NFC and Awards Gambling Preview

Last week was the AFC, this week it’s the NFC. Check out some of our predictions for the upcoming season!

A * denotes bets I’ll actually be making so keep that in mind when reading!

NFC

Bears- Under 8.5* (+130)

For as troubling as things seemed in Chicago last year, an 8-8 record isn’t bad. However, of the eight wins, only had two wins against teams with a winning record, both against the Vikings with the second of those wins coming when Minnesota rested their starters on week 17. They rank tied for 13th in strength of schedule but have a midseason stretch of games that will make or break their season. From week 8 to week 15, they have six games against 2019 playoff teams, including three divisional games against the Vikings (twice) and Packers. Add in a three-game stretch from week 3 to week 5 where they play the Falcons, Colts, and Buccaneers, three teams who are expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2020. I think this team will range between 6 to 9 wins, meaning that the likelihood that they fall below 8.5 is much greater than them hitting 9 wins. Unless we see some major improvement, this defense can’t cover for all of the offenses faults. I’d be shocked if Trubisky makes it through the whole season as a starter, but Nick Foles isn’t a major upgrade either. For an offensive line that gave up the most sacks last year, no major upgrades were made and the receivers group still is underwhelming. There was just not enough improvement in my eyes for the team to be considered better than last year. 

Lions- Under 6.5* (+100)

The Lions missed Matthew Stafford last year as they limped down the stretch to a 3 win season. Management decided to give Matt Patricia one more year as head coach, but things don’t look too promising as they have one of the toughest schedules in the league. As I see it there are only two games that they’ll probably be favored in, against Jacksonville and Washington, and have to play seven games against 2019 playoff teams. Add in the improved Colts, Buccaneers, and Cardinals and you’re left with having to talk yourself into winning seven games in total. The offense can score points, but their defense is still in a major rebuild. This defense was the seventh worst in terms of scoring defense and will have 11 of their 16 games against teams who finished in the top half of points scored in 2019. Most sportsbooks have Patricia has the odds on favorite to be the first coach fired and teams normally don’t see a huge turnaround after a coach is fired during the season. I think a six win season is being pretty optimistic, with 3-5 being what I predict. Either way, the under is the safe and easy play here.

Rams- Under 9* (-125)

It’s beginning to seem like the Rams are a supernova, burning bright and fading quickly. They’re another team that boasts a tough schedule and because of salary cap issues, they were unable to improve at key positions. While I like Jared Goff still, the offensive line is horrendous. If that unit can’t improve then the run game is unlikely to get going either. Aaron Donald is a stud obviously, but they’ll get exposed at linebacker by losing their leading tackler from a season ago, Corey Littleton. Once again the NFC West is shaping up to be the toughest division in football and the only team the Rams were better than last year, the Cardinals, picked up one of the games best receivers and Kyler Murray should continue his development. Sean McVay was once the cool kid on the block when the team had depth and a strong defense, but that’s not the case anymore. Now that the team has deficiencies, can McVay live up to the hype? I think this is a 7 or 8 win team and the betting direction seems to agree with me. Under 9 wins is the safe bet. 

Tampa Bay- Over 9.5* (-140)

This is the popular pick to be the most improved team. For one, you lose Jameis Winston and his 30 interceptions and replace him with possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. Add in Bruce Arians, one of the better coaches in the league and many are thinking a playoff appearance is in store for the Bucs. They have a middle of the road schedule and don’t face 2019 playoff teams in back to back weeks. There are a few tough divisional opponents with the Saints and Falcons, but their offense is going to keep them in every game. If they are able to run the ball successfully, then I believe they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I predict that they’ll be a ten win team, thus hitting the over of 9.5. As I’m sure every bettor knows by now, you don’t make a profit better against Tom Brady (unless it’s against an NFC East team in the Super Bowl).

