Betting on the NFL in week one is a little bit like trying to hit a bullseye with a butcher knife, while blindfolded and blacked out. Other than that, it's a breeze.
You have nothing to base your wagers on besides some meaningless play and training camp murmurs. This season will be no exception EXCEPT given the COVID truncated offseason, there's one thing you can value more than any other year: Continuity.
If the Chiefs taught us anything from the Thursday night shellacking of the Texans, it's that all that money they shelled out to keep their absurd level of talent was worth it. Not just because it's better to have more talent than the other team, it is, but also because if you can keep as much of a championship squad together from one year to the next, you have a better chance of that squad continuing to play in the rhythm they've already established.
The Chiefs ran it back with their coordinators, all their speedy wide receivers, their terrorizing twosome on the defensive line, their All-Pro tight end, and plugged in LSU's double threat running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Put all that together, Andy Reid might be lining up for free cheeseburgers in Kansas City with two Super Bowl rings in 2021.
So, betting-wise, where does that leave us? Looking for teams who have established chemistry and culture. I'm looking for teams that are bringing the band back against teams that are trotting out untested rosters and fresh coaching staffs. I'd also say it's safe to bet against some truly bottom-of-the-barrel, no-hope-in-sight, dreadful teams.
Battle Tested vs. Newbs
Ravens -7.5 over Browns
Colts -8 over Jaguars
Bills -6.5 over Jets
Eagles -5.5 over Football Team
Steelers -6 over Giants
Saints -3.5 over Bucs
Titans -2.5 over Broncos
The Ravens come off one of the most efficient offensive seasons ever, period. All they did was add talent around their transcendentally talented QB. The Browns were, well, the Browns and thus they overhauled the coaching staff. This is a make-or-break year for Baker and his receivers, who could put it together later in the year, but not against a definitive Super Bowl contender in their first game under new head coach Kevin Stefanski's system.
The Colts built the most dominant offensive line in football, drafted a running back made of bowling balls powered by rocket fuel, and signed a quarterback who takes the phrase "wily vet" to a whole new level. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are so very bad. They've either cut, traded away, or chosen not to resign their most talented players over the past two years and given Gardner Minshew little to work with heading into 2020.
The Bills competed last season with Josh Allen operating as a deep ball throwing machine or a running option with little in between. They've added weapons, like Stefon Diggs, to bring some balance and their defense will be disruptive as ever. The Jets, last time I checked, are still coached by Adam Gase. They would need players at every level of the offense and defense to make significant leaps to be competitive this decade, especially after trading away Jamal Adams for no immediate help.
The Eagles soar under Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz, and a game-wrecking defensive line, which all return intact. If they can keep even halfway decent receivers on the field for a game or two and get some run out of the intriguing Miles Sanders, I like their chances against virtually any opponent. The Washington Football Team is so disorganized that they can't even pick a name or respond to multiple reports of harassment without slipping all over themselves. Not to mention, Ron Rivera is dealing with cancer treatments (get well soon!), which means Jack Del Rio is running practice in his absence. Not exactly an ideal situation to inspire the team to be ready for week 1.
The Steelers boast one of the most steady-handed coaching staffs in the NFL. Big Ben returns to lead the offense and their defense played so well down the stretch that they almost dragged Mason Rudolph into the playoffs. The Giants have a whole new coaching staff, which includes the underwhelming Jason Garrett at OC, and a second year QB throwing to guys who've seen better days or haven't reached their potential. Look for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to hit their stride early.
The Saints return a team with no real holes on offense or defense and actually upgraded by signing Emmanuel Sanders over Ted Ginn Jr. Not to mention, Sean Payton's connection with Drew Brees remains strong. The Bucs have acquired more talent in one off season in recent memory. It all looks good on paper, but practically they have a 43 year old QB and a 31 year old tight end that's already retired once after dealing with just about every injury imaginable. This has the Eagles' Dream team disaster written all over it. Don't believe the hype, trust in the team that's been at the top of the NFC South for the past 3 seasons in the Saints.
The Titans bring back an offense that had been firing on all cylinders behind Ryan Tannehill, a brutalizing rushing attack, and the work of wunderkind OC Arthur Smith. Plus, they gassed up their defense by signing Javedeon Clowney. The Broncos just lost their most important player, Von Miller, which greatly diminishes their pass rush and overall effectiveness on D. Drew Lock looked serviceable in his limited starts last year, but how much could he improve in an off season like this? Especially when Courtland Sutton's questionable for the game and the rookie, Jerry Jeudy, only has a month of hands on experience in the offense.
Here's the thing about this column and these picks. I don't necessarily expect to rip off a seven-teamer out of the starting gate, like I'm some kind of psychic on a hot streak. However, these games all fit the bill of what I'm looking for in value. Play 'em as a three, four, or five team parlay and give it a ride.
For something completely different, these games all fit under a tried and true bettor's rule: Go against west coast teams on the road playing east coast teams. The idea of travel and playing While this maxim isn't foolproof, it certainly gives you a good base to work from when deciding where to put your money.
