Only 6 NFL teams have expected season win totals of 10 games or more, according to oddsmakers.
It used to be the Patriots Super Bowl to lose. Remember when the Packers would be tough keeping out of the NFC Championship game if Aaron Rodgers doesn't get hurt. Even the Seahawks aren't invincible at home anymore. Can't count on those 7 or 8 guaranteed wins at loud CenturyLink Field.
All those updated points are more legitimate than ever if you glance at the current Future Win Totals offered by the top online sportsbooks. NFL Futures are traditionally one of their most heavily bet and popular betting menu items before the NFL season starts. And often continuing through September with line rapid adjustments.
I've often admired how clever the sports books are posting the Win Totals numbers and how accurately the results whether teams are Over or Under come down to Week 16, or perhaps Week 17 during the season. Take the 2015 Atlanta Falcons for example.
The Falcons flew out of the gate at 6-1 and most future bettors were counting their Over tickets for the end of the season. As we all know Atlanta did a nose dive in the second half of the season while finishing 8-8. Depending on where you wagered, you collected on either Over or Under as the Falcons were posted anywhere from 7.5 to 8.5 at various times before the season started. For those who had given up on "Under", it provided new life and another lesson don't count your chickens or Falcons before they're hatched.
As you may also recall, the wildest thing were lines going back & forth on the New England Patriots 2015. Questions whether Tom Brady would win his Deflategate suit. Last Summer was a whole different football game for tenacious Tom vs. this year. When Brady won his case around August 15th, the O/U on the Patriots zoomed from 9 to around 10.5 to 11 games. Naysayers were still unconvinced. New England proved them wrong going 12-4.
Shopping for NFL Futures
If any bet is worthy shopping for a specific advantage it is a Season Win Total. The larger and more reliable offshore sportsbooks including Bovada, Heritage Sports and BetOnline offer a full menu of win totals dedicated to this category. As the Falcons and at least a half dozen other teams proved last year, one win or loss in the last week made the difference between winning or losing. And more important, where you played your bet made the giant difference on whether you cashed or ripped up that "ticket in the drawer".
Who's Hot, Who's Not
Scanning the entire NFL board this year proves one thing...NOBODY is exactly guaranteed a spot in Super Bowl 51.
In fact, looking at Diamond Sports Total board for Over/Under wins, only six NFL teams are selected at either 10 or 10.5 Over or Under. And those are the "highest totals". Most of the rest of the teams are in the 7 to 9 category with only a few including the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers in the 4.5 to 5.5 range.
This proves two objective facts to expect. First, like most traditional last-second NFL game wagers, don't count your money in the middle of the season. 90% of these investments will come down to the last week. Also, the O/U line projections indicate that the NFL playoff scenarios will be the most wide-open ever this season. Here's a few highly competitive divisions further cementing that very likely possibility:
NFC East (odds courtesy of Diamond Sports)
DAL COWBOYS - ov8½ +118
DAL COWBOYS - un8½ -141
NY GIANTS - ov8 -142
NY GIANTS - un8 +119
WAS REDSKINS - ov7½ -135
WAS REDSKINS - un7½ +114
PHI EAGLES - ov6½ +128
PHI EAGLES - un6½ -153
Even without injured Tony Romo for half the season Dallas are predicted the leader at a modest 8.5 wins here according to Diamond Sports. The Redskins won the division last year at 9-7 yet are set at 7.5. Hmmm. A little more confidence for the Giants rebounding a bit but a shaky call at 8 wins. Strangely, the 6.5-win number on the Philadelphia Eagles didn't budge when they traded starting QB Sam Bradford this week in favor of completely untested rookie Carson Wentz. To further illustrate the value of shopping, the current O/U line is 7 at Bovada.
Not making any recommendations or predictions except to say don't be surprised if the NFC East playoff rep shows up with an 8-8 record. Or even the unthinkable 7-9.
AFC South (odds courtesy of Diamond Sports)
IND COLTS - ov9½ +195
IND COLTS - un9½ -238
HOU TEXANS - ov8½ -114
HOU TEXANS - un8½ -106
JAX JAGUARS - ov7½ -130
JAX JAGUARS - un7½ +110
TENN TITANS - ov5½ -174
TENN TITANS - un5½ +145
Taking a quick glance at this division you might pencil in the Indianapolis Colts for 10 wins or more, having some better "Luck" this season. But not so fast. If anything, the Colts still need to prove they can play defense with the rest of the AFC and do a much better job of protecting QB Andrew Luck to keep him uninjured. The KEY number may be the betting here at Diamond Sports. The -238 odds on "Under" 9.5 indicates the sharp bettors are not believing that Colts have made enough off-season improvements. No one seems wanting to buy that Over 9.5 line, indicated by the unusual +195 payoff.
No doubt the other reason might be within the AFC South division and the expected improvements coming from the Houston Texans and especially the young, up and coming Jacksonville Jaguars. QB Blake Bortles may really develop this year behind a good offensive Jags line along with more confidence on defense. Only supported by a great #1 draft pick in DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida St.
The Texans pulled out all the stops in acquiring Brock Osweiler from the Broncos as their franchise quarterback. John Elway doesn't make too many mistakes so we'll see if he was right again to let Osweiler go. JJ Watt will be joined by Vince Wilfork up front on defense. The ambitious 8.5 to 9 win total most sportsbooks have on the Texans is more due to lack of confidence on the Colts. As for the Tennessee, they're still a year or two away. They might pull a few upsets but with so many young players it would be tough to expect more than six wins this season.
Bet WITH the Bettors
If anything learned from experience, don't attempt to "wise-guy" your way to riches or predict something outlandish to happen. Great case in point was last year's Minnesota Vikings. Many smart bettors noticed their early total on the board at 7 wins. The money poured in on the Vikes OVER to where the odds at most preferred offshore sportsbooks was -275. Highly unusual where you're looking at traditional -110 to -115 odds type wagering.
It was over quickly as the Vikings had a great 11-5 season as QB Teddy Bridgewater remained healthy. If that type of sharp wagering indicator is a sign, this year might be another difficult season for the Indianapolis Colts. And if that's true, take notice. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is currently listed at a juicy +1350 as the "First NFL Coach to be Fired" on the prop board at Diamond. Just sayin...
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.