NFL Summertime Looks
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM / SUMMERTIME LOOKS
ARIZONA (3-13) – The Cardinals sported an ugly – 200 in points differential a year ago (scored 225 points or 14.1 ppg / allowed 425 points or 25.6 ppg per outing) and so right out of the starting gate there’s major pressure on rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie QB Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) to produce. Murray’s being favorably compared to a younger Seattle Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson – says a couple of members of Arizona’s offensive line – but a rather mix-and-match blocking wall could mean Murray will take some mean hits in the pocket. Heads up, Mr. Heisman Trophy winner!
Pointspread Notes – The Cardinals are a sorry 9-15 against the odds away these past three seasons but take note that ‘Zona is an electric 7-2 vig-wise away versus divisional rivals (and thus 2-13 ATS against non-NFC West clubs away).
ATLANTA (7-9) – If the Falcons are gonna get back to the Super Bowl again (see 2016 season) then it needs do-it-all RB Devonta Freeman in good health. Last year Freeman suffered groin problems and back in 2017 it was a pair of concussions and a major knee issue. Plus, remember that former star RB Tevin Coleman is now a member of the San Francisco 49ers, so Freeman can expect a busy year as a rusher / receiver. One other note on the Falcons: Their first three games outta the starting gate are at Minnesota, home versus Philadelphia and at Indianapolis … hey, the ’19 season could be sunk even before Atlanta plays a divisional contest.
Pointspread Notes – Last year’s Falcons produced a shabby 5-11 ATS (against the spread) record which marked the team’s worst pointspread log in more than a decade. Note that the 2018 squad actually needed to cover two of its final three games just to get to that rotten mark and overall the Falcs finished 2-6 ATS away and 2-8 versus the vig when playing outside the NFC South.
BALTIMORE (10-6) – Okay, so don’t expect second-year QB Lamar Jackson to be airing it out 50 times a game but there will be a more balanced attack in Baltimore this year with first-round draft pick WR Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) and third-round pick WR Miles Boykin (Notre Dame) expected to be a major part of the aerial mix. The Ravens also believe that long-time New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram will be a vital part of the short passing game that’s expected to improve statistically after Baltimore ranked 23rd in the league last year while averaging just 231.8 yards per game.
Pointspread Notes – Since the start of the 2015 season, the Ravens are just 12-20-1 ATS (against the spread) as hosts for a .375 winning rate. Last year’s AFC North champions actually started off the year with back-to-back home spread wins and yet finished up 3-6 ATS at home … ugh!
BUFFALO (6-10) – Let’s just say the Bills don’t have the utmost confidence in veteran RB LeSean “Shady” McCoy in making a major comeback from what was a down year: McCoy averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in the 2018 season and so this AFC East crew went out and added ancient RB Frank Gore, rookie Devin Singletary (Florida Atlantic) and the 25-year-old TJ Yeldon to the mix in hopes of “spelling” McCoy at times. The team’s current depth chart lists McCoy (514 yards rushing on 161 attempts with 3 TDs last year) as the starter and Gore as second string.
Pointspread Notes – None of the Bills’ recent head coaches has really distinguished themselves versus the vig as the following numbers attest: Third-year head coach Sean McDermott is a collective 17-15-1 ATS (against the spread) through the 2017-18 seasons; Rex Ryan went 14-15-2 against the odds in 2015-16 (he was fired prior to Week 17); Doug Marrone registered a 17-15 ATS mark in 2012-14; and Chan Gailey finished up a three-year stint (2010-12) with a 21-25-2 ATS log.
CAROLINA (7-9) – Gotta go back to the 2015 season to find the last time the Panthers won a playoff game (see 49-15 over Arizona in that year’s NFC Championship Game) and so the natives are getting really restless in the greater Charlotte area and folks are keeping fingers crossed that QB Cam Newton soon will be 100 percent healthy after off-season shoulder surgery. If Newton’s summer camp is all about health, then the secondary stories revolve ‘round RB Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel who figure to get more than 400 total “touches” this year.
Pointspread Notes – The Panthers cratered in the second half of last year as this NFC South crew failed to cover six of its final eight games in 2018. Overall, Carolina is a tasty 13-7 versus the vig as underdogs dating back to the start of the 2016 campaign.
