ahead and pass on these plays. Don’t tie your money up for 6 months, because, depending on bet size and bankroll, it would be easier to make it back over a weekend of sports. If you can go bigger on these, I would encourage it, but don’t bet what you can’t afford to lose. I went bigger on these since we have to wait so long for a payout.
Next, a lot of the sharps like to use “lucky” stats meaning that are either unlucky or lucky and these are very unstable year-over-year. The two biggest ones are injuries and coin flip games. Football Outsiders puts out an annual chart (two parts total) of a metric called adjusted games lost (AGL) that tracks this for us. The next metric is coin flip games, I use 538s coin flip metric instead of manually counting 1 possession games. This metric over the long run averages out to about 500. A good approach is to be looking to bet on teams who didn’t do well or fade teams who did do well in close game scenarios (unless your name is Russell Wilson. He has done extremely well and I am not looking to fade the Seahawks in close games). Lastly, Pythagorean wins. You generally want to play on teams who underachieved and fade teams who overachieved. As always, you should be shopping for the best lines. In these articles I write, I try to find the best line for you based out of the sportsbooks in Indiana and few big offshore books.
Lions Over 6.5 wins (-130 DraftKings)
Last year, I gave out the Lions as an over team (along with 2 other teams) but all 3 had QB issues which killed any chance for the over. Lions won 3 games last year and Stafford only started 8 games. I know a lot of people don’t like Matt Patricia (and I don’t either), but Matt Stafford had great stats under Darren Bevell last year. Stafford was #6 in total QBR, threw 19 TDs and 5 picks, 64.3% completion, and #11 in CPOE using Ben Baldwins model.
Last year, the Lions played the #17 SOS and now play the #8 SOS (Sharp). Not a big downgrade in difficulty, but playing a bottom 10 SOS is a definite plus. Lions were #24 in AGL last year after being #15 in 2018. Detroit went 1-5-1 according to 538’s coin flip metric. If the outcome was flipped, the Lions would have finished 9-7. Even if the they went 4-3 (or 3-4), they would have won at least 6 games. Lastly, Detroit was a 6-win team according to their Pythagorean wins. This team was just very unlucky last year.
This is hardest division for me predict. Packers aren’t winning 13 games, the Vikings have too many holes on the roster that are filled by rookies, and Bears have a question mark at QB, because Trubiksiy isn’t the answer and Foles hasn’t been good (or healthy) outside of the Eagles. The Bears offensive line stinks being #21 in pass protection and #29 in run blocking using Football Outsiders adjusted line metric. Bears also didn’t address the offensive line very well in the offseason, so Lions should be able to get a nice pass rush.
Lions went 0-6 in division last year, faced the Bears without Stafford either time while nearly beating them both times and lost to the Packers twice with a bad call in the first game. Vikings were the only team who dominated them in the final score.
In non-division games, the Lions get some of their toughest games at home. Week 4 to Saints, week 8 to Colts, and week 16 to Buccaneers. They also have road games week 6 (week 5 bye) to Jags, week 7 Falcons, week 11 Panthers, and week 15 to Titans.
If we can get a healthy Stafford for most of the year, this team is capable winning 7 to 8 games and 9 isn't even out of the realm of possibilities.
Why would this bet lose? When I personally bet, I like to understand why I also might lose to help maximize my edge. The only concerning thing for this bet to me is Stafford’s health. If he misses a large chunk of games again, this bet will struggle to cash.
I got this stat from Bernie Fratto off his Straight Out of Vegas shows on Saturday nights: Teams that go 0-6 in their division are 57-33-1 ATS the following year when facing division foes, but 39-50-2 ATS. The killer sports code is tpS(W@DIV)=0 and DIV and season>=2010 provided by Killer Sports.
Raiders under 7.5 wins (-110 PointsBet)
Unfortunately, we missed an under 7.5 -105 by the time this article came out so we have to use -110. Most books have this under at -115. I don’t understand the love for the Raiders, this number is too high to me. Starting with the Raiders' free agency and draft, Raiders added some LBs (a major issue last year) and some WR’s from the draft along with a major reach at CB. Raiders also added Marcus Mariota, because Jon Gruden and Derek Carr supposedly don’t like each other, which is why stories keep leaking about them. I have watched a lot more Titans games than most people and I can definitively say, Mariota isn’t the answer either. Titans got a lot better without him for a reason.