Panthers +3 over Raiders
Bengals +3 over Chargers
Falcons +2.5 over Seahawks
The Panthers may have finished last season on an eight game slide, but look at those games, even with Kyle Allen at QB, they played a lot of good teams close. Now with Teddy Bridgewater, who's looked above average, under the tutelage of Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, the college football whiz kid, the ceiling has been raised. However, the Raiders under Jon Gruden have seemed to teeter between mediocre and utter mess. There's nothing they did this off season that would make me feel they deserve 3 points on the road.
The Bengals drafted the man who should be the franchise, Joe Burrow, and, by all accounts, he's been everything and more since arriving in Cincy. One other thing to note here, the Bengals played the Seahawks to a 21-20 nail-biter in Week 1. I wouldn't call it a trend, but, perhaps, Zac Taylor can prep even a 2-win team to a close game if you give him all off season. Let's just say this year's Chargers aren't last year's Seahawks. Their D will be stout, but the offense is unproven. Gimme those points.
The Falcons finished last season hot, saving Dan Quinn's job in the process. Quinn, who was Seattle's DC for their championship run, knows his former team better than just about anyone else. These teams met last year, and after Seattle broke it open early, it ended up a one score game. Which sums up the value here, the Seahawks were in twelve (12!) games that came down to one score. It's a running joke that Seattle never plays in a normal game, I don't expect one this Sunday.
As a three-teamer, this pays out at +700. If only two of the three suit your fancy, I'd recommend parlaying those, as well.
Dolphins over Patriots
The Dolphins took down the Patriots in Week 17 last season in a game that Brady and co. needed to win. Brian Flores, former Pats coach, knows Belichick well and coached his scrappy team above their pay grade in his first year. The Dolphins went on a shopping spree, adding talent all up and down their roster, and cashed in some draft capital. Meanwhile, the Pats replace Brady with Cam Newton, but didn't do much else, except have a handful of players opt out of the season. This one will be close and the value of +240 is enough to get a few shekels from me.
That's all for me to start the season. Let's hope all these come up winners and we can check back next week to count our profits.
- 2020 NFL Prop Bets Round-Up - Find Bet ›
- The Saga of Betting the Seahawks on SNF - Find Bet ›
- Picks, Parlays, and Props Week 8 ›
- Picks, Parlays, and Props Week 9 of the NFL ›
- Picks, Parlays, and Props Week 12 ›
- Picks, Parlays, and Props for Week 16 of the NFL - Find Bet ›
In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson)1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols)1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.
Offense being the key word here.
Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.
For a player that relies so heavily on driving to the basket to get shots off close to the hoop, it's expected for that player to draw plenty of contact resulting in a lot of free throw opportunities. That was certainly indicative of what we saw from Simmons in the first two rounds of the 20-21 playoffs.
He got to the line 45 times against the Hawks in their second round matchup, but only converted 15 freebies which equates to a 33% free throw percentage in the series. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the stripe if you include their first round games against the Wizards, which accounts for the worst free throw percentage by a player with at least 70 attempts in a postseason in NBA playoff history.
With a minimum of 70 attempts, Ben Simmons' 34.2% free throw percentage this postseason is the worst in a postseaso… https://t.co/EvEcQxEe8m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPN Stats & Info)1624244835.0
In the four games that Atlanta beat Philly in this series, they lost by a combined 17 points. If Ben Simmons shoots just 70% from the line and makes 31-45 during this series, that adds 16 to Philadelphia's series point total. Obviously, the attempts might not directly impact the losses, but from a very broad overview, it would draw the series significantly closer — especially taking into account that three of the four losses the 76ers took in the series were lost by four points or fewer.
Also let's not allow people to say that the free throw stat is overblown and out of context. It's not. Shaquille O'Neal, who is notoriously one of the worst free throw shooters in league history, still managed a career playoff free throw percentage of 50%. That's why we saw the conception of "Hack-a-Shaq" where teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to put him on the line rather than allowing him to hurt them in other ways.
We've begun to see teams adopt this practice now with Simmons, which is just flat out embarrassing for a player of Simmons' pedigree. We have seen what he's able to do with the ball. He flies down the court on fast breaks, is a brilliant creator for teammates, and is one of the better finishers at the rim that we have in the league today.
We've already touched on his defensive prowess that has elevated him to becoming NBA All-Defense multiple times and a three time All-Star. But what do the Sixers do with Simmons before next season?
The 24-year-old point-forward still has plenty of time to work on his game. We've seen other players add a jumper later in their careers to great success; just ask Vince Carter how that works. But, usually, in order to develop a perimeter shot, there is at least a solid foundation to build on — that being the ability to consistently hit free throws.
Simmons is a career 60% free throw shooter, and he shot right around the mean during the regular season. The decline in made shots from the charity stripe in this postseason is cause for concern that this isn't the beginning of a trend.