CHICAGO (12-5) – On this summer’s “to-do list” for these here-and-now Bears is a desire to be more productive in the passing game that ranked just 22nd (234.2 yards per game) in the NFL a year ago. True, third-year QB Mitchell Trubisky is still learning the ropes but his 24 TDs-to-12-INT ratio was solid and he did throw for 3,223 yards in the regular season for a team that lacked what one would call an A+ pass receiver. If Trubisky’s personal “to-do list” includes getting sacked less often and spotting his secondary receiver quicker – and then he is successful at that -- than these Bears would have to rank as serious Super Bowl contenders.
Pointspread Notes – Folks are gonna remember how the Bears ended the 2018 season with that missed FG in the 16-15 NFC Wild Card loss to Philadelphia but did you know that Chicago covered nine of its final 11 overall games a year ago? Hey, the last time the Bears (12-5 ATS last year) had been plus-.500 spreadwise was way back in 2010 when this NFC North crew went 10-7-1 against the odds.
CINCINNATI (6-10) – There’s a new head coach in town following the end of the largely unsuccessful 16-year career of Marvin Lewis (yes, no playoff wins) as offensive whiz Zac Taylor takes over the reign but what is Cincy gonna do on “D” after last year’s leaky unit finished dead-last in the NFL in overall defense while surrendering 413.6 yards per game? You’ll note the Bengals nabbed OL Jonah Williams (Alabama) with the #11 overall pick but take note he’s done for the year already with a shoulder injury and the AFC North crew didn’t draft a defensive player until pick #72 as OLB Germaine Pratt (N.C. State) was tabbed in Round III and later at pick #125 they selected DT Renell Wren (Arizona State) but neither is a real lock to land a starting spot.
Pointspread Notes – This may come as a surprise to you football folks but the Bengals are a collective 64-47-5 ATS (against the spread) since the start of the 2012 season (hey, that’s a nifty .577 winning rate) and that includes a four-game spread winning streak that concluded the 2018 campaign.
CLEVELAND (7-8-1) – All the hype surrounding this year’s Browns is understandable but, despite the addition of loud-mouth WR Odell Beckham, Jr., there is a glaring weakness on this team: Stopping the run. In the 2018 campaign, the Browns ranked 28th in the NFL in rush defense (allowed 135.2 yards per game) and there’s reason to believe pass-rushing defensive ends Olivier Vernon (traded from the New York Giants) and Myles Garrett won’t be able to stuff the opposition’s rushing game while DT’s Sheldon Richardson (free agent via Minnesota) and Larry Ogunjobi have plenty to prove.
Pointspread Notes – Last year’s Browns banged out a 10-6 ATS (against the spread) record, thus tying the same mark back in the 2009 season and note Cleveland registered a 9-4 spread log whenever in the underdog or pick ‘em role. The AFC North crew finished ’18 having covered four-of-six divisional games after going a combined 4-14 versus the vig in same division games from 2015-thru-2017.
DALLAS (11-7) – So, the Cowboys can breathe easy now that star RB Ezekiel Elliott has dodged a possible NFL suspension but does that mean all is perfect these days in “Jerry’s World”? After all, the ‘Boys are counting on new slot receiver Randall Cobb – the former Green Bay Packers’ wide-out – filing the shoes of pepper-pot Cole Beasley (see 65 receptions last year; now a member of the Buffalo Bills) and word is QB Dak Prescott and Cobb have been developing some nice chemistry this off-season plus you know the Cowboys’ slinger is salivating over the fact that TE Jason Witten has returned to the fold after that much-panned year in the Monday Night Football announcer’s booth. P.S., Witten has averaged 76.8 catches per season in his 15-year career but no way will he be kept that busy in 2019.
Pointspread Notes – No question about it: The Cowboys have been money-toasters in games played outside the NFC East the past two years as Dallas sports a rotten 7-13-2 ATS log in these tilts plus take note that “America’s Team” has failed to cover its season-opening game in four of the last five years.
DENVER (6-10) – It’s safe to say the Broncos have shown plenty of signs of instability the past 10 years. True, there was that Super Bowl win back in 2015 but just consider that since 2010 this AFC West club has gone through Josh McDaniels, John Fox, Gary Kubiak and Vance Joseph as head coaches and now the Vic Fangio “Era” starts this year. Oh, there’s been no shortage of starting quarterbacks either with Joe Flacco the latest name added to the list (see the likes of Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow) but if this Broncos’ bunch is gonna made it back to the post-season for the first time since ’15 then Flacco – only once a 4,000-yard single-season passer – must hit some deep balls but good luck to that with a rather sketchy offensive line in front of ‘em.
