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 North. A year ago, the Ravens dominated the division, finishing 14-2. The Steelers finished second at 8-8 and the Browns finished 6-10. The Bengals brought up the rear at 2-14, claiming the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 5.5 wins for the Bengals, 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.
Baltimore Ravens: 11 (-115, -106) — Baltimore Beatdown
Why over: Baltimore’s overwhelming offense from last season remained mostly intact over the offseason. They held onto considerable talent, though they lost All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda. Even so, another offseason for Lamar Jackson to improve coupled with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown’s transformative offseason are huge positives to remain a top-contender in 2020. The Ravens also added big-name pass rushers this offseason, including DE Calais Campbell and DE Derek Wolfe. Make no mistake, the secondary still boasts two 2019 All-Pro cornerbacks while also adding CB Tavon Young, who missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL. The Ravens improved in many categories while hanging onto both coordinators, a rarity for the franchise.
Why under: Winning 11 of 16 NFL games is no easy feat. While they dominated in 2019, sustained success isn’t easy. Especially with the loss of All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda. The new additions could fail to open lanes for the Ravens’ running game, which in turn plummets the Ravens’ time of possession, leading them into tight contests where they find themselves on the receiving end of some last-second field goals.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9 (-121, +100) — Behind The Steel Curtain
Why over: The Steelers were a ridiculously banged up team in 2019, and still managed to win 8 games. They lost Ben Roethlisberger, and had numerous other injuries throughout the roster, yet were just one win away from making the postseason.The defense on this team alone will keep the Steelers in almost every game they play, and is good enough to win them a few of those close contests. They led the NFL in takeaways in 2019, and that trend likely will continue. Add in an offense who can actually produce more than 18.8 points per game, and actually eclipse 30 points per game at least once, and this team should be a double-digit win team.
Why under: While the team is entering 2020 healthy, they have a long list of players who are labeled as injury prone. Ben Roethlisberger, Eric Ebron, James Conner, Vance McDonald, Stephon Tuitt...I could go on. If the injury bug sweeps through the Steelers’ locker room, there is no way this team will be above .500. This might be true for a lot of teams in the National Football League, but this season it seems even more pertinent for the Steelers.
Cleveland Browns: 8.5 (-121, +100) — Dawgs By Nature
Why over: The Browns only won six games last year despite what appeared to be a team ready to ascend. But after their poor showing, the pressure isn’t quite as intense and the team has upgraded over the offseason once again. The addition of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. should give Baker Mayfield more time to distribute to a strong group of receivers while Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt make up one of the best duos in the league. Also, Cleveland will face eight teams that Vegas has winning under eight games on the year, giving them the third best schedule in terms of win totals. — Chet Gresham
Why under: The under will hit if Baker Mayfield can’t take a step forward this year. The team beefed up the offensive line, crammed the offense full of playmakers and continue to add high-level defensive players. At this point, Mayfield is either going to bring this team together for a good run or continue to flounder. If you bet on the under, you’re betting against Mayfield. — Chet Gresham
Cincinnati Bengals: 5.5 (-134, +110) — Cincy Jungle
Why over: If the Bengals can keep Joe Burrow upright, he should be a significant upgrade over what Andy Dalton gave them in 2019, especially now the A.J. Green is healthy, while the team added former Clemson star Tee Higgins to an already-deep receiver group that includes Green, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate and John Ross. That many weapons will be hard for any secondary to keep up with. And on defense, the Bengals added a major impact player in defensive tackle D.J. Reader to what’s already one of the scarier defensive lines in football with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. If the Bengals can just stay relatively healthy (always a big if with this franchise), six wins should be the minimum this team gets.
Why under: The offensive line is still a major question mark and could derail a loaded offense if it continues to be one of the league’s worst units. And Burrow is a rookie with no preseason games, so his regular-season growing pains will likely be worse than in a normal season. And while the defense has a lot of talent, Trae Waynes is already set to miss most of the season, and the linebacker group is as big of a question mark as the offensive line.
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