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 NFC West. A year ago, the 49ers climbed from several years of struggling to go 13-3 and win the division. The Seahawks finished second at 11-5, the Rams stumble to a 9-7 record, and the Cardinals showed some signs of life in spite of a 5-10-1 record.
The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 10.5 wins for the 49ers, the payout is +102 (you bet $100 to win $102). If you bet the under, the payout is -125 (you bet $125 to win $100). That means the under 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.
San Francisco 49ers: 10.5 (+102, -125) — Niners Nation
Why over: The 49ers have a favorable schedule to start the season, a lot like last year, and that will allow San Francisco to get away with some of the injuries that would generally hurt them against better teams. The depth has improved on both sides of the ball, and everyone expects Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel to be even better than they were during their rookie seasons. Adding Trent Williams at left tackle doesn’t hurt, either.
With Kyle Shanahan calling the plays, you have a chance to score 30 points every time you take the field. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers boast the best defensive line and arguably the fastest defense in the NFL. Expect the Niners defense to wreak havoc all season.
Why under: The injury bug. The 49ers lost three receivers before they even got out of their first practice. Those injuries haven’t slowed down and it’s hard to imagine they will when there’s actual contact. If Jimmy Garoppolo’s turnovers continue, as they have during training camp, and the depth is depleted with injuries, the 49ers will struggle to reach 11 wins.
Seattle Seahawks: 9.5 (+110, -134) — Field Gulls
Why over: Well past history isn’t always useful for predicting future success, but the Seahawks have had at least 10 wins in seven of Russell Wilson’s eight seasons as starting quarterback. The passing offense is now the main function of the team after years of focusing on a dominant defense and punishing run game. Wilson is playing at an MVP level and has talented receiving options in Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and now the addition of veteran TE Greg Olsen. Seattle has vastly improved its secondary by trading for Quinton Dunbar and Jamal Adams, so while there may be valid concerns about the pass rush and the overall quality of the defensive line, the linebacker/secondary combo is among the tops in the NFL on paper. Oh yes, and that rushing game should still be potent with Chris Carson returning from injury and Carlos Hyde in support.
Why under: There are serious question marks regarding the offensive line — a new right tackle, a new center, a rookie right guard, and an aging Duane Brown at left tackle is not exactly anything resembling a cohesive unit or one that figures to be consistently good. Seahawks fans are used to seeing this out of their offensive linemen in fairness, but that can’t hold up forever. Seattle’s run defense was a game-breaking liability last year and may still be an issue this year in addition to the pass rush. Last year’s team also benefited from a remarkably high number of close victories, and that can always turn against them such that even if the 2020 team is better than the 11-5 team of 2019, they may suffer come close defeats that render them 9-7 or worse. Lastly… injuries. If Russell Wilson’s durability finally cracks then the season is over, but we’ve seen one too many Seahawks seasons heavily affected by injuries to key players, and they aren’t a deep enough roster to withstand those this year.
Los Angeles Rams: 8 (-125, +103) — Turf Show Times
Why over: The Rams win totals over the last three years are 11, 13, and 9. All above 8. In that time, they’ve had the same head coach, same quarterback, same left tackle, same star defensive tackle, same two star receivers and they’re all coming back in 2020, plus Jalen Ramsey. I think were it not for the underwhelming results of going 9-7 after making the Super Bowl, people would be projecting the Rams as “trending up” right now potentially. Had they gone 6-10 in 2018, how would people feel about them going 9-7 and nearly 10-6 or 11-5 last season if not for a play or two? All Sean McVay has to do is lead his team to a winning season to beat 8 wins, something he’s done in 3 of 3 years.
Why under: The Rams lost two of their best players on defense this offseason and didn’t add much in the way of notable veteran talent. They also went without a first round pick again. The converse argument to trending upwards is that the Rams did go down from 13 wins to 9 wins. Are they going to go 7-9 then? Being in potentially the NFL’s toughest division, with the 49ers and Seahawks both being picked among Super Bowl favorites, and the Cardinals potentially getting better after adding DeAndre Hopkins and others, LA certainly has to fight a tougher fight than most teams.
Arizona Cardinals: 7 (-130, +107) — Revenge of the Birds
Why over: The Arizona Cardinals had a good offense in 2019, now they have DeAndre Hopkins and a full year in Kliff Kingsbury’s season. They spent all offseason beefing up a league worst defense. Now, they just need a decent defense and seven should be an easy bar to clear on 2020.
Why under: Kyler Murray stumbles in year two behind a bad offensive line, Kenyan Drake is a bust and Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is figured out. Also, the defense doesn’t get any better despite spending a ton to fix it.
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