Pointspread Notes – Talk about a streaky bunch last year: The Broncos enjoyed a pair of three-game ATS (against the spread) winning streaks in 2018 while also suffering through a pair of four-game pointspread losing skids all en route to a 6-9-1 ATS mark that’s dropped Denver to a collective 10-20-2 spread mark these past two seasons.
DETROIT (6-10) — Nobody in / around Motown has to remind Lions’ fans that QB Matthew Stafford has never won a single playoff game (he’s 0-3 lifetime in the post-season) and his QB Record of 66-75-0 SU hardly gets the heart pumping, yet the 11th-year slinger could have new life this season under first-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (late of the Seattle Seahawks). Note that Stafford lost “security blanket” WR Golden Tate to the New York Giants but rookie TE T.J. Hockenson (pick #8 overall) and former New England star WR Danny Amendola are new targets that could be red-zone keys.
Pointspread Notes – The Lions are a collective 20-27-2 ATS in divisional games the past eight years and that includes failing to cover four of their final NFC North tilts a year ago. But get this … Detroit’s a solid 10-5-2 spreadwise as betting favorites while dating back to the middle of the 2016 season.
GREEN BAY (6-9-1) – Plenty of microscopic looks already at the “relationship” that’s gonna be between Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers and first-year / first-time head coach Matt LaFleur but all reports seem to signal that Green Bay will chuck it as much or more than it did last year when this NFC North crew attempted 40 passes per game (that ranked third in the NFL). Green Bay only dipped into the most recent NFL Draft for two “skilled position” players on offense: TE Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M) with a third-round choice and RB Dexter Williams (Notre Dame) with the team’s second Round 6 pick.
Pointspread Notes – In an eight-year stretch between 2009 and 2016, the GB Packers sported winning spread marks seven times but last year everything that could go wrong, did go wrong en route to a 6-9-1 ATS campaign. Note this NFC North crew never once covered back-to-back games and wound up a rotten 2-4-1 spreadwise when in the point-grabbing role.
HOUSTON (11-6) – Last year’s AFC South champ somehow managed to win nine consecutive games SU (straight-up) following an ugly 0-3 SU start but protecting its quarterback Deshaun Watson was an issue all year long. The Texans surrendered 62 QB sacks but the addition of veteran OL Matt Kalil and rookie Tytus Howard – a Round I pick from Alabama State -- is expected to boost the blocking wall somewhat but Watson still may be running for his young life on many passing downs.
Pointspread Notes – No question that last year’s Texans rallied hard with a 7-3-1 ATS (against the spread) finish following a rotten 1-5 spread start. Overall, this AFC South crew went 5-7-1 ATS as betting favorites in 2018 while going 4-3-1 odds-wise away.
INDIANAPOLIS (11-7) – Remember when the Colts could not keep star QB Andrew Luck in the upright position? Well, Indianapolis’ offensive line has really undergone a positive transformation the past few years and now most “experts” rank the Colts’ blocking wall as one of the four or five best in the NFL. Last year’s rookie star Quenton Nelson was a game-changing player but don’t forget the contributions from fellow rookie Braden Smith at right tackle. This year the Colts didn’t even draft an offensive lineman till Round 7 / pick #240 when they nabbed OT Jackson Barton (Utah).
Pointspread Notes – Since the start of the start of the 2012 season, the Indy Colts are an electric 32-19-3 ATS (against the spread) for a .628 winning percentage as betting favorites. Overall, however, the Colts are a dreadful 0-7-1 spreadwise in head-to-head tilts versus AFC South rival Jacksonville.
JACKSONVILLE (5-11) – Last year’s Jaguars went from two or three plays from being in the Super Bowl in 2017 to a last-place finish in the AFC South, so they kicked QB Blake Bortles to the curb and now are asking veteran Nick Foles to lead the way. Folks, this offense finished next-to-last in the league in points scored a year ago (averaged just 15.3 ppg) and any improvements will be based on how Foles connects with a no-name wide-out corps that really didn’t make any off-season improvements at that position (think WR Chris Conley is a star, sorry, no).