Add to that Simmons' reluctance to take shots further away from the basket, and defenses have the luxury of ignoring Simmons in the half court set. We have seen teams (like the Jazz and 76ers) that rely heavily on the pick and roll get shut down in these playoffs, and it's teams like Atlanta and Phoenix that are able to spread defenses thin by putting multiple shooters on the court at one time succeed.
In 34 career playoff games, Ben Simmons has made 5 shots outside of 10 feet (from the basket).— Paul Hembekides (@Paul Hembekides)1624277710.0
Joel Embiid was phenomenal in the postseason, so let's not ignore that fact. Also, he was playing on one knee and still almost willed the Sixers to a win. But again, Embiid was not 100% in the playoffs, which limited his abilities.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team https://t.co/8xL35u98RC— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez)1624244460.0
Following their loss, Doc Rivers was asked if he thought Ben Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, to which he responded, "I don't know that answer to that question right now," which doesn't provide a whole lot of confidence in Simmons' status with the team next year. Trade rumors have already begun to circulate, and it would make sense for this Philly team to hit the reset button now.
If Simmons continues to be exploitable in big moments, as we've seen him be so far in his career, his value is only going to go down. Adding further complications into the situation is the team just agreed to a new contract extension with Simmons and is due to make between $33 and $40 million per season over the next four years.
As the two cornerstone pieces of The Process appear to be two Scotties without a Mike, the early departure for the East's top seed will likely mean a big shakeup in the near future. If Embiid is healthy, he is elite without question. Maybe Philadelphia will go out and add around their two stars, but unless the organization is confident that Simmons can avoid another atrocious offensive performance in future playoff series, all they have is a really good regular season team.
The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.
After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.
LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.
The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.
🗣 DEVIN BOOKER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622601795.0
The idea of effort is something that was lacking on the purple and gold side last night though. It didn't take long after Booker started hitting everything that the Lakers team started playing sloppy and launching up bad threes in a failed attempt to not let the game get out of hand. Well it did.
The two teams were among the best defensive teams in league this season, the Suns finished seventh in overall team defensive rating and the Lakers first. The Lakers typically like to use their defensive prowess to control pace and work in the half court with their combination of speed on the wings and their combination of big men down low that includes Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis (when healthy), and former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell. Incase you forgot Harrell does in fact still play for the Lakers, but before last night if you blinked for too long you would've missed him on the court.
WHY ISN’T MONTREZL HARRELL GETTING PLAYING TIME?????@MONSTATREZZ #FreeMontrezl https://t.co/j55u9zg9kN— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport)1622603465.0
For some unknown reason Trez has been an afterthought in Frank Vogel's rotations, not only in this series, but throughout parts of the regular season. With AD being ruled out for Game 5, it would've been logical to think that we'd see an uptick in minutes for the high energy reserve, and we did. But not until the game was far out of hand in the second half. While the Suns were building a 30 point lead we saw Phoenix's guards cooking the slower big men of the Lakers off pick and rolls.
30 points is the largest lead at half in Suns playoff history. 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/UoozhMf6Io— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622604230.0
It's understandable to want some size to limit Deandre Ayton, but when it's Booker, Payne, and Bridges hurting you offensively why not see how a quicker and more agile defender like Harrell might fare slowing down the pick and rolls? We saw Jae Crowder having success doing that on the other side for the Suns all night!
It's not fair to just talk about how bad the Lakers were, in fairness it looked like they were getting open looks and were just collectively having an unlucky shooting night. Maybe they all got it out of their system now? But the Suns would have beat anyone on that home court last night. Let's give all credit to them by playing one of the best games ever seen against a LeBron James-led playoff team. Devin Booker is an absolute star and this team plays with a very focused chip on their shoulder which has been manicured by Chris Paul. His leadership has made ALL the difference for this Phoenix team and it can be seen most on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns players have adopted Paul's attitude and intensity on that end and it all paid off last night.
We've seen LeBron actively frustrated during playoff games on the court, and last night is one of the most cringe-worthy to have seen. James spent way too much time talking to officials about calls, and not just between whistles. It would be interesting to know how many possessions the Lakers played four on five because James never made it back on defense before the Suns put more points on them. LeBron was seen leaving the court with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and sure it could be to start receiving treatment on the injured ankle. But we know the real reason he left. We can only hope he didn't punch anything on the way to the locker room.
While the teams will travel back to L.A. for Game 6, the Lakers know they are in a must-win situation. We saw the rest of the team around LeBron scrambling because they felt the pressure. James was the only Laker in the second half that kept the team functioning. When we've seen a visibly dejected James like we did last night, it's been because he knew his team didn't have it. I don't think that's the case with this Lakers team.
There's plenty of talent on the roster even without Anthony Davis. Maybe Game 6 is when we get to see Harrell getting some meaningful minutes. Maybe Vogel can devise a way to get Andre Drummond more involved offensively. Maybe AD plays and isn't slowed by the groin injury. Or maybe you should've listened to us back in January when we told you the Suns were a pretty good basketball team.