The true NFL offseason is officially upon us. Mandatory minicamp has come to a close and players from all 32 teams have gone their separate ways. Most players will get some vacation time in while continuing to work out in preparation for the return to training camp in late July. Once training camp arrives, the road to Super Bowl 54 begins in earnest.
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 win totals for the four teams in the NFC West. The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 10.5 wins for the Rams, the payout is +120 (you bet $100 to win $120). If you bet the under, the payout is -140 (you bet $140 to win $100). That means the under 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.
Now that roster overhauls are mostly complete and teams have finished up spring workouts, 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.
Why over: Continued improvement from long-term core and health.
While the Rams are coming off of a “Super Bowl or bust” season that saw them reach that pinnacle, they’re now beginning a process that will see them shed several significant veterans. LG Rodger Saffold III, C John Sullivan, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Mark Barron and S Lamarcus Joyner all found new homes this offseason. Next year’s potential crop of departures include LT Andrew Whitworth, DT Michael Brockers, edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr., CB Aqib Talib and/or CB Marcus Peters. While the Rams are hoping young depth can help address some of those departures, the likely source for keeping the team as competitive as it has been will be their long-term core.
The Rams have already signed six players aside from rookies beyond the 2020 season: WR Robert Woods, RT Rob Havenstein, P Johnny Hekker, WR Brandin Cooks, RB Todd Gurley and DT Aaron Donald. Throw in QB Jared Goff and you have a core of Rams that will need to drive the team for years to come. They’ll need to be the ones to deliver in big games to ensure the Rams’ success. If they can continue to improve their individual performances for this season and remain healthy, there’s reason to think they can deliver another season of 11 wins or more.
It’s also going to require health. While the Rams have been arguably the healthiest team in the NFL over the past three seasons, last year’s ACL injury to WR Cooper Kupp was a major issue for the offense. His return should be a major boost, but similarly the Rams must avoid similar injuries to core contributors.
Why under: Performance decline, OL transition, health.
If improved performances from the core are a key to the over, a potential decline could be the reason the Rams take a major step back. Obviously, the first target here would be QB Jared Goff. After a disastrous rookie season, Goff made huge improvements year-to-year from 2016 to 2017 to 2018. Should he take another leap in 2019, the Rams will almost certainly hit the over; however, a step back would be a major impediment and revive the catcalls of a “system quarterback” moniker that plagued Goff in 2018. To a similar yet lesser degree, should the core have a performance blip, it could hold the team back albeit to varied degrees. Hekker had a performance blip in 2018. Another in 2019 or an even worse season would raise significant questions and concerns. Havenstein, Cooks and Woods are key cogs in the wheel but have less individual impact because of their positions. The idea of a performance blip from Aaron Donald is probably not worth concern. One from Todd Gurley though is. With the way his regular season and postseason ended and the Rams trading up into the third round to take a rookie running back, there’s reason to think Gurley could take a major step back in quantity and perhaps quality.
There’s also the nature of the offensive line transition. The Rams will have new starters at left guard and center. Their right guard, Austin Blythe, is hardly set in stone. And Whitworth is heading into his final season. While that transition to a new left tackle isn’t perhaps relevant to the win-loss total in 2019, his turning 38 in December might spark fears that Father Time catches up to Big Whit before his career is over.
And of course there’s always the unpredictability of injury. Should the Rams lose key contributors for long stretches of time and their replacements fail to provide adequate fill-in performances, injuries could do in the 2019 Rams as they have so many teams before.
Why over: Russell Wilson has proven time and again how much he can carry this team, securing double digit wins in six of his seven years at the helm — and nine in the one other season. The Seahawks saw significant turnover this offseason, but as long as Wilson is in town, the team remains a contender.
Making Wilson’s life all the better? The offensive line’s improvement last season. A line needs talent, but getting rid of coach Tom Cable following the 2017 has proven critical to improving the line. If it continues at this pace, Wilson will be in great shape and the team can find some balance between the run and pass.
Why under: The turnover this offseason hit the defense most significantly. The team traded away dominant pass rusher Frank Clark and parted ways with long-time veteran safety Earl Thomas and nickel back Justin Coleman. They have found some potentially valuable replacements on defense, but the unit has a lot to prove after years of dominance. With a tough schedule on tap for 2019, Seattle’s defense is counting on a lot of players taking a step forward this season.
Why over: Health. Jimmy Garoppolo plays a full season to his potential. George Kittle somehow gets better. Dante Pettis takes the next step, and the stable of running backs are too much for defenses to handle. The 49ers added two receivers early on in the draft. If Kyle Shanahan thinks you can play, you probably can. If the team can get early contributions from them, they’ll go over.
On defense, the complete makeover of the front four leads to turnovers and short fields for the offense. Dee Ford is as good as the team thinks, and Nick Bosa has a superb rookie year. The defense isn’t lights out but they are streaky and get timely stops. With a “last place schedule,” the 49ers are able to fight for a playoff berth.
Why under: While the pass-rush improves, the secondary doesn’t take a step forward. The growing pains continue opposite of Richard Sherman. The injury bug bites the secondary again and players are forced to play that shouldn’t be playing. The team regrets not selecting anyone in the secondary until Day 3 of the draft. The linebackers are exposed in coverage and the defense can’t get off the field. Offensively, gunslinger Jimmy makes more mistakes than you’d like in a full season. The interior offensive line’s play takes a step back and that’s a big reason for the down year on offense. Mike Person reverts back to the play that’s led him to be a journeymen.
Why over: The Cardinals are taking a huge risk and are gambling on an Air Raid college head coach with a losing record to be able to implement a system in that has been lightly used and concepts scraped from, but not really tried at the NFL level. Yet, there are few offensive minds in football as respected as Kliff Kingsbury, he was able to create a team offensively in his own vision and he has a defensive coordinator in Vance Joseph that can and has won in the NFL. The unknown makes the under easy, but the potential makes the juice on the over sweet.
Why under: It is a former college head coach who was a legend coaching at his alma mater, Texas Tech, who was fired because he could not win. Most successful college coaches struggle to transition to the NFL, why on Earth would a failed college head coach work? Add in star cornerback Patrick Peterson’s absence for the first six games, and a lot could go wrong for this team.