Pointspread Notes – Last year’s 5-9-2 ATS (against the spread) mark was especially tough to swallow when you consider the Jags started off the 2018 season covering three of their first four games. Did you know J’ville went 2-6-1 ATS away last year after going a combined 13-7 away the prior two seasons?
KANSAS CITY (13-5) – Take note that only the New Orleans Saints sported a better point differential (+ 151) than these KC Chiefs a year ago … and both of ‘em were their conference championship game losers. If Kansas City wishes to delve deep into this year’s post-season, then someone’s gonna have to make up for the 27 touchdowns scored by Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. The latter is gone after getting suspended last year and the former probably will be out for the year (or else a long time) following domestic issues. Maybe third-year QB Patrick Mahomes (50 TD passes thrown in 2018) will hit it off immediately with second-round draftee WR Mecole Hardman (Georgia).
Pointspread Notes – Remember the Chiefs began last year with a spiffy 7-and-oh spread mark and eventually finished up the ’18 season at a more pedestrian 10-7-1 ATS record. Folks, the fact is the Chiefs have finished at or above .500 spreadwise in each of the past six years – since head coach Andy Reid took over for Romeo Crennel -- while compiling an overall pointspread record of 57-45-1 (a healthy .559 winning rate).
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (13-5) – Is this edition of the LA Chargers gonna be as high-octane as last year’s? The Bolts ranked sixth in the league in per-game scoring (26.8 ppg) and to show you how much confidence third-year head coach Anthony Lynn has in this unit you’ll note that the Chargers didn’t draft an offensive player until QB Easton Stick (North Dakota State) in Round 5. One player that this AFC West crew needs to be healthy is TE Hunter Henry who missed all of last year save for the AFC Divisional Playoff loss in New England. Henry is back following knee surgery and insiders say he looks good so far and could be an 80-catch guy this season.
Pointspread Notes – Overall, last year’s Chargers rang up a tidy 8-3 ATS away mark that included divisional road wins /covers in Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. Note that the Bolts have covered six of their last seven head-to-head showdowns with the rival Oakland Raiders and that includes a 26-10 win as 5.5-point home favorites last year and then a 20-6 win as 10-point road favs in Oakland.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-4) – Maybe this NFC West crew will take solace in the fact that the last time an NFL team lost a Super Bowl and came back to play in another one the next year was the New England Patriots (see Super Bowl 52 loss to Philadelphia in 2017 and then last year’s SB 53 win against this Rams’ club). Okay, so the Rams didn’t have everything break their way as WR Cooper Kupp (knee) was greatly missed in the post-season and megastar RB Todd Gurley (arthritic knee) didn’t have that explosiveness late in the year either but WRs Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are considered top 15-type receivers in the NFL these days and third-round draftee Darrell Henderson (Memphis) can be a 1,000-yard guy if Gurley’s troublesome knee keeps ‘em sidelined for a stretch of games.
Pointspread Notes – Count us among the folks that believed a Rams’ appearance in the Super Bowl would have meant better than the team’s 9-8-2 ATS mark last year. The truth is the Rams went 2-7-2 versus the vig (all as betting favorites) between Week 4 and Week 16 and so nobody exactly got rich backing the Rams and anyone that “rode” them during the heart of the season really lost their shirt.
MIAMI (7-9) – Here’s the fact: Last year’s Dolphins ranked next-to-last in the NFL in total offense (averaged just 289.9 yards per game) and so exit head coach Adam Gase (now the all-around boss-man of the New York Jets) and bye-bye to always underachieving QB Ryan Tannehill.
Now, whether new head coach Brian Flores – a defensive guru from New England – and his offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea can steer this ship in the right direction greatly depends on whether or not second-year QB Josh Rosen can “resurrect” his young career and whether or not do-it-all RB Kenyan Drake – projected to produce somewhere between 900 and 1,000 yards from scrimmage this year – can be more like a 1,500-to-1,800 yards from scrimmage player.
Pointspread Notes – Last year’s 8-8 ATS (against the spread) Dolphins team started off the year with back-to-back-to-back spread wins and then ended ’18 with back-to-back-to-back spread setbacks. Overall, the Fish are a collective 4-14 ATS away dating back to that 2016 playoff loss in Pittsburgh.
