2019 NFC DIVISION ODDS AND PICKS
By Steve Moore
Steve Moore picks out his best bets from the NFC in 2019
The 2019 NFL season is finally here! This also means, for those of us who like a punt, it is time to get your money down for the new season. In my case, that means it is time to look for value in my divisional winner multiple bet. We have already had the AFC, which you can read here. Here’s the NFC:
Note: Prices accurate according to Oddschecker.com as of 11 am BST on Monday 2nd September.
It’s safe to say we can all discount the Redskins and the Giants. No matter what the price so that leaves us with two teams in the Eagles and the Cowboys.
The Cowboys obviously have the Ezekiel Elliott issue (although that may even be sorted by the time you are reading this given the latest news), even without him though, the addition of Tony Pollard means they should not suffer as badly as they did when they were missing him in 2017. This is especially true when you consider they have one of the premier offensive lines in the NFL. Add that to a defense that looks extremely dangerous with two game changers at linebacker in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
Why am I not all in on backing them? Because I am not high on the other parts of their offense; Dak Prescott is only as hyped as he is because he is a Cowboy. I do not see him as any better than an Andy Dalton or Marcus Mariota. Not a game loser on his own, but certainly not a difference maker in the positive column either. Meanwhile the same is true of the receiving core. Yes Cooper looks good but is not a true WR#1 and Gallup is a decent addition but the rest of the core is typical ‘names’ that are well known but not producers, certainly anymore, in Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin and the returning Jason Witten.
Value is definitely available in backing the Cowboys at around the 11/8 mark available with Skybet and certainly at the 8/5 with Betfair and various others. However, the Philadelphia Eagles are still one of the premier teams in the NFL and if you can get the Evens that is available in a couple of places then I prefer that. If the odds go odds-on though, I’d prefer the Cowboys
Eagles to win the NFC East @Evs (bet365, SportingBet, Royal Panda), otherwise Cowboys to win the NFC East @8/5 (betfair, SportPesa, BetHard)
We have three teams all around the 2/1 mark in the North so it may be pertinent to say if you have strong feeling towards any of the Bears, Packers or Vikings then I won’t put you off doing so.
For me, there is not a lot between the three so I want the biggest price and in most places that is the Vikings. This leaves the taste of making the case for them:
Firstly, they have Dalvin Cook now a year removed from his ACL tear and history tells us that players need that year to fully recover from that injury. Therefore, expect a much bigger year from him. Meanwhile, they still have the receiving combo of Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph that is one of the better three-handers in the league.
People may talk about Kirk Cousins being a disappointment there in 2018 but statistically that isn’t true. He had a better completion percentage, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than any of the three seasons where he was the full-time starting in DC. The O-line may still be