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 South. A year ago, the Saints ran away with the division, finishing with a 13-3 record. The Falcons and Buccaneers tied at 7-9 while the Panthers finished 5-11.
The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 9.5 wins for the Bucs, 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.
New Orleans Saints: 10.5 (-106, -115) — Canal Street Chronicles
Why over: The offensive was among the NFL’s best last year, and it is returning in almost its entirety for 2020. The major difference? The addition of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who gives the Saints a legitimate #2 wide receiver, the likes of which the Saints haven’t had since Brandin Cooks was paired with 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas. Add in weapons like Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, Taysom Hill, one of the league’s best offensive lines, and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at the helm, and you can see how this offense could be even more potent in 2020. The run defense has quietly been one of the better units in the NFL of late, and now, with a full season of Janoris Jenkins opposite 2017 Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, and the pass defense - along with the return of Malcolm Jenkins - could make the Saints defense one of the under-the-radar stories of the season.
Why under: Drew Brees falls off a cliff and Sean Payton is hesitant to pull the trigger on replacing him with Jameis Winston. Also, the Saints have one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL this year, facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the ever-dangerous Atlanta Falcons twice in the NFC South. The Saints also have games against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles, and their wild card rival Minnesota Vikings. A tough schedule and an aging quarterback are not typically a recipe for success.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9.5 (-134, +110) — Bucs Nation
Why over: The over is all about Tom Brady and his ability to not throw over 30 interceptions in a high-powered offense. Brady is the antithesis to Jameis Winston when it comes to decision making, and that’s why the Bucs brought him to town. Under Winston, the team moved the ball easily but turned it over just as easily. If they could have cut Winston’s interceptions in half, there’s a good chance they land in the playoffs last season and hit double-digit wins. Now, that’s what Brady is here for. — Chet Gresham
Why under: Tom Brady’s arm and reaction time isn’t what it once was, as seen by his poor 2019. He has the horses in Tampa Bay to win going away, but he must prove he’s still able to lead a Top 5 passing offense that uses the deep ball often. Ten wins isn’t an easy number to get to, especially when you have a new quarterback learning a new offense who also happens to be 43-years old. — Chet Gresham
Atlanta Falcons: 7.5 (+100, -121) — The Falcoholic
Why over: The Falcons have the offensive weaponry to challenge almost any defense. The top-4 of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Todd Gurley could be one of the best in the league. The defense has also injected some needed talent by signing Dante Fowler to help with the pass rush. In an NFC South that features two over-40 QBs and a rebuilding Panthers team, Atlanta could surprise with a well balanced roster.
Why under: Frankly, this coaching staff has yet to prove they deserve that benefit of the doubt. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter ran a middling offense despite having numerous weapons at his disposal. The defense could be good, but they were an abject disaster through the first half of 2019 and signing one player won’t immediately fix that. And those two over-40 QBs? Yeah, they’re first ballot Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Tom Brady. This could be the most difficult division in the NFL, leaving the Falcons wondering what could have been yet again.
Carolina Panthers: 5.5 (-122, +100) — Cat Scratch Reader
Why over: Panthers owner David Tepper hired (college) rebuild expert Matt Rhule and gave him a seven-year contract after parting ways with Ron Rivera in the middle of a disastrous 2019 season, so it’s expected that Rhule will have a little more length on his leash than most coaches get. The Panthers are in Year 1 of a rebuild after parting ways with franchise quarterback Cam Newton and losing franchise cornerstone Luke Kuechly to retirement, and with so many new faces on both the roster and the coaching staff, it’s hard to see the Panthers winning more games than they did last year. Everything would have to go just right for the Panthers to beat their projected win total, and sadly the chances of that happening are not very good right now.
Why under: The Panthers are starting over with a new coaching staff, new quarterback and a roster full of younger players, so struggle is expected for this team for at least the first year of Matt Rhule’s tenure. It won’t be surprising to see the Panthers competing for the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2021 draft given how new everything is this season.
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