Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Pick Six: We scoured the sports books for the best NFL win total prices still available

Lamar Jackson

Gail Burton / Associated Press

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) leaps over Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) during the first half of a preseason game in Baltimore.

Shopping at different sports books for the best line is a necessary strategy for any successful sports bettor. It’s especially vital when it comes to wagering on over/under NFL season win totals.

Numbers can vary drastically as casinos adjust preseason prices based on a relatively small number of bets, at least compared with something like a big-time regular-season game where there’s far more action. That’s why we’ve scoured several sports books to find the six best last-minute win-total bets still available. The strategy worked last year, as we went 6-0 doing the same exercise. Here’s to another profitable season.

Baltimore Ravens over 8.5 wins at plus-115 (South Point)

The Ravens came within six points of a playoff victory last year with an offense that coordinator Greg Roman designed on the fly when rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson took over for veteran Joe Flacco midseason. Imagine what Roman can devise given a full offseason to build around Jackson’s unique talent.

Stock is down on Jackson, despite all signs pointing to him making a second-year leap. And Baltimore is consistently one of the shrewdest teams in the league, having beaten its win total in eight of 11 seasons under coach John Harbaugh. AFC North divisional rivals Cleveland and Pittsburgh are getting all the buzz, but the former is young and unproven with a piecemeal defense, while the latter has an aging roster close to exiting its championship window.

Buffalo Bills under 7 wins at plus-120 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

No team at the SuperBook has seen a stronger move toward its “over” than Buffalo, which makes no sense. This is a bad team more likely to finish with one of the NFL’s worst records than fight for a playoff spot as its current odds indicate. The Bills went 6-10 last season but were worse than their record implied considering their minus-105 point differential. Buffalo was also entirely driven by defense, giving up only 4.9 yards per play, third-best in the NFL.

Defensive performance has been proven not to be as predictive year-to-year as offense, so a step back is to be expected. And the Bills’ offense isn’t ready to pick up the slack. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric graded Josh Allen as one of the 10 worst first-round rookie quarterbacks of the past 30 years, and he has severe accuracy issues.

Philadelphia Eagles over 10 wins at minus-140 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

There’s not a more complete team in the NFL than the Super Bowl champions from two years ago. From Malcolm Jenkins patrolling the defensive secondary to center Jason Kelce commanding the offensive trenches, Pro Bowlers are strewn across the roster. In fact, many of Philadelphia’s backups would start for most teams. The salary cap makes it impossible to keep that strong a collection of talent intact for long, so the Eagles will be prepared to make the most of their opportunity.

Philadelphia also has hidden value on the sidelines, as coach Doug Pederson might be the NFL’s most aggressive coach. And typically in football, the more aggressive move tends to be the more optimal one. Quarterback Carson Wentz was an MVP candidate before going down with a torn ACL two years ago and might be worth consideration at 15-to-1 to win the award this season now that he’s fully healthy.

Dallas Cowboys under 9 wins at even money (William Hill)

Dallas edged Philly for the NFC East title last season with a late-season surge that felt fluky. The Cowboys closed the regular season by winning seven of their final eight games, all by a touchdown or less. Their statistical profile painted them as closer to an 8-8 team than the 10-6 record they ultimately posted.

Regression would be coming regardless, but the Cowboys’ roster also appears to have gotten worse since the end of last season. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott missed all of training camp due to a holdout that just ended. And the offensive line that enabled Elliott to have a historic rookie season three years ago is no longer the NFL’s best now that it’s older and more injury prone.

New York Giants over 6 wins at plus-125 (South Point)

An unscientific yet anecdotally effective way to bet on win totals is to follow the punchlines. The team everyone’s ridiculing is rarely as helpless as it sounds. In the Giants’ case, yes, 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning is well past his prime, and the team got shockingly little back by trading receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.

But New York is solid across the rest of its roster and has one of the NFL’s easiest schedules by virtue of finishing 5-11 last year. And the Giants were better than 5-11, by the way. They went 4-8 in games decided by a touchdown or less and recovered only 40% of fumbles. Those are fickle factors likely to flip in the Giants’ favor this year.

Chicago Bears under 9 wins at plus-120 (William Hill)

At most sports books in town, the two most popular Super Bowl bets are the Browns and Bears. If only the Bears’ defense could somehow team up with the Browns’ offense. Instead, both teams are fatally flawed.

The Browns might be worth a look at under 9 wins in their own right, though offense is more important than defense. Therein lies the issue for the Bears. Chicago is highly unlikely to field an above-average offense. It didn’t during last year’s breakthrough season, when the Bears ranked 20th in the NFL at 5.4 yards per play, despite coach Matt Nagy catching opponents off-guard with his creative schemes and sharp scripting. Teams will be more prepared for Nagy and middling third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this year.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.