My beloved nonni taught my brother and I how to play Texas Hold’em at the ripe ages of 6 and 4 years old. Although I have long known how to gamble at an amateur level, I do not have much history with sports betting.
It wasn’t until last football season that I assisted one of my oldest friends in making picks for NFL weekends. In hindsight, we were much more successful than my memory allows me to be because I’ve always been hastily aware of the dangers of gambling. Upon recollection, it’s safe to say that that friend and I were successful on north of 70% of our picks, a handsome amount of wins opposed to our devastating losses.
Some picks were easy: ride the Saints at home, don’t go against Baltimore, KC or San Fran, take the under with the Pats, and damn near always take the spread against the Bears. Some were hard, so I encouraged him to stay away from those games. Sports gambling is easy if the gambler lets it be. Risks are risks for a reason, and the house always wins.
It goes without saying that this year’s circumstances are drastically different than the previous century of football. There are hardly, if any, home field advantages to rely upon. Teams with institutional continuity are the safest bets, and it’s probably safest to stray away from rookies despite how tempting shiny new toys can be.
These are my favorite preseason bets for the upcoming 2020 NFL season
SUPER BOWL/CONFERENCE CHAMPION FAVORITES
Best value: Seattle (+2000)/(+1000)
Russell Wilson is one of the three best quarterbacks in football. Seattle’s primary skill players and ball handlers (DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson) are as dangerous of a three-player tandem as any other trio in the league. Pete Carrol is a historically good coach that has built one of the most well run organizations in the last decade from the ground up. The Hawks added one of the hardest hitting safeties in all of football in Jamal Adams, who will be yet another nightmare for opposing offenses behind the great Bobby Wagner. The only question is this: will Seattle #LetRussCook in 2020?
Most reliable: Kansas City (+600)/(+300)
The reigning Super Bowl champions have one of the two most talented quarterbacks in NFL history (Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are neck-at-neck IMO). They already have the fastest player in the league at wideout in Tyreek Hill, the most reliable pass catching tight end in football in Travis Kelce, absolutely dangerous speed demons in Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins when the ball is in or out of their hands, and they just added a dynamic running back with winning pedigree out of LSU in Clyde Edwards-Hellaire. They could get back to the Super Bowl with their offense alone, but the Chiefs also return a majority of their defense which is headlined by Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Tyrann Matthieu.
Best underdog: Green Bay Packers (+2800)/(+1300)
Green Bay didn’t make any franchise altering additions this offseason, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They traded up in the draft to snag an inscrutable plan at backup quarterback in Jordan Love, and failed to surround Aaron Rodgers with any more weapons. Davante Adams will more than likely see a bevy of double teams this year due to the fact that Valdez-Scandling and Lazard are yet to prove themselves as valuable second and third options. Their defense remains stout, and their backfield still features the breathtaking Aaron Jones. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to Matt LaFleur’s creativity and Aaron Rodgers’s willingness to throw the deep ball even at the risk of a possible interception for Green Bay to be title contenders.
Most reliable: Baltimore Ravens (-225)
For the sake of not picking the Chiefs twice in two categories, let’s talk about the second best team in football: Baltimore. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in football, but Lamar Jackson is the most dangerous weapon across the board.
Barring any unforeseeable injuries, I can’t see Baltimore not clinching this division by Week 15 at the very latest. Even though I still think they’re a piece or two away at the receiver position, they’re my Super Bowl pick at this point in time. I’m not as high on Pittsburgh as a lot of people are because I simply don’t see it with Big Ben, and I still think Cleveland is a Baker Mayfield step forward away from being legitimized.
Most valuable: Houston Texans (+350)
It’s as simple as this, Deshaun Watson is still far and away the best quarterback in this division. And a football team starts and ends with how successful the quarterback can be. Don’t get me wrong, I like the addition of Phil Rivers in Indy and the progress made last year by Ryan Tannehill with the Titans, but at some point or another you just have to look at Watson and say that that guy is too special to not win his division year in and year out.
Best underdog: Detroit Lions (+550)
The NFC North is as wide open as any division in football. Nobody knows what Chicago’s offense is going to look like or who is even going to be playing quarterback for them by Week 11. The Vikings, while fairly productive. are the most vanilla team in football after the loss of Stefon Diggs. Green Bay still doesn’t know who their third skill player is, and Detroit has perhaps the most electric skill set group in the division with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, TJ Hockenson, and their revamped backfield. The biggest downfall of this gamble is this: Are you really going to bet on a Matt Patricia led team?
