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NFL Betting – Division Previews

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AFC East

New England Patriots (Division: -500, Super Bowl: +700)

Let’s start this article off with the inevitable. The New England Patriots have won the AFC East in 15 of the last 16 seasons. The Patriots lost three important players – Rob Gronkowski, Trey Flowers, Trent Brown – this offseason, but they also added a few key pieces in free agency and the NFL Draft. This has more to do with their division than their team, though. The Miami Dolphins are fighting for the first overall pick. The Buffalo Bills look to be on the rise, a bit, but will still likely feature an 8-8 ceiling. The New York Jets are the most likely team to take over the Patriots, and while I do like their roster a bit, I don’t trust Adam Gase in any way, shape, or form to take this team to a division title. New England features the best coaching staff in the AFC East and Tom Brady is still under center. That’s enough to comfortably project them as the top team in the AFC East. The odds are wide when you look at them independent, but when you think about what they’ve done over the last 16 seasons, the odds are actually a bit generous. 

Runner Up: New York Jets (+600)

 

AFC North

Cleveland Browns (Division: +125, Super Bowl: +1400)

I don’t believe the AFC North is as cut-and-dried of a division as many Cleveland Browns backers would make you believe, but I do favor them slightly over the Baltimore Ravens. Baker Mayfield changed the dynamic of the offense, and they added Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason. Their offense contains elite-level skill players, although their offensive line took a hit. With that being said, Mayfield is mobile enough and has a quick enough release that it may not matter. Cleveland also drafted Greedy Williams in the NFL Draft to add to their secondary. I expect them to feature the best defense in the AFC North to go along with the best offense. My biggest concern is that defenses won’t be able to figure out the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson and company controlling the clock. With that being said, I expect them to take a small step backwards with opposing coaches having plenty of film on them at this point. That leaves the door open for Cleveland, who has the most talented roster in this division, to take over for the first time since joining the AFC North. 

Runner Up: Baltimore Ravens (+260)

 

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (Division: +120, Super Bowl: +1600)

Going into this offseason, I had the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans as equals, but the former has made significantly better moves since the end of the season. The Colts added an elite pass rusher in Justin Houston, while losing very little this offseason. They also added depth at wide receiver, linebacker, and cornerback through free agency and the NFL Draft. Houston, on the other hand, has massive holes in their offensive line, and they failed to address that. Matt Khalil can help, but isn’t an answer, while they also spent draft picks on players that aren’t ready to start in the NFL. This division likely becomes a two team race, as I don’t trust Nick Foles or Marcus Mariota to keep their teams in it, and I side heavily with Andrew Luck and an improved Indianapolis team when it comes down to the wire. 

Runner Up: Houston Texans (+220)

 

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers (Division: +190, Super Bowl: +1400)

This is another two team race, as the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos aren’t at a spot to truly compete for a division title. This pick is less about the Los Angeles Chargers taking a step forward, but more about the Kansas City Chiefs regressing. Patrick Mahomes will see regression, as an 8.6% TD rate is simply unsustainable. For comparison, Aaron Rodgers posted a 9.0% TD rate in 2011, which dropped to 7.1% the next season. Tom Brady recorded an 8.7% TD rate in 2007, which dropped to 5.0% in his next healthy season. Kansas City doesn’t feature a defense that can stop their opponents when their offense isn’t scoring. Tyreek Hill is also due for a suspension, and his importance to this offense cannot be understated. Los Angeles added two key rookies – Jerry Tillery, Nasir Adderley – that can immediately help their defense. I also expect Mike Williams to take a rather large step forward, while Hunter Henry will be returning to the offense. The Chiefs could take a step back in 2019-20, while the Chargers feature the roster to continue replicate their 2018-19 season. The plus odds are an added bonus for Los Angeles. 