Raiders play the 4th most difficult SOS (Sharp) after playing the 3rd hardest in 2019. Based on that alone Raiders need to win more games than last year. I don’t buy it. Raiders had 3-coin flip games (538) going 2-1. If you flip the wins and loses around, Raiders were 6-10. If you use the eyeball test, Raiders went 5-2 in games decided by 7 points or less last year. Raiders either barely won last year or got blown out for the most part last year.
Looking in their division, Raiders lost to Chiefs by 18 and 31, won by 2 and 7 to the Chargers, and beat Broncos by 8 and lost by 1 last year. Rivers threw 3 picks in 1 game, while Tyrod Taylor won’t turn the ball over this year. The Broncos had Joe Flacco week 1 when the Raiders beat them. This year, Chiefs will be good again, Broncos are a team a lot of people are expecting to get better, and Chargers will win more than 5 games this year especially because they went 2-4 in close games last year while being the #30 team in AGL. I have a very tough time believing all 4 teams got better or, at minimum, will be at least 8 wins. Lastly, all 3 teams play easier SOS with the Chargers and Chiefs getting a much easier SOS.
In non-divison games, the Raiders get the Saints week 2 at home, week 3 @ Patriots, week 4 home to Buffalo, early bye week 6, week 7 home to Bucs, week 8 @ Browns, and week 14 home to Colts. The Raiders easiest non-division games are week 1 @ Panthers, week 12 @ Falcons (a relative toss-up), week 13 @ Jets, and week 15 home to Dolphins (depending on how they are playing). I am having a very tough time finding 8 wins on this schedule for this team.
Why this bet might lose? Unless the Raiders get extremely lucky and win a bunch of close games or just light up the NFL world, the Raiders need to go 3-3 in division and then 5-3 in non-division games to lose this bet. I don’t buy it, especially with Carr and Mariota for QB options and Jon Gruden as HC wanting to #EstablishTheRun again this year. This number should be 7 to me. At 7.5, it’s sitting a half-game too high.
Baker Mayfield over 23.5 passing TDs (-112 FanDuel) and Browns to make playoffs (+145 PointsBet)
I have also seen this prop at 24.5 passing TDs on DraftKings for -110, I will gladly lay the slight extra vig to get a full TD lower. This is my favorite futures bet of this article and even like it up to 26.5. To me, this number needs to be sitting at 28 territory. At 28, I don’t disagree enough with the number to bet either side.
Last year, Browns got all the hype in the world. I faded them. This year, the public who bought into them last year won’t want to touch them since they got burned. Those who faded them last year was right and will want to fade them again. Browns are a play on team to me this year, especially later in the season.
The Browns play the 3rd easiest SOS (Sharp) this year. Starting with the division (both games), Baker Mayfield threw 3 TDs against Ravens, 3 TDs against the Steelers, and 3 TDs against the Bengals (all occurring in 1 game). I expect Mayfield to match or exceed 9 division TDs this year with 10 or 11.
Their non-division schedule is what makes me really like this prop. Week 3 at home to Redskins, week 4 at Cowboys and their atrocious secondary, week 8 home to Raiders, week 9 at home to Texans (prior week is a bye), week 12 @ Jaguars, week 13 @ Titans (who I has the most overrated team this year and looking to fade the media and public), week 15 @ Giants, and week 16 @ Jets. The toughest non-division games are @ Cowboys week 4, home to Colts week 5, and home week 11 to Eagles. Mayfield has humbled himself this offseason and will want to put up some big numbers this year to prove he is the guy. Mayfield will have a few 3 or 4 TD games and this prop has a very good chance to go over by week 14 or 15.
Lastly, you will hear about how COVID-19 has affected these team’s offseason. Who is the Brown’s big acquisitions? You have the new RT in Jack Conklin who has been in the league since 2016 and just needs to learn the play book. Austin Hooper who also has been in the league since 2016 and just needs to learn the playbook. The newest acquisition who will be at LT in Jedrick Wills who has been working with Joe Thomas to prepare to play LT. All the other offensive pieces have experience already and just need to learn the playbook, which is a lot easier versus a rookie who hasn’t been around. They do have a new head coach, but Kevin Stefanski is a big upgrade over the clown show of Freddie Kitchens and Hue Jackson.