Redskins- Under 5.5* (-130)

Poor Ron Rivera. His first season as Redskins head coach won’t be his most memorable season as a head coach. Besides Terry McLaurin, this offense needs a lot of help. I’m not sure Dwayne Haskins is the answer and they don’t have a running back who they can depend on. Right now I’m looking at the Bengals and Detroit as 50/50 games and I like the chances of them splitting with the Giants. Even if you include the Panthers as a win (which I don’t think happens), that’s only four games I believe they have a chance to win and it would take some upsets for them to hit the over in this situation. Their first four opponents have the clear talent advantage and win inconsistent quarterback play, I’m not confident they can win a shootout. I believe they’ll finish with one of the worst records in the league and would think getting to six games to be an incredibly successful season in Washington. 

Here are the rest of my predictions, I wouldn’t bet any of these but wanted to include it just to show how much I dislike your favorite team:

Cardinals- Under 7.5

Falcons- Over 7.5

Panthers- Under 5.5

Cowboys- Over 9.5

Packers- Over 9

Vikings- Under 9

Saints- Over 10.5

Giants- Under 6.5

Eagles- Under 9.5

49ers- Over 10.5

Seahawks- Over 9

Divisional Winners

East- Cowboys 19/20

I think it’s too close of a call between the Cowboys and Eagles to put any money down, but I do like the Cowboys with a new coach over the defending champions.

North- Packers 17/10*

While the Packers didn’t get any better, neither did any other team in this division. To me, this is one of the worst divisions in football and the Packers have a clear depth advantage on both sides of the ball.

South- Saints 3/4

The Buccaneers will push the Saints hard this year which stops me from betting on it but the Saints are just too complete of a team not to be the favorites

West- 49ers 19/20

NFL’s toughest division is a crapshoot. 49ers barely edge out the Seahawks last season but will need to see improvement from Jimmy Garropolo to win the division again. 

DPOY

Donald +700*

N Bosa +800*

TJ Watt +1200*

Minkah +3300

This is the most unpredictable award to predict, which makes it my favorite. Donald is a great pick because no one in the league can block him and he’s almost a lock to get to double-digit sacks. Teams game plan around him, yet it really makes no difference. I could be biased as a 49ers fan, but I think Bosa if he stays healthy, will be in the top three this year in sacks. The 49ers defense should be pretty good once again and Bosa figures to be the one to be the statistical leader on a deep defensive line. TJ Watt is right now the better Watt brother and I think wasn’t shown enough love last year in the DPOY voting. He’s had 27.5 sacks the last two years and if he can get to the 15 sack total this year, that will get him first-place votes. At +1200 that’s great value to be had. I’m not going to put money on Minkah, but he was a game-changer for the Steelers. If he can improve upon his 5 interceptions, he’ll get the national attention to get some votes.

DROY

Young +225*

Queen +800*

Okudah +1400

Young is such a safe and predictable bet here that I’d feel almost stupid to not get in on the action. He’ll get close to double-digit sacks as long as he stays healthy. Queen is my favorite pick of the group. He’s playing on a great team with a good defense and will get a lot of tackles. That checks off three key boxes right there and will have plenty of chances to shine in prime time games. Okudah will be one of the best corners in the league sooner rather than later. If he can get 4-5 interceptions and shut down receivers in his division like Davante Adams and Adam Thielen, his chances of winning are better than what they are now.

2020 Fantasy Sleeper Squad

Sleepers win you championships! Whether it was Darren Waller coming out of nowhere last season or George Kittle in 2018, players drafted in the last few rounds are the ones that can take your team to the next level. Here are the ten players I think people are sleeping on, but can make a possible impact on your team this season.

Irv Smith Jr., TE MIN

With the loss of Stefon Diggs, the Vikings figure to not replace his production with one player but rather a few, including Irv Smith, Jr. While listed as TE2 on the Vikings depth chart behind Kyle Rudolph, Gary Kubiak’s offense is predicated on multiple tight end sets. In his 20+ season of calling plays, tight ends have made up for 23% of targets. This is in large part due to play-action, something that Kirk Cousins does very well. He had the most touchdowns thrown off of play-action and finished 7th in completion percentage. Another encouraging sign is that Smith Jr. makes the most of his targets, hauling in 76% of the balls thrown his way. With Rudolph now on the wrong side of 30, it’s obvious that Smith Jr. is the future at tight end in Minnesota. He’s a great dynasty option, but I think a 500/600 yard season isn’t out of the question. 

