Thursday, August 19, 2021

Five Prudent Plays For NFL Team Over/Unders

By Ross Lancaster

While it's not the greatest month for sports, August is always an exciting time for betting because a whole lot of NFL team props are on the board. Typically, I like betting division and playoff team props the most. However, the additional variance of the 17th game this season — along with the second year of 14 playoff teams — means I'm more excited for team wins over/unders than usual.

Here are five plays that are worth a look at as the preseason continues. Over/unders are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, and prices are as of Aug. 16.

Kansas City Chiefs under 12.5 wins (-140)

Let's start with the biggest fish in the league — or at least the team who's been to the last two Super Bowls.

No, I'm not predicting anything crazy like the Chiefs losing the AFC West. I think Patrick Mahomes is so good that a team with him and 10 league-average offensive starters are good for double-digit wins for the next decade. And we all know that the Chiefs are a bit more talented than league-average.

However, the AFC West should be an improved division. The Raiders are the one team that could be in the wilderness after an uneven offseason, but looked like a playoff team through 10 weeks last year. The Broncos have excellent weapons on both sides of the ball, and the Chargers are a natural pick for a leap after shoring up their offensive line.

In other words, Kansas City may be about as good as a year ago, but will have tougher games this season. Additionally, the Chiefs drew the Packers as their 17th game.

Atlanta Falcons over 7.5 wins (-130)

You don't want to count on the Falcons often for bets, but I think this full-season one is worth a crack. The Falcons had the statistical profile of an 8-8 team last year but finished 4-12 thanks to 8 losses by a touchdown or less and four by a field goal or less. Better yet, a new coaching staff and front office are in tow.

Trading away Julio Jones certainly hurts, but Calvin Ridley is a more than capable No. 1 receiver after a season with more than 1,300 yards and 90 catches. There are big question marks in the secondary, but I think the rest of the defense can be good enough for 8-plus wins.

Philadelphia Eagles under 6.5 wins (+125)

It caught me by surprise that the Eagles finished last season 4-11-1, because I could have sworn they were in serious contention for the division lead in November. Oh, that's right — they were!

The NFC East won't be a murderer's row this season, but it also shouldn't be historically bad and anomalous again with the Cowboys and Washington Football Team both improving their rosters. I don't see where the talent is for the Eagles — and I really don't see how Jalen Hurts is somehow supposed to be the next Russell Wilson like some people think.

Philly also doesn't have as easy of a schedule as you'd think for the last-place team from the worst division. The Niners, Broncos, Chargers, Panthers, and Falcons are all on the schedule and all favored to increase their win totals from 2020.

Pittsburgh Steelers over 8.5 wins (+110)

No matter what, when you look through all 32 teams' projected win totals, there's always one that has me go, "wait, really?" The Steelers as effectively a .500 team are that for me this year.

I get it. The last couple months of the season for Pittsburgh were extremely ugly, the Sunday night playoff game against Cleveland had a passing-of-the-torch element to it, and just about everyone thinks Ben Roethlisberger is washed. There were some significant departures in the offseason, too.

But it's still a team with a top-10 (if not top-five) defense and some dangerous, dynamic weapons on offense. Mike Tomlin shouldn't have the first losing season of his career with this bunch.

Baltimore Ravens under 11 wins (-120)

The Ravens have now become one of those lightning-rod teams that everyone has to have an opinion on and basically functions as hot take catnip for talking heads and sports radio. A lot of that is because of Lamar Jackson, but some of it is because the offense can feel downright prehistoric at times during this era of high-complexity schemes and about 60% of offensive snaps being passes.

It's hard to put both the historical connotations of quarterback race and the NFL's love for orthodoxy aside, but if we can, I think we may be able to come to a rational conclusion that the current iteration of what the Ravens are is limited in the playoffs and quarterbacks have to be able to throw a good intermediate or deep ball to win the biggest regular-season games and in January. If that makes me a hater, so be it.

Of course, these over/unders are about regular-season wins, and while the defense for Baltimore should be solid, I don't think it will be elite like in recent past years. On offense, I don't think Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Marquise Brown are good enough to mask Jackson's biggest weakness. 10-7 feels like where the Ravens are at this season.

The 17-game season may take some getting used to, especially if injury fears to star players are realized. But the extra variable thrown into the equation for the over/under wins markets could result in some interesting and profitable action.

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