MINNESOTA (8-7-1) – The Vikings will be playing all three of their NFC North road games within the first seven weeks of this 2019 season (including a Week 2 game at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field) but here’s the flip side to this Minny sked: Mike Zimmer’s crew will play three of their final four games at home against Detroit / Green Bay / Chicago and so that could be a “tie-breaker” of sorts should this be a close race. One non schedule-related Vikings note: Minnesota rushed the ball 48 percent of the time in its final three games after firing OC John DeFilippo but note the ground stats were awful (averaged 93.3 Yards per game / ranked 30th in the NFL).
Pointspread Notes – For the past six years in a row, the Vikings have cranked out winning records versus the vig: Last year’s modest 8-7-1 ATS log pushed the Vikes to a collective mark of 61-35-3 (a dazzling .635 winning rate) since the start of the 2013 season. Note that Minnesota is 37-14-2 ATS in non-divisional games the past five years.
NEW ENGLAND (14-5) – Quarterback Tom Brady will turn 42 years old this summer and yet there’s been no slowing down: New England’s been to three consecutive Super Bowls (beating Atlanta and the Los Angeles Rams; losing to Philadelphia two years ago) and Brady’s quarterbacked the Pats to eight Super Bowls since 2001 when he became the team’s No.1 slinger. Note that in the past three seasons Brady has averaged 30 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions so – you may wonder – is this the year Mr. Brady “shows his age”? Mmm, don’t count on it!
Pointspread Notes – Surprise, surprise! The Super Bowl champion Patriots rattled off yet another double-digit win season spreadwise last year (see 12-7 ATS) and so that makes it seven twin-figure spread wins in the past nine years and a cumulative pointspread mark of 96-65-5 since the start of the 2010 season (that’s a sizzling .596 winning rate and a $ +2450 profit based on $100 per-play wagers).
NEW ORLEANS (14-4) – The $64,000 question is whether these Saints are going to spend a large part of this 2019 season “re-living” that non-pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game 26-23 overtime loss to the LA Rams. No doubt this is another “Super Bowl-or-bust” season for the Saints who need to watch out and see if 40-year-old QB Drew Brees shows any decrease in arm strength – that was the word in last year’s post-season.
Pointspread Notes – Hard to believe the Saints ended last year on a five-game spread losing skid and still went 10-8 ATS on the year! Like it or not, Sean Payton’s crew is just 19-23-1 ATS inside the Superdome the past five years but the Saints are a slick 17-7-1 ATS away the past three years … so much for all the “experts” telling us the Saints “don’t travel well” and are a great “turf team at home”. The numbers sure don’t back that up.
NEW YORK GIANTS (5-11) – Can you believe that the last time the NY Giants won a post-season game was way back in 2011 (see Giants 21, New England Patriots 17 in Super Bowl 46) and so forgive the die-hard “Big Blue” fans who have a hard time believing this newfound confidence that this NFC East crew brings into the 2019 season. After all, the Giants last year ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing (103.1 ypg), 20th in rush defense (118.6 ypg allowed) and 22nd in passing defense (264.3 ypg) and you do have that underlying theme here of rookie QB Daniel Jones (Duke) eventually taking over for veteran Eli Manning.
Pointspread Notes – The G-men are a dead-even but vig-losing 9-9 ATS in divisional games these past three years but note the breakdown: The Giants are 2-3 spreadwise against Dallas; they are 4-2 ATS versus Philadelphia; and 3-3 vs. Washington. But did you realize that NYG has failed to cover six of its last eight season-opening games?
NEW YORK JETS (4-12) – Okay, so it’s been awhile since the J-E-T-S made the playoffs (see 2010) but brand-new GM Joe Douglas and first-year marionette head coach Adam Gase believe they already have gang green on the correct path even though second-year QB Sam Darnold needs plenty more reps to get on the same page with his wide receivers. Darnold welcomes free agent WR Jamison Crowder to the fold this season and no doubt that new RB Le’Veon Bell will be a major contributor in the passing game but a slew of drops stymied the Jets in camp earlier this month and there’s more than a few NYJ folks not pleased that Bell has been MIA for most / all of the team’s “voluntary” practices.