Ian Thomas, TE CAR

With the departure of long-time tight end Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas by default becomes TE1 for the Panthers. While he might be, at best, the fourth option in the passing game for the Panthers, I think Thomas does provide a safety blanket for new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater last season had the lowest fewest air yards per attempt in the league at 6.2 which makes sense as he isn’t known for his strong arm, rather being accurate. New offensive coordinator has never been a play-caller at the NFL level, but looking at this past season at LSU as the passing game coordinator, we do see him like to use tight ends in a variety of ways. Thomas was one of the most athletic tight ends in his draft class at the combine, essentially in the top five in every category. While his drop rate (7.5%) is concerning, Thomas being a non-priority to the opposing team’s defenses will allow him to face loose coverage. Couple that with Bridgewater’s more precision-based skill and Thomas should fill in nicely for Olsen and hopefully see similar production. 

Ryquell Armstead, RB JAC

This one might be my biggest stretch, but hear me out. Leonard Fournette is soundly the top running back on the Jaguars roster. However, between trade speculation and the team not picking up his fifth-year option, I feel quite confident in saying that he won’t end the season as a Jaguar. Even if he does, he has yet to play all 16 games in a season. If Fournette were to not play, the snaps would be split between veteran Chris Thompson and Armstead. Thompson has never rushed for more than 356 yards in a season and is a receiving back, making Armstead the one in line to get the carries. Armstead did prove to not be useless in the passing game and ended up with more receiving yards on the season than rushing yards. He is dependent on a Fournette-less team, but he’s somebody to take note of if something were to happen and he was thrust into a prominent role. 


Ito Smith, RB ATL

I’m a firm believer that Todd Gurley’s knees are as stable as an elephant on a tightrope, they’re going to snap at any moment. You just simply can’t trust him as a viable fantasy option, but you can look at his backup Ito Smith. Unfortunately, Smith has been banged up early in his career and the concussion injury from a season ago is very worrisome. When he does play, however he has shown signs of explosiveness and pass-catching ability that would make him useless in most leagues. Last season in limited time, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry but when you eliminate carries in the red zone, it rose to 6.2 yards per carry. It is troublesome that he does so bad in the red zone but at 5-9, 195 lbs you should expect that. As a pass-catcher, Smith is at his most valuable.  He had about two catches per game as a rookie and only had one drop and in 2019 had eleven catches in seven games. He played only 29% of the team’s snaps as a rookie yet finished sixth on the team in targets. With the loss of Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper and then Todd Gurley’s questionable health, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Smith finish in the top 4 or 5 in targets coming in at around 60 on the season which based on past results is right around 48 catches. 

Dare Ogunbowale, RB TB

As I wrote about two weeks ago, no quarterback throws more to his running backs than Brady. I know that Bruce Arians’ offense wants to push the ball down the field, but Brady doesn’t have the arm strength for that. Don’t believe me? Brady finished in the bottom ten in yards per attempt in 2019. Instead, they’ll focus more on intermediate routes and dump-offs to the running backs. This benefits Ogunbowale more than anyone as he has more career catches than carries out of the backfield. The Buccaneers do have more weapons than the Patriots had this past season (which isn’t saying much), so Ogunbowale might not get the volume of targets that James White got, but he’s going to see an increase in catches assuming that Ke’Shawn Vaughn doesn’t take the pass-catching lead role. He is solely an option in PPR leagues and with the opposing defenses focused on stopping the likes of Evans, Godwin, and Gronkowski, the short throws will be open for the Bucs to take advantage of. 

Alexander Mattison, RB MIN

Mattison had himself a nice, quiet rookie season and set himself up to be a larger part of the Vikings offense in 2020. Dalvin Cook is the undisputed RB1, but has yet to play a full 16 game season and the team has to be concerned that he is not the long-term answer. If Cook were to get hurt again or be ineffective, Mattison would become a must-start. In 2019 he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, despite seeing an average of 7.6 men in the box (highest in the league). This was largely because he wasn’t used in the passing game much but did have 60 career catches in college proving he has the chance to be a well-rounded back. The Vikings finished fourth in team rushing attempts in 2019 and with Gary Kubiak calling the plays, I would expect to see a similar total. This means that Mattison if he stays healthy, should see a minimum of 130 carries (100 from a season ago in 13 games). At the rate he played a season ago, that’s a floor of 600 yards that will likely rise based on Cook’s injury history. 