Most reliable: Patrick Mahomes (+400) or Lamar Jackson (+600)
First of all: this award always goes to quarterbacks, plain and simple. The last non-QB to win the award was Adrian Peterson in 2012. I can see these two trading off the MVP award year after year after year. Just shipping it from one mansion in Kansas City to the other in Baltimore until 2032.
Most valuable: Deshaun Watson (+2000)
With the baffling loss of Deandre Hopkins this offseason, the weight of the world on Watson’s shoulders just got a heck of a lot heavier. I believe he’ll still be able to produce at an incredibly high level despite losing one of the five most valued receivers in football. And the credit towards the signal caller will only skyrocket due to this monumental loss for Houston and particularly Watson.
Best underdog: Dak Prescott (+2200) or Kyler Murray (+2500)
Critics, analysts and #NFLTwitter have boosted Kyler’s MVP odds all summer long. This speculation is largely due to the sophomore jump that many quarterbacks make, and specifically the ones that have been made in recent history such as Lamar Jackson last season and Patrick Mahomes the year before that.
I myself will be putting an embarrassingly small fraction of my money on Watson and Prescott this season, and not because I believe in either of them as much as I do the favorites: Lamar, Russ and Mahomes. But because I like their odds better and I’ve recently become aware of the fact that voters prefer to award players that haven’t won the MVP award yet. They also favor players on winning teams that over-performer in the context of their expectations. If Dak can lead the Cowboys to a 12-4 or 13-3 record, which I believe he and they are more than capable of, then he’ll be a shoe-in for this trophy.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Most reliable: Joe Burrow (+200)
The Rookie of the Year honors have only gone to two #1 overall draft picks in the last decade (Cam Newton in 2010, and Kyler Murray in 2019). Burrow is different. He’s coming off of the most prolific, efficient and impressive season in college football history. Sweeping every award and opponent with a cold blooded breeze. The dude is special and it’s only a matter of time until he shows it at the next level.
Most valuable: Clyde Edwards-Hellaire (+700)
According to every beat writer in Kansas City, CEH is the second coming of Christ. Andy Reid has produced some above average seasons from below average running backs during his time in the league, and I’m sure he was drooling over Clyde like a rack of ribs when he dropped to KC in the draft. With Damien Williams sidelined for the season, Clyde is the most valuable bet for ROTY.
Best underdog: Jalen Hurts (+10000)
Jalen Hurts is the backup in Philadelphia, but it’s no secret that Carson Wentz has a pretty terrible injury history. With the best right guard in the league, Brandon Brooks, likely out for the season, the interior pass rush against Philly will be much easier for defenses to put Wentz on the ground. If Jalen has to step in, he’s mobile enough to make plays out of broken sets. I’m not telling you to put any amount of money on this, but it could be fun to root for an ambitious guy like Jalen with a little guap on the line.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Most reliable: Chase Young (+200) and Isaiah Simmons (+550)
We all know that Chase Young is the best defensive prospect since the beginning of time. He had a better PFF Grade coming out of Ohio State than both of the Bosa brothers who are two relentlessly terrifying edge rushers in their own right. Young is a highkey addition to one of the lowkey best defensive lines in football.
Isaiah Simmons is a Swiss-army knife come to life and will rack up the box score for Arizona this year. A team that is on the rise with a handful of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
Most valuable: Patrick Queen (+1100)
Queen is a lightning quick backer who will be all over the place for Baltimore this season. He goes from winning program in LSU to another in Baltimore, and that purple will feel real familiar for the SEC standout.
Best underdog: A.J. Epenesa (+3000)
Epenesa didn’t fall in the draft because he isn’t NFL ready, he fell in the draft because he may even be too NFL ready. Scouts didn’t think there was a lot of room for improvement for the power rushing defensive end. This doesn’t make any sense to me because he dominated Big 10 offensive linemen for two consecutive years and was projected to be a Top 5 pick according to Todd McShay and Mel Kiper following the 2019 NFL Draft. He joins one of the five best defenses in football in the Buffalo Bills and will make an immediate impact for a team contending for an AFC title.