As we await the start of the NFL season - and are taunted by OTAs, which means that real football is getting closer - it's a good time to dream of what could happen next year. And if we are going to dream about what could happen, we might as well figure out if we can bet on it, too. BetOnline has a range of NFL season win total props available, and though only one is really playable they are all interesting to consider:
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Highest win total - "over" 13.5 -130, "under" 13.5 +100: This is the most interesting prop we will discuss today - and the most challenging. Looking back over the last five seasons there have been just two teams that won more than 13.5 games - the 2016 Patriots had 14, and the 2015 Panthers with 15. So, two times in five seasons would suggest that the under is the right play here. But it's a bit more complicated than that. For starters, in 2012 and 2013 there were two teams that got very close at 13-3. And in 2014, incredibly, there were five teams with 12 wins. A break or two more in each of those seasons and we would have had another 14-win team. So that makes the over a bit more attractive. If we look at this year, though, the biggest issue is who it will be. The Patriots are the obvious answer - their 12.5 season win total is by far the highest in the league, and their division remains very manageable. They have a 40-year-old QB and are coming off yet another very long season, though, so they may not get it done. Remember, they have only done it once in the last five years and have won their division each time. And who else? The Packers and Seahawks are strong, but their win totals are just 10.5, so they would have to overachieve significantly. And everyone else is somewhere behind that. Add it all up and I quite like the under here at even money.
Highest loss total - over 13.5 -185, under 13.5 +155: So, is there going to be a team with two or fewer wins? In the last five years there have been six teams with one or two wins - last year's Browns and Niners, the Titans and Bucs in 2014, Houston in 2013, and Jacksonville and Kansas City in 2012. That means that four out the last five years the over would be the right play here. And there is no shortage of lousy teams this year. You wouldn't be too surprised if the Browns, the Niners, the Jets, the Bears, or even the Rams or Bills lost games in bulk this year. So, the over is the place to be, though I don't see nearly enough value to make it a play.
Lowest win total by a division winner - over 8.5 -260, under 8.5 +200: This is a prop that isn't nearly as interesting as it seems at first glance. Over the last five years there have been 40 division winners. Of those, just two have had fewer than nine wins - the 2014 Panthers at 7-8-1 and the 2013 Packers at 8-7-1. Every other division winner has had at least nine wins - even the Texans last year when the AFC South was as tightly bunched and uninspiring as a division can be. So, that means that five percent of recent division winners have gone under 8.5 wins, and none in the last two years. So, does +200 seem like anything close to fair odds? Nope.
Perfect 16-0 season - "yes" +1000, "no" -1500: Since 1942 there have been just two teams that have gone unbeaten in the regular season - the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots. The Dolphins played only 14 regular-season games but also won all three playoff games. The Patriots won all 16 games and their first two playoff games before losing the Super Bowl. So, all those teams in all those years, and only two have gone unbeaten, and only one in the 16-game era. So, knowing only that does it seem like 10/1 is a fair price for betting that we'll see another unbeaten season? Not even remotely close, right? And then you have to factor in how much competitive balance there is in the league, how much scouting and game preparation has changed, and the fact that the quarterback for arguably the most likely 16-game winner is 40. You would have to really hate money to bet on the yes here. And you would have to have very little faith in your handicapping skills to bet the no - while you are likely to, you would be locking up your money for a really long time for a low return and missing out on the chance to make better profits by betting the money multiple times through the season.
Perfect 19-0 season - yes +1200, no -2000: Read everything that I wrote for the last prop, then consider that no team has even won 19 in a row - the Dolphins won their opener in 1973 but then lost Game 2 to halt their streak at 18. I'll say this as gently as I possibly can - you would have to be an absolute raging moron to bet the yes here. Just the biggest kind of idiot. One who has way, way, way more money than brains, and who draws pleasure from losing money in stupid and incredible and entirely avoidable ways.
Imperfect 0-16 season - yes +1400, no -2500: The 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16. And they are the only one. Others have had seasons without wins, but none have had more losses than the 0-14 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Lions were bad, but they weren't the only bad team to play in the 0-16 era. In fact, I would argue that they were a lot better than some of the teams to come before or since. Losing every game is so very tough these days. Even bad teams have good players, and there is so much luck and circumstance involved in games. There are some bad teams in the league this year - I'm looking at you, the Browns and Jets - but betting on the yes here is only a slightly better idea than in the last two cases. Very slightly.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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