Jared Stidham, QB NE

This is obviously a tough one to predict. Stidham only has four career pass attempts and takes over for possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. We do know that last preseason, taking it for what it’s worth, Stidham looked very impressive. Also, in college, he threw for only 13 interceptions in 848 attempts (1.5%). This will arguably be the most important season of Josh McDaniel’s career as a Patriots play-caller and I think he doesn’t change the offense too much with possibly the addition of more deep shots to open things up. The offense seemed stagnant in 2019 but that was in large part due to injuries at wide receivers. The team also added tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round, so the supporting cast around Stidham should be improved. ESPN has his projected stats at 3,554 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. I think they are shortchanging him as I don’t believe Belichick and McDaniels would trot out a quarterback they didn’t think could have a good season. Stidham had a passer rating over 125 in his final season of college on throws deeper than 20 yards, fifth-best in the country. This will be useful in bootleg plays where he will have time to set his feet and drive the ball. Of course, the Patriots offense will be a lot of quick throws and easy reads which plays into Stidham’s quick release. I think he gets close to 25 touchdowns and roves around 10 interceptions in an offense where they won’t ask him to do too much. 

Paris Campbell, WR IND

Campbell’s rookie season was more like a game of operation than anything else which effectively made him a redshirt as a second-round pick. Now under the assumption that he’s healthy, head coach Frank Reich envisions him as the team’s main slot receiver. This is on par with what they had in plan for him last year as he saw about half of his snaps in the slot. Campbell is a legit speedster, running the fastest time at the 2019 combine with a 4.31 40. As Hilton loses a step or two, Campbell can be the receiver they use in a variety of ways. In his limited production, Campbell averaged 6 yards after the catch which puts him in the top 15%. At this point in his career, his quarterback Phillip Rivers has a very average arm, so I’d expect the Colts to run a lot of screens which will benefit Campbell. As you can see with Rivers, he does his damage in intermediate routes where he can rely on his accuracy rather than arm strength. Looking at the Colts offense from a season ago without Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett had the second-lowest completed air yards per reception at 5.3. Meaning, the offense didn’t take many shots down the field and wants to get the ball in their plamaker’s hands as soon as possible. Campbell I think has a good chance to finish second in targets and yards, with the possibility of leading the team if Hilton takes a step back.

Diontae Johnson, WR PIT

Of all the players on this list, I expect Johnson to have the best statistical season. Even with arguably the worst quarterback play in the league last year, Johnson had 680 yards and led all receivers in gaining separation on routes at 2.4 yards. This means that you can run Johnson on deep routes and he’ll be able to break away from the cornerbacks. Oh and by the way, he sustained a groin injury week 2 and played the whole season with that ailment. Also now that Ben Roethilisberger is back, I believe that the Steelers will try to stretch the field more often. Big Ben is historically one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the deep ball and even if that elbow injury weakens his arm, he should still be able to have enough arm to try and stretch the field. The Steelers have a strong trio of receivers and are known to be the best organization at developing talent at that position. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington each saw their target total double in their second season with the Steelers. I would be surprised if Johnson’s targets doubled (92 a season ago), but if he can even see a 25-35% increase then he has a chance to get close to 1,000 yards. Now with someone competent at throwing a football accurately and in his second year of development, Johnson can be a top 30 receiver.

Hunter Renfrow, WR LVR

Death. Taxes. Hunter Renfrow open on third down. All of Renfrow’s touchdowns and 35% of his receptions came on third down. That 35% conversion was the 17th best in the league, showing that while Waller might be the best receiving option, Renfrow is the safety valve. He also had 81% of his yards in the second half of the season, showing that Derek Carr was getting comfortable with the rookie wideout as the season went on. The Raiders did draft Henry Ruggs III in the first round, but he’s going to be the one to take the top off of defenses meaning that Renfrow, who is a slot receiver mostly, can work underneath in single coverage. Also, Renfrow dropped one pass last year and as long as Carr is the one taking snaps, I think Renfrow is going to be one of his top targets. He’s a must-add in your fantasy and is a draftable player with the upside to be your WR3/Flex by year end. 

