The NFL will never acknowledge the marketing value of odds placed on their games, but I’m here to vouch that I’m excited about the 2018 NFL season specifically because of the odds.
I’ve been staring at these football odds sheets from several sportsbooks featuring Week 1 spreads and totals, season win totals, odds to win divisions, conferences and the Super Bowl. I’m ready for kickoff. The anticipation is thick so let’s get this thing going.
I’ve got a few teams I like and some I don’t already before the camps started and I’ll share a few of those thoughts weekly. First, let’s start out with a team that one of sharpest bettors in Las Vegas talked glowingly about in a conversation I had with him Sunday night. Jeff Whitelaw is respected by every bookmaker in town. When he talks, people listen and sometimes even adjust their lines.
Yes, he’s that good, and he likes the Los Angeles Rams this season.
“Obviously the Rams are the team to beat in the NFC West, but I believe they might be the best in the NFC,” said Whitelaw. “Who is going to be able to run on this team with (Aaron) Donald and (Ndamukong) Suh up front, and their potent offense just got better with Brandin Cooks’ speed and they already have one of the best running backs in the league (Todd Gurley) and have a young head coach (Sean McVay) who the players love.”
Yes, the Rams’ No. 19 ranked defense (339.6 ypg allowed) from 2017 just got a huge upgrade not only with Suh, but they added Pro Bowl bookends at cornerback with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Those two will help the run as well, just because both can cover by themselves leaving a safety to help more against the run. There are so many options defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has to tinker with and I’d certainly bet, if it was an available option on the board, that they’ll be a top-10 defense this season.
As for the offense, there are no worries despite them scoring only 13 points in each of their last two games last season, ending with a 26-13 home loss to the Falcons (+6) in the playoffs. They were the second team in NFL history to go from being the worst scoring team (14.0 ppg in 2016) to the highest (29.6). QB Jared Goff proved with his 28 TD passes to only seven interceptions that he deserved to be the No. 1 draft pick in 2016. His rookie season woes were more about Jeff Fisher simply being angered that he was forced to select Goff and being a bad offensive coach. Now Goff has a coach who understands his skill set and maximizes it.
One of the many sheets I’ve been doing a 2018 NFL countdown with the past two months is from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and they have the Rams listed as the 4-to-5 favorite to repeat as NFC West Champions followed by the improved 49ers (5/2), the depleted Seahawks (7/2) and the Sam Bradford-led Cardinals all the way at the bottom at 18-to-1. Expect Arizona to be much better with RB David Johnson back in the mix. Bradford, if healthy, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and is efficient. But the storyline always with him is his health.
Whitelaw is looking at another team in the division, not to do well but to pick against weekly until their rating drops to where it should be.
“I’ve bet the Seahawks’ season wins Under and I’m looking to bet against them in Week 1 against the Broncos,” said Whitelaw.
The Broncos and new QB Case Keenum are 2.5-point home favorites against Seattle in Week 1. The Seahawks’ season win total is set at 8 under -120. They’re a long way from being the feared Legion of Boom and didn’t even rank in the top-10 among defenses last season. Their offensive line is still a disaster so it’s going to be more of Russell Wilson running away from defenses, playing a game of “kill the man” where he’s the man.
The Westgate opened the Rams 10-to-1 to win the NFC and they’re down to 5-to-1 now as co-favorites with the Eagles and Vikings. Their SuperBowl odds have dropped from 20-to-1 down to 10-to-1, tied with three other teams as the co-second choice to win it all. Lots of bettors are feeling the same way as Whitelaw about the Rams. The Patriots are the 6-to-1 favorites.
Hall of Fame game: The first taste of football this season is Aug. 2 with the Hall of Fame game. CG Technology has the Baltimore Ravens -1.5 over the Chicago Bears with a total set at 33.5. The starting QBs can be expected to play two series, which makes this game all about the back-ups, and all accounts from Ravens camp is that their first-round draft pick from Louisville, Lamar Jackson, has looked sensational and has already passed Robert Griffin III as No. 2 on the depth chart. There’s still plenty of time for him to impress and possibly supplant Joe Flacco as the starter. Why not? Since Flacco won the Super Bowl he signed a massive contract and has proceeded to post the worst QB stats in the NFL while also being a .500 QB.
A reason to side with the Ravens in this game is because of Jackson trying to impress. I’d expect him to get most of the snaps and his ability to run is a huge asset in these early pre-season games because the blocking is usually shabby and not all of the offensive players are on the same page. When stuff breaks down, the QB has got to be able to go and Jackson sure can do that.
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