I do like the Browns win total over 8.5 (and almost put it in this article, you can find them +100 on DraftKings), but why settle for a worse payout? The new playoffs format will allow 7 teams in this year. No one will disagree Ravens and Chiefs are getting in (unless an injury occurs between now and playoffs to the QBs). With the Colts or Titans and the Bills as the presumptive division winners, that leaves three spots left for contending teams: Steelers, Browns, and Broncos. Personally, I have some serious Drew Lock concerns and too much love for them in the media currently. 2 of these 3 could go 10-6 this year, which would be almost a lock to make the playoffs with 3 wildcard teams. I have a difficult time seeing the rest of the AFC getting over 8 wins. If the books are going to be holding our money for the next 6 months, definitely take the Browns to the make playoffs, because even at 9-7, they have a nice chance to still make it.
Why might these bets lose? The TD props will lose if Mayfield misses some games, but I don’t give that much credit because Mayfield hasn’t missed anytime in the NFL yet. The playoffs prop might lose because the Browns go 9-7 with 2 other teams who have the tie breakers over them or we have 2-3 teams going 10-6 for a wildcard spot which I highly doubt happens.
Kansas City Chiefs Over 11.5 (DraftKings +107)
This bet almost didn’t make this article, but the plus money stood out to me. A lot of books have some serious vig to the over for this number. DraftKings is the only spot I have seen plus money and I am bit surprised we are getting plus money. I know Mackenzie Rivers gave this out already, but I like it a lot also.
Chiefs play the #10 SOS (Sharp) this year while playing the #25 SOS last year. Mahomes did miss a few games with the ankle injury and still went over this number. Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters and added a few key guys to help them out. They don’t have any major holes on the roster.
In division, I don’t expect much trouble. They blew out most of the division except the Chargers game. Chiefs most likely go 5-1 or 6-0 in division again. All the teams in division have holes and I don’t think any of the teams will be able keep in with them.
In non-divisional games, Chiefs toughest games are week 3 @ Ravens, week 12 @ Bucs, and week 15 @ Saints. Chiefs most likely go 2-1 or 1-2 in these games. They will be favored in all 16 games and I am not sure how they get 5 loses. I know this is a square play and I know a lot of the public will be on the over but for plus money, I think it’s at least worth a look.
We also get the new playoff format this year, the #1 seed becomes massively valuable to these teams. The Chiefs will be motivated to be going for the #1 seed late in the year assuming another team (most likely Ravens) hasn’t clinched or Chiefs have a real shot getting the #1 seed. Mahomes is that good to win us 12 or 13 games this year.
Why might this bet lose? Mahomes did get that unlucky ankle injury, if he misses 4 or more games we will be sweating this one out and we don’t have much room for error on the 11.5.
DeAndre Hopkins Under 93.5 Receptions (Bovada -115)
I am going to encourage everyone to wait on this prop/ keep an eye out for it. Bovada is the only spot I have found this prop. I haven’t found any other book posting season receptions. I also think we will get a much better number when this prop is widely available. Talking to Pregame Hitman, he stated that when you are betting these types of player props, the line will move in the direction you’re betting because it is a very beatable market. I expect a large sum of the public to be betting on the over since Hopkins is such a big name.
Using 93.5 as the base line, I like the under for several different reasons. First, this all hype for him. This number extremely high because of perception of the Cardinals being a buy team this year and Hopkins being a top WR in the NFL. Next, Hopkins has gone over this total the last 3 years with the Texans. The problem is, Hopkins numbers were always skewed up. Will Fuller couldn’t stay healthy and the Texans don’t throw to RBs much and they don’t have a real good option for the #3 WR or #1 TE. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have solid option at WR in Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, both of whom will eat into Hopkins numbers. In the 8 games Kenyan Drake played last year for the Cardinals, he rushed 123 times and had 28 receptions. This is a lot for a guy who only played 8 games, especially the receptions, which would have been near 60 off of 75 targets. Kyler Murray had 93 rushes last year and it can be expected that he will have similar numbers again, because Cardinals offensive line still isn’t good. Lastly, Hopkins plays much tougher opponents than in the AFC South. In division alone, he will see Jalen Ramsey twice, the 49ers excellent pass rush, and the Seahawks. Hopkins will also see Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White outside of the division.
When you add up all these factors, Hopkins will need 5.8 receptions per game to over. I don’t see how Hopkins will get near 100 receptions this year with so many things working against him.
Why might this bet lose? Unless Murray and Hopkins really hit off, I don’t see how Hopkins maintains his numbers from the previous 3 years. This number should be in the 80s.
You can find me on Twitter @danrivera228 if you agree or disagree with these picks. BOL to everyone!