Runner Up: Kansas City Chiefs (-160)

 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (Division: +130, Super Bowl: +2200)

This is a two team race, as I don’t believe the rebuilding Washington Redskins or New York Giants have the potential to make a run at the division title. The Philadelphia Eagles likely had the best offseason in the NFC East, but that is because Amari Cooper wasn’t acquired this offseason. The Dallas Cowboys were 3-3 prior to trading for Amari Cooper last season before finishing with a 10-6 record. They also won seven of their final eight games, as Cooper helped open their offense. Dallas also owns a solidified defense, finding success at each of the three levels. Furthermore, this may come down to my trust in Dak Prescott over Carson Wentz. Wentz hasn’t played 16 games in a season since 2016. He also has only truly found success in one season throughout his short career, going 11-2 in 2017 prior tearing his ACL. In his other two seasons, he has amassed only a 12-15 record, including only a 5-6 record since returning from injury. Overall, since 2015, Wentz has broken his hand, fractured his ribs and back, and tore his ACL. When looking at a season long bet, I’m going to shy away from the team that is relying on an injury prone quarterback, as their backup is Nate Sudfeld, who would put them in contention for one of the worst teams in the NFC. Keep in mind, I believe these teams are relatively even on paper, but there happens to be more safety with Dallas and better odds. 

Runner Up: Philadelphia Eagles (+100)

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (Division: +190, Super Bowl: +2000)

I’ll preface this by stating that I’m a Green Bay Packers fan, but I don’t truly believe I have allowed that to affect my judgement in this bet. This division is wide open, and I believe there’s value in the Detroit Lions at +1200, but Green Bay is the most likely team to win. The Minnesota Vikings were a disappointment last season, and they last a plethora of players in free agency without filling many voids. The Chicago Bears lost Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, but they were also replaced with HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine, so the total loss was negated a bit. More importantly, Vic Fangio took a head coaching job elsewhere, and we’re almost guaranteed to see regression for Chicago’s defense. Green Bay, on the other hand, was one of the more active teams in the NFL this offseason, adding potentially four starting defensive players through free agency and the draft. They also added an important piece to their interior offensive line to go along with elite tackles. The Packers bring in an offensive-minded Matt LaFleur, who should have no problems taking over for one of the most overrated coaches in the NFL. While Green Bay certainly has their flaws, their new free agency approach and draft day additions should be exactly what Aaron Rodgers needs to get this team into the playoffs once again. 

Runner Up: Chicago Bears (+170)

 

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (Division: -180, Super Bowl: +800)

This is the New Orleans Saints division to lose. The Atlanta Falcons are likely the second best team in the division, but they had somewhat of a rough offseason, and weren’t overly close to being able to unseat New Orleans prior to that. The Saints took a bit of a hit when Max Unger retired, but they replaced him with either Nick Eason or Erik McCoy (depending who wins the starting job). They also added another dimension to their offense in Jared Cook, who will be a massive upgrade over Ben Watson. The Saints lost Mark Ingram to free agency, but replaced him with Latavius Murray. Personally, I’m not a Murray fan, but I believe this will give them the opportunity to increase Alvin Kamara’s workload rather than simply sliding Murray into that Ingram role. The Saints also have a few young defensive players who continue to progress, and I feel the battle for second will be significantly closer than the battle for first in this division. 

Runner Up: Atlanta Falcons (+375)

 

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams (Division: -200, Super Bowl: +750)

This division will be significantly closer from top to bottom than it was last season, but the Los Angeles Rams almost have to be the pick by default. The Arizona Cardinals are trending up, but they are nowhere near ready to compete this season. The San Francisco 49ers made a few big moves in the offseason, but with an injury-prone quarterback leading their offense, they have quite the way to go to unseat Los Angeles. The Seattle Seahawks are the most likely team to take over the division in 2019, but it’s impossible to trust a team that relies so heavily on one person. Russell Wilson is an outstanding player, but there’s no reason to bet on him to takeout the Rams by himself. Los Angeles features the best team in the division on paper, and their offense will likely see an uptick in efficiency with Cooper Kupp returning from injury. The big question mark in LA is Todd Gurley, but with Darrell Henderson being an elite stretch running back, I have very little worries about their production at the position. Similarly to the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, this division feels like a foregone conclusion.  

Runner Up: Seattle Seahawks (+300)

 

Follow Justin Bales on Twitter (@BalesSJustin)

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