Football is officially back!!
There aren’t many words that will make American sports fans much happier than those two. While we’ve had a bit of appetizer with a week and a half of college football games having been already played, the marquee curtain opener is Thursday’s night’s contest between traditional rivals — the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears — which ushers in the NFL’s 100th season.
Here at WagerPro our goal is to help better understand betting on football and give you the best chance to beat your book week after week. This week’s angle pretty much picked itself with an uncanny amount of college games that landed right on or near the point spread in this last week of games.
Now before we go let’s take a quick look at what to expect from this year’s NFL season. A lot of movement has taken place right up until the regular season kickoffs with the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, the Kansas City Chiefs picking up LeSean McCoy, who was a surprise training camp cut of the Buffalo Bills, and the Dallas Cowboys’ last-minute signing of star running back Ezekiel Elliott standing out. We keep up with every move, of course, and try to factor it into winning handicapping angles.
AFC East: As long as Brady & Belichick remain effective — which could be what, another five years — this division remains in the firm grasp of the Patriots. Sam Darnold and the Jets will be much-improved, especially on offense, but I don’t see them quite yet ready to break into the playoff mix. The Bills do what the Bills always seem to do: win about seven to nine games while not scaring or entertaining anyone. The Dolphins have already given up on the season and their record should reflect that. Playoff teams:Patriots.
AFC North: This promises to be one of the most interesting — and best — divisions in football with the Cleveland Browns becoming one of the most-watched and scrutinized teams in the league. Can Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. backup a bold offseason of talk and lead the Browns to a division title ahead of perennial powers Pittsburgh and Baltimore? I think this is a great three-team race all season long. In the end I’m going with the Ravens because of their head-coaching edge in John Harbaugh, who is quietly one of the game’s best. The Browns and Steelers both squeak into the AFC playoffs as Wild Cards, while the irrelevant Cincinnati Bengals remain just that. Playoff teams: Ravens, Browns, Steelers..
AFC South: The retirement of Luck a couple weeks prior to the regular season certainly changed the landscape of the South and my pick of a division winner. While the Colts still have a very talented roster, I’m not as sold on Jacoby Brissett as much as some. In fact, I’m not sold on any team in this division as they all have some major flaws. I like Nick Foles, but will he be enough to carry a mediocre Jacksonville offense (remember, he had a ton of talent at the skill positions around him in Philadelphia)? Can Marcus Mariota play at a level that lets the up and coming Tennessee Titans break through as a dominant team in this division? In the end, I’m going with the most dynamic QB in the division — Deshaun Watson — to carry Houston to a division title with as little as nine wins. Playoff team: Texans.
AFC West: A lot of folks are calling for the regression of league MVP Patrick Mahomes, who enters his second full season as the starter in Kansas City. Not me. Have you seen the weapons the Chiefs have on offense for head coach Andy Reid to play with? Reid, one of the game’s most underrated coaches and play-callers — maybe ever, will help Mahomes avoid any kind of sophomore (as a starter) slump by continuing to come up with creative ways to get the ball in the hands of playmakers like wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and an explosive stable of running backs that now includes McCoy. I think Kansas City runs away with the West and eagerly awaits a rematch with the Patriots in the playoffs. The Raiders’ highlight of the season proved to be their preseason appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks, as they leave the Bay Area — again — with another dismal season. Denver improves with the help of defensive guru Vic Fangio, while the LA Chargers — darlings of many prognosticators — continue to get hit by the injury bug (All-Pro safety Derwin James is already out for several months at least) and QB Phillip Rivers starts to show his age and lack of mobility in an ever-changing league as the Chargers surprisingly fail to make the playoffs. Playoff team: Chiefs.
NFC East: Zeke is back with the Cowboys (we all knew Jerry would get a deal done, right?) which makes this division a legit two-horse race between Dallas and Philadelphia. The fate of the Eagles’ season rests solely in the hands of QB Carson Wentz. Will he return to 2017 form when he looked like the league MVP before suffering a season-ending knee injury? Or will the 2018 version of a Wentz — a guy who couldn’t pull out a tight game, looking scattered and shaky with the contest on the line late –return to disappoint Philly fans hungry for another run to the Super Bowl? The New York Giants and Washington Redskins will each struggle early and eventually turn the keys over to their rookie quarterbacks as they look to build for the future. Playoff teams: Cowboys, Eagles.
NFC North: Can I watch Thursday Night’s Packers-Bears game before making my pick on this division? Seriously, this was probably my most difficult to pick with the Minnesota Vikings joining those two teams as serious contenders to win the North. I could see all three teams hovering around nine or 10 wins come Week 17, with the division title going down to the final weekend of the season. I’ll buy the hype in Green Bay that QB Aaron Rodgers is revitalized after running former coach Mike McCarthy out of town. The Bears defense remains dominant but its offense takes a step back, as the league caches up with head coach Matt Nagy’s play-calling wizardry. The Vikings are good everywhere, but great nowhere. The Lions will be lucky to win seven games. Playoff teams: Packers, Bears.
NFC South: I nearly got cute and picked the Atlanta Falcons or Carolina Panthers to win this division, but in the end I just can’t go against the proven combination of Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans. While Brees looked a little shaky and worn down at the end of last season (watching Mahomes sprint by him to snare the MVP award), the Saints still would have been in the Super Bowl if not for the awful missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game. Brees has plenty of weapons still and Payton’s game plans are second to none. Atlanta has plenty of talent but head coach Dan Quinn probably gets the ax when he fails to reach the postseason yet again. Cam Newton and the Panthers make a run but fall just short of a wild card. Bruce Arians’ return tour with Tampa is a big dud. Playoff team: Saints.
NFC West: This division has some serious potential star power at the quarterback position with two who have already reached Super Bowls in Russell Wilson and Jared Goff, joined by a couple of highly-paid franchise QB hopefuls in San Francisco’s JImmy Garoppolo and No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray in Arizona. Wilson has proved he’s going to carry Seattle to winning seasons no matter who the supporting cast around him contains. But without security blanket Doug Baldwin to look for on third downs, Wilson has a rare non-playoff season. Jimmy G is good — but not great — and the 49ers remain on the outside looking in come January. Murray and the Cardinals struggle, posting one of the league’s worst records, while the Rams aren’t as flashy or dominant as last year’s squad, but still good enough to win this division. Playoff team: Rams.
AFC wild cards: Texans over Steelers; Browns over Ravens
AFC divisional round: Chiefs over Browns; Patriots over Texans.
AFC Championship Game: Chiefs over Patriots
NFC wild cards: Cowboys over Bears; Packers over Eagles
NFC divisional round: Packers over Rams; Saints over Cowboys
NFC Championship Game: Saints over Packers
Super Bowl: Chiefs over Saints
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
Remember, watching the games is a lot more fun when you are MAKING MONEY doing it!. Here’s to another enjoyable and profitable season for us all… we’ll see YOU at the Cashier’s Window!