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 West. A year ago, the Chiefs rolled to victory, finishing 12-4 to clinch the division and eventually win the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos and then Oakland Raiders finished the season tied at 7-9, and they were followed by the Los Angeles Chargers at 5-11.
The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 7.5 wins for the Chargers, the payout is -141 (you bet $141 to win $100). If you bet the under, the payout is +115 (you bet $100 to win $115). 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.
Kansas City Chiefs: 11.5 (-121, +100) — Arrowhead Pride
Why over: The Kansas City Chiefs have won at least 12 games in three of the last four seasons and both of the seasons in which Patrick Mahomes was the team’s starting quarterback. In Mahomes’ 36 career starts (including the playoffs), the Chiefs have only lost eight games — and never by more than one score. The Chiefs returned almost all their starters from the Super Bowl run, and their opponents in 2020 had a combined 128-128 record in 2019 (.500 win percentage). Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire should only make the Chiefs’ top-five offense more explosive, and the defense stands to improve further under Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
Why under: Every Super Bowl-winning team has to face an additional opponent: complacency. 12 wins are still not easy to come by in the NFL, and the Chiefs will need to come out of the gate strong if they are to get there. Patrick Mahomes missed two games in 2019, and the Chiefs were fortunate to go 1-1. There is quite a dropoff between Mahomes and Chad Henne or Matt Moore, who would serve as the quarterback if Mahomes had to miss any time due to injury or contracting coronavirus. With Bashaud Breeland missing the first four games of the season due to suspension, it is likely the Chiefs turn to a fourth-round rookie in L’Jarius Sneed across from Charvarius Ward. If the Chiefs were drop a game or two with Breeland out of the lineup, reaching 12 wins becomes all the tougher.
Los Angeles Chargers: 7.5 (-141, +115) — Bolts From The Blue
Why over: The Chargers, while lacking a solidified player at the most-important position on the offense, are built to succeed in spite of it. When I look at the talent that will surround both Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert this season, I can’t help but see similar teams who found success despite middling QB play. The 2017 Jaguars, the 2018 Bears, and the 2019 Bills are the most-recent ones that come to mind. If the team’s elite defense can play up to their talent on paper, this team should surprise.
Why under: Sometimes, the teams that look really good on paper, don’t instantly mesh from the jump. Players, no matter how talented, can still be affected by super high expectations. The 2020, like most Chargers seasons, will depend on the health of the team, or potential lack thereof. In 2018, the Bolts went 12-4 with tight end Hunter Henry being the only notable injury. In 2019, they lost Henry for a handful of games again, they didn’t see Derwin James or Russell Okung until the second half of the season, and they also were missing their starting kicker for a good chunk of time. All of those events landed them at 5-11. Sometimes the slope os just that slippery.
Denver Broncos: 7.5 (-118, -106) — Mile High Report
Why over: John Elway’s all-in approach to surrounding Drew Lock with talent pays off big. Courtland Sutton is already a star, but Noah Fant and Jerry Jeudy will join the club too. It’ll take some great offense to overcome one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, but even if they stumble the Broncos veteran defense is looking like an elite unit in 2020. They will be a tough out.
Why under: Drew Lock is entering year 2 with just five career starts and a COVID-19 shortened offseason under a new offensive system. That and a slew of new offensive players could lead to some early bumps in the road and for a young team trying to figure out how to win that could be a situation that derails a season.
Las Vegas Raiders: 7 (-121, -104) — Silver & Black Pride
Why over: This is a team that was 6-4 last season and fell apart and finished 7-9. Yet, the Raiders were busier than any team this offseason, adding five new defensive starters and giving quarterback Derek Carr more weapons. This is an ascending team. The Raiders should easily get to, at least, eight wins.
Why under: The Raiders have so many new pieces that it may take a while to acclimate in this strange, unchartered season. They are relying on rookies at receiver, and rookie receivers often struggle in normal seasons. The Raiders can’t afford many injuries, especially on defense. If a couple of key players go down, they will be in trouble. Plus, their first 11 games is a brutal stretch. It could be a long first season in Las Vegas for the mighty Jon Gruden’s.
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