Pointspread Notes – Hard to believe but the J-E-T-S posted a respectable 11-11-2 spread mark against fellow AFC East squads during the failed Todd Bowles Era (see 2014-17) but overall note this Jersey-based gang went just 5-10-1 against the juice last year and that included a 2-4-1 ATS record whenever taking 7-or-more points. The Jets are 4-8 against the numbers when playing NFC teams these past three years.
OAKLAND (4-12) – Do you know who’s gonna be getting a whole lot of camera time on the Raiders’ sidelines this season? Offensive coordinator Greg Olson – just in his second year on the job under head coach Jon Gruden – will be “hearing it” from new WR Antonio Brown if the long-time Steelers’ star isn’t getting enough balls thrown his way but he could be a popular coordinator should Brown, WR Tyrell Williams and friends are all sharing in the wealth for a team that last year ranked 18th in the NFL in passing (averaged 253.6 yards per game) but scored 25+ points on just four occasions (and covered three of those four outings).
Pointspread Notes – Call it silver and black-and-blue as the Raiders are just 11-21-2 versus the vig since very late in the 2016 season and that includes last year’s dour 6-10 spread season. This AFC West crew is also just 10-15 ATS in its last 25 divisional affairs.
PHILADELPHIA (9-7) – There was no question that the Eagles suffered some form of “Super Bowl hangover” in 2018 as Philly needed a Week 17 win in Washington to clinch a playoff berth as the Birds were forever running uphill (see 4-6 SU start) and so it’s worth a mention that this year’s sked is front-loaded with out-of-division foes including early-year road games at Atlanta and at Green Bay. The Eagles do have the “easiest” schedule from among the NFC East teams as the final five games includes road tilts in Miami, NY Giants and Washington and home games versus Dallas and the Giants.
Pointspread Notes – Gotta go back to the 2012 season to discover the last time the Eagles finished with double-digit spread setbacks as last year’s 8-10 ATS mark included four- and three-game spread losing skids. Note Philly has covered its Week 1 game in five of the last six years.
PITTSBURGH (9-6-1) – Sans RB Le’Veon Bell, last year’s Steelers ranked next-to-last in the NFL in rushing (90.3 yards per game) and the game plan here for 2019 is for a “shared workload” with RB James Conner (973 yards rushing / 4.5 yards per carry average) getting the most reps but Jaylen Samuels and rookie Bennie Snell (Kentucky) getting a fair share of reps too. Remember Conner suffered a late-season knee injury and may be “babied” a bit this summer.
Pointspread Notes – Last year’s 8-7-1 ATS (against the spread) log wasn’t half-bad considering the soap opera-like season the Steelers had but did you know that this AFC North crew went 5-0 vig-wise as underdogs and 3-7-1 odds-wise as betting favorites?
SAN FRANCISCO (4-12) – No doubt injuries have crippled the 49ers the past two years when this NFC West crew combined to go 13-19 SU and no injury was bigger than the torn ACL suffered by QB Jimmy Garoppolo (played in only three games last year). Garoppolo threw just one pass in a recent Niner practice drill – he completed a strike to WR Dante Pettis – but there’s definite concerns that the Niners’ slinger will be slowed down by a large knee brace and so this NFC West squad is keeping fingers crossed that he’ll be ready come the season-opening tilt at Tampa Bay.
Pointspread Notes – The 49ers have finished 2-6, 2-5-1 and then 2-6 spreadwise away in three of the last four years (the Niners were 6-2 ATS away in 2017) and overall San Francisco is an ugly 9-20-1 ATS when playing non-divisional foes these past three years (a wobbly .310 winning percentage).
SEATTLE (10-7) – The Seahawks have flipped the script on the NFL: While most / all teams throw it more these days, Seattle has turned back the clock and last year – while ranking #1 in the NFL in rushing (160 ypg) -- the NFC West team attempted 140 fewer passes than it did in 2016. Still, the Seahawks did not ignore the downfield passing game in the most recent draft as Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf was scooped up in Round III and West Virginia’s Gary Jennings was taken in the fourth round. If either / both of these guys can produce the occasional home run on the other end of some QB Russell Wilson’s passes, then that #1 ground game could be even more productive in 2019.
