The NFL has wrapped up training camp and Labor Day Monday means Week 1 is upon us. The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans kick off the 2020 NFL season on Thursday, and then we get a full slate on Sunday and Monday to get the season underway.
This is a different kind of year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no in-person workouts during the spring offseason program and the entire preseason game schedule was canceled. It makes assessing each team a little more difficult heading into a season that may or may not play to a full completion.
It will be particularly difficult to figure out which teams will over- or under-perform expectations. Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie.
Below are DraftKings Sportsbook win totals for the four teams in the AFC South. A year ago, the Texans went 10-6 to win the division, while the Titans went 9-7 and earned a wild card berth. The Colts finished 7-9 and the Jaguars brought up the rear at 6-10.
The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 8.5 wins for the Titans, the payout is -134 (you bet $134 to win $100). If you bet the under, the payout is +110 (you bet $100 to win $110). That means the over is the favorite.
Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not.
We took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter.
Indianapolis Colts: 9 (-117, -105) — Stampede Blue
Why over: The Indianapolis Colts enjoy what is being heralded as the easiest schedule in football. A season ago, inconsistent quarterback play took a team that was on a playoff trajectory out of contention. With veteran Philip Rivers under center, more offensive weapons at receiver and running back than a season ago, arguably the best offensive line in football, and a defense that has been getting better on the back of a youth movement, things look really good for 2020. Throw in that arguably every other team in the AFC South has gotten weaker or is in a position to regress and getting to or over the 10 game win hump is not only plausible, it’s likely.
Why under: The confidence at quarterback is inspired by an aging veteran whose performance in 2019 would give anyone pause. When declines happen in football, they tend to happen faster than fans like to think. If Rivers posts a season similar to a year ago, the Colts may not be much better off at the games’ most important position. Additionally, the Colts pass rush is relying heavily on another aging veteran, Justin Houston and is hoping DeForest Buckner can have the same impact on the interior he did in San Francisco. If the pass rush doesn’t come together and the quarterback play disappoints, fans could be looking for something to do with their time in December.
Tennessee Titans: 8.5 (-134, +110) — Music City Miracles
Why over: Last season, Ryan Tannehill took over and shored up the quarterback position, allowing Derrick Henry more space to dominate on the ground. In his 10 starts, he went 7-3, including wins over the Chiefs, Colts and Texans before shocking the Ravens at home in the playoffs. This team can win games and they have a relatively easy schedule this season, as they average Vegas win total for their opponent’s ranks 31st in the league. — Chet Gresham
Why under: Ryan Tannehill was amazing last season. So amazing that it’s tough to believe in him playing as well this year. He lead the league in yards per attempt and QB rating while topping all of his previous season efficiency stats. Keeping those numbers up again won’t be easy. Add in the loss of Jack Conklin and the offensive line could take a hit, which would hurt Derrick Henry. They’ve got a fairly delicate balance going on offensively in Tennessee and keeping the efficiency high as last season might not be possible. — Chet Gresham
Houston Texans: 7.5 (-106, -115) — Battle Red Blog
Why over: Deshaun Watson is why you take the over. His ability to will his team to wins is right up there with Russell Wilson’s. The loss of DeAndre Hopkins is tough, but the addition of Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb coupled with the receiving ability of David Johnson and Duke Johnson should keep the offense relatively similar in output compared to last season. Add in Watson’s rushing ability and the offense should continue to pull out tight games. — Chet Gresham
Why under: Losing DeAndre Hopkins can’t help their offense and another Brandin Cooks concussion will likely keep him out for an extended period. Add in Will Fuller’s frequent injuries and there is a chance the health brings down the offense. They also have a tough schedule, as they start with the Chiefs, then Ravens, Steelers (With Rothlisberger), and then Vikings. Their schedule ranks as the 12th hardest based in Vegas win totals, as they face only three teams projected under seven wins. — Chet Gresham
Jacksonville Jaguars: 4.5 (-112, -112) — Big Cat Country
Why over: The Jaguars are not the worst football team in the NFL. They’re not good, but they’re not overall No. 1 pick bad either — and 4.5 wins is the lowest expected win total of any team right now. Head coach Doug Marrone is a net-neutral head coach when it comes to maximizing their talent and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will improve their red zone scoring and third down conversions. That’s good for six wins, right?
Why under: This is a bad roster from top to bottom and their best player — disgruntled edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue — has been traded. That leaves the defensive line, a weakness of the team last year, in an even worse spot. Gardner Minshew is an average quarterback, but he showed himself to be very limited last year when teams had the mental wherewithal to show off the pincer move, keep him in the pocket, and force him to make intermediate throws over the middle. That’s not a recipe for success. Without a decent passing game (again) and with the running backs room led by the likes of Ryquell Armstead and Chris Thompson, defenses will stack the box against us in the run. The team got lucky with a couple of their wins last year — beating the Tennessee Titans before they realized Marcus Mariota ain’t it and come-from-behind wins on the road against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders — and those luxuries won’t be afforded to them this year. Yikes.
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