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

2020 NFL Draft Gambling Guide

The draft is one of the few events that degenerate gamblers like myself are going to be able to bet on in the month of April, which makes it that much more exciting. All lines were provided by Bovada on 4/12/20. Please gamble responsibly.

O/U 5.5 receivers in the first round- under (+190)

Because of it being such a deep wide receiver class, teams might look into grabbing a receiver in the second or third round and get close to equal value to a first-round receiver. There are four locks: Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, and Justin Jefferson. After that, it’s a crapshoot and at +180 the odds are too good to pass up. 

O/U total SEC players in round one (15.5)- under (-130) 

While former SEC players will hear their name early and often in the first round, I don’t see it getting to sixteen. Players like LSU’s Grant Delpit and Alabama’s Xavier McKinney’s stock has been dropping the past few weeks and now they look more likely to be drafted in the second. Based on my calculations, the SEC will come in at fifteen, right below for the under to hit.

O/U OL in the first round (6.5)- over (-115)

There’s a lot of good offensive linemen in this year’s draft and in a league where protecting the quarterback is at a premium, the demand for the big fellas will be high. We’ll see four prospects in the top half (Wirfs, Wills, Becton, and Thomas) and likely see center Cesar Ruiz drafted by 25. Then, in the group of Austin Jackson, Ezra Cleveland, Josh Jones, Isaiah Wilson, I’m fairly confident at least two of them will sneak into the end of the first round. Because of that, fairly confident in seven in total. 

Round Jalen Hurts gets drafted- 2nd (+140)

Just last week we were looking at +185 odds on this, so this means that the money is heading this direction. In an uncertain quarterback class after Burrow, Hurts is a proven winner that fits the mold of an athletic quarterback which seems to be working in the NFL. A team will have to gamble, but one that is willing to be creative and bold, like the Saints, will take a chance at the end of the second round. 

First OL taken- Tristan Wirfs (-130)
This is another one that has the public money heading its way. Wirfs is the most versatile and dynamic offensive lineman in the draft and fits any system. He could go as high as four to the Giants and don’t see him dropping past seven to the Jaguars. In a weird draft that prohibited teams from working out prospects, go with the one that showed out at the combine. 

First receiver taken- Jerry Jeudy (-105)

One of the “big three” receivers in this class along with CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs, Jeudy’s all-around game makes him the safest pick of the three. He can fit any scheme and is ready to play a big role immediately. The Jaguars, Jets, Raiders, 49ers, and Broncos all need receivers and we might even see a team move up for one and I’m willing to bet it’ll be for Jeudy. 

Order of thirst three picks (exact)- Burrow, Young, Tua (+180)

With all the rumors about the Dolphins cooling off of Tua, the odds on this one are dropping fast. To me, that just means better value on this pick. Burrow and Young will go one and two, that is a certainty but the options of going third will be Okudah or Tua if a team moves up. I’m still banking on the Dolphins being aggressive and moving up to three for their franchise quarterback. 

O/U Derrick Brown draft position (8.5)- under (-125)

Once again, public money is all over this. Just a week ago it was at +130, but the rumors of the Cardinals at eight being enamored with Brown makes this much more likely that the under will hit. The Jaguars at seven could even be interested in Brown, so I’m really liking these odds. 

O/U Andrew Thomas draft position (10.5)- over (-140)

I don’t see more than three offensive linemen going in the top ten and right now I have Thomas as the fourth rated lineman in this draft. I think at this point he’s likely to be going fourteen to the Buccaneers and that’s his peak in my opinion. 

O/U Kenneth Murray draft position (21.5)- over (-140)

There’s a wildcard here that the Raiders at nineteen could pick Murray, but I think he’s a target starting at the mid twenties which means this bet is a smart one. The linebacker position in the draft isn’t as valued as it once was due to the pass-first nature of the league to the point there’s only one or two drafted in the first per year. Murray is a hell of a player, but the positional value pushes him down in the draft.