Pointspread Notes – Go back to the start of the 2011 season and you’ll see that the Seahawks are 78-56-7 ATS (a .582 winning rate) … betcha didn’t know Pete Carroll’s crew was such a consistently good bet! Seattle sported a 5-2-1 spread mark at home last year with covers against Dallas, the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota and Kansas City and note that overall the ‘Hawks are 47-28-3 ATS as hosts while dating back to the 2010 campaign (a .627 winning rate).
TAMPA BAY (5-11) – Year One in the head coach Bruce Arians Era figures to bring the Bucs some offensive imagination, though it’s worth mentioning last year’s team did rank 11th in the NFL in points per game average (24.75). Tampa Bay registered a 3-0-1 ATS log whenever scoring 30-or-more points and right now you fantasy geeks should be checking out WR Chris Godwin who Arians believes could be a 100-catch guy this year – yes, even opposite stat-sheet stuffing WR Mike Evans who caught 86 balls for 1,524 yards and 8 TDs a year ago. Note that Godwin finished last year with 59 catches for 842 yards and 7 TDs.
Pointspread Notes – Want to hear a rather quirky pointspread fact? The TB Bucs have gone 3-3 ATS in divisional games for the past five years in a row but dig a little bit deeper and you’ll see this NFC South squad is 5-9-3 spreadwise away since late in the 2015 season and just 11-15 ATS at home the past three-plus seasons.
TENNESSEE (9-7) – There were 10 different games last year in which the Titans scored 20 points or less and Mike Vrabel’s squad won just three of those games, so it’s now-or-never time to step up this offense’s production and there’s a rumbling that RB Derrick Henry will be rushing the ball more than his 21.75 carries average he sported the last four games of the ’18 season. Henry actually averaged just 14 touches per game a year ago and – in order to propel their way past the .500 mark – the Titans may well ask Henry to handle the ball 25 times a game minimum.
Pointspread Notes – Nobody’s getting rich betting on the Titans the past several years … though plenty of folks have been getting rich betting against ‘em. Tennessee’s a collective 50-74-6 against the odds since the start of the 2011 season and the AFC South crew will head into this 2019 season having covered 10 of its last 15 games when placed in the underdog role.
WASHINGTON (7-9) – The last time the ‘Skins made it to the NFL post-season was back in 2012 (and who can ever forget that 24-14 wild card home loss to Seattle in which then-star QB Robert Griffin III was tossed around like a rag doll) and if this D.C. bunch is gonna made an unexpected return to the playoffs this year then a passing game that ranks 29th in the NFL last year has to step it up. Okay, so is rookie QB Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) ready to assume the mantle of the next Redskins’ franchise quarterback or will veterans Colt McCoy or Case Keenum fill that role till the kid’s ready? Something tells us the ‘Skins want Haskins in there from the start … and that’s probably the wrong move.
Pointspread Notes – Washington’s a respectable 26-22 against the odds overall these past three years and note that featured six outright upset wins a year ago including a 16-13 win at 7.5-point fav Jacksonville in Week 15 play.
THE NFL PRESEASON REPORT
Okay, so here's the reality, folks:
We're now just 17 or 18 days away from the start of the 2019 NFL Preseason with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton set for Thursday, August 1st between the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons … and be sure there will be plenty of "bettable" preseason games on this summertime gridiron docket.
If you've read all the opinions over the years, you know that many folks like to wager on teams with new head coaches / new coaching staffs in these exhibition games - you know, there's supposedly a something-to-prove mentality and all - but here we're gonna list three things we like to check out before offering up our preseason selections:
1 - Look for teams that have a high-quality second-string quarterback because (more often than not) it is these backups who are gonna get the lion's share of snaps in the preseason tilts;
2 - Seek out the NFL teams that sport depth on defense - that way you know second- and third-string DL's, LB's and DB's will play hard on every play and decent defensive depth ensures that solid players will make things tough from the first quarter thru the fourth quarters for opposing offenses;
3 - Last but not least, look for underdog sides that underachieved last year in regular-season play with the hopes that they'll make preseason play a priority - in short, there's gonna be some NFL teams that hated the "effort level" in 2018 and so now's the time to set the record straight heading into '19.
Obviously, we are not committing to any specific preseason plays right here / right now but let's just say the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers all figure to be on our "radar" at some point in these preseason tilts for one - or more - of the reasons listed up above.