NFL Regular Season Wins Best Bets
1 Unit – Chicago Bears Over 5 Wins (-125 5D)
>4 point projected wins: vs 49ers, vs Browns
>4 point projected losses: vs Steelers, @ Packers, @ Saints, @ Lions
The games at home vs the 49ers and Browns should be wins, while the games vs the Steelers and @ Green Bay would be fairly substantial upsets to pull off. The games @ New Orleans and @ Detroit are both just over 4 point projected losses, so a win in one or both isn’t out of the question.
Outside of these 6 games, I project the Bears to be in 10 games decided by less than 4 points this year. That’s the good news. The bad news, Bears fans, is that I project them to lose 8 of those games. But statistics being what they are the Bears rate to win 2 or 3 of those closely projected losses, making Over 5 wins a +EV bet.
The Bears aren’t breaking in a new head coach or major coordinators this year, unlike last year being OC Loggains first campaign.
Last year the Bears were the most injured team in adjusted games lost by starters in the history of Football Outsiders tracking the stat, since the year 2000. The QB position wasn’t spared in those injuries, either, as they were down to their 3rd stringer, Barkley, for the final 3rd of the season, a stretch where they won just one game vs the lowly 49ers. Of the 3 QBs to log serious playing time last year, Brian Hoyer logged the best stats, but he also faced a softer slate of pass defenses than Jay Cutler did. Hoyer is now tasked with resuscitating the 49ers’ offense under the tutelage of San Francisco’s new HC/OC and all around offensive wiz Kyle Shanahan. Well, Hoyer is at least tasked with holding down the fort until SF picks up a QB in the draft next year or makes a play for Kirk Cousins.
But back to the Bears’ basics, who will start at QB for them this year? The coaches are on record as having Mike Glennon the starter vs 2nd overall in the draft pick Mitch Trubisky. Glennon put up decent numbers in his time at Tampa Bay, so I’m not sure you can expect too much of a drop off in statistical numbers versus what the Bears combined to post last year, seeing as how they were anchored by Barkley for much of the season (and I mean anchored in a bad way, as in dragging them to the icy depths). The loss of #1 receiver Alshon Jeffery might hurt them more than the QB change.
The Bears running game is decent with Jordan Howard and their offensive line. Their O line excels in pass protection, one of the top units in the league in that regard. With as many close games as I project for the Bears this year, they should be able to run their main offensive sets for the majority of most games.
Defensively, just being league average in injuries this year should give a bump to the Bears’ defensive play. I project the Chicago pass defense to fall off a bit this year, though, but the run defense should be better, especially if they stay healthy at linebacker.
The Bears should have no glaring weaknesses, and I project them to win 7.5 games this season in a division where they can compete for road wins against 2 of their 3 division mates. I’m not sure which run/pass offense/defense projections I’d have to ding to have my line get even closer to the market number. Right now I’ve given them a 6.2% pass offense reduction, a 3% pass defense reduction, a 2.2% run offense reduction, and a 4% run defense boost. I don’t agree with all of the Football Outsider season win projections (they run will centrist/conservative), but we agree on this one exactly as they also have the Bears at 7.5.
I valued the Bears more than the market for much of last season, and it looks like I’ll be doing the same thing to start this season, for hopefully better than worse.
1 Unit – Denver Broncos Under 8.5 wins (-155 5D)
1 Unit – Kansas City Chiefs Under 9 (-102 BetOnline)
1 Unit – Oakland Raiders Under 9.5 wins (-105 BetOnline)
Let’s just say that in looking at these bets against 3 of the 4 AFC West teams that I’m banking on the Los Angeles Chargers to be a little bit better than the current market projections, lol. If the Chargers continue to play “How to Creatively Loss Games” Bingo, well, at least one of these 3 teams is guaranteed a loss when facing each other, right?
Denver – Offensive woes continue. Run defense should toughen up a little while the pass defense is bound to regress a little after the insane stats put up last year.
Kansas City – Not good enough at any one thing (other than being very good/lucky at non-offensive scores) to warrant being a 10+ win team. Will big plays by Tyreek Hill on offense and Eric Berry on defense be enough?
Oakland – Even if Derek Carr improves in his 4th season and their pass defense shores up enough to be merely one of the worst in the league (vs the absolute worst last year, by my numbers), I don’t see Oakland really improving in the other areas. One thing they have going for them is that they should be challenging for the win in every game they play this season with the exception of the home game against the Patriots, which will probably come out a with line smaller than my current one of Pats minus 6.9.
1/2 Unit – Baltimore Ravens Under 8.5 wins (-119 BM)
My line for Baltimore is 7.3, with a 9-7 raw record being the result of a projected win for Baltimore in all 6 games decided by less than 3 points.
With QB Flacco injuring his back lifting weights yesterday, this line is now off the board. That’s too bad, because if the Ravens do end up signing Kaepernick and he gets comfortable enough with the offense and leads the Ravens to a week #1 win @ Cincinnati with above average play, he might supplant Joe as the full time starter, hurting this bet, lol. Flacco is just the latest Baltimore off-season injury, one of their top 2 RBs, Dixon, is out for the year with a torn MCL suffered at the beginning of this week.
Flacco or no, I did give the Ravens a 5% bump in pass projections, just because the Ravens’ pass numbers were down enough last year that they rated to rebound a little. To offset that, I think the run defense regresses a little bit too from the stellar numbers they put up last year.
1 Unit – Houston Texans Under 8.5 wins (-104 BookMaker)
>4 point projected wins: vs Browns, vs 49ers
>4 point projected losses: @ Bengals, @ Patriots, @ Seahawks, @ Ravens, @ Titans, vs Steelers, @ Colts
Where in the heck are the Texans going to find 9 wins this year? They have a tougher than average out of division schedule. The AFC South isn’t an above average division, but it doesn’t feature a pushover friendly team like the Browns, 49ers and Jets, the first two of which the Texans are lucky enough to play, at least.
Even with below average Tom Savage at QB versus big, bad Brock Osweiler, the Texans’ pass offense doesn’t rate to improve enough to be near league average. Even if they throw freshly drafted DeShaun Watson under center nobody expects a Dang Dak Miracle out of the National champ. The Texans’ running game rates to be pretty average again.
Defensively it’s obviously a good thing to have a healthy JJ Watt back, but the secondary suffered a blow with top CB A.J. Bouye defecting to the division rival Jaguars.
My number for the Texans is 7.1, Football Outsiders is even lower at 6.7, so more than comfortable firing away at the Under 8.5.
1 Unit – Pittsburgh Steelers Over 10.5 wins (-130 BetOnline)
This bet hinges on the Big Ben, Bell and Brown trio staying healthy for most of the year, something they haven’t done lately. You can add Bryant to the mix and make it a barbershop quartet, because if he stays on the field giving Pittsburgh another deadly threat in the passing game than it’s going to be all Sweeney Todd up in there, the way the Steelers should be able to dispatch everyone that enters their place of business. The only real scare games in my mind are @ Kansas City (where the Steelers won with 6 field goals in the playoffs last year) and vs the Patriots.
My actual RSW line for Pittsburgh is 11.1, so there’s not a lot of room for upsets in the 4-7 point victory range of which I project 6 wins for the Steelers this year. An undefeated Steelers team entering week 15 to face the Patriots in Pittsburgh isn’t out of the question, and will be a massively fun game to watch, as both teams rate to enter with excellent records, with possible home field advantage in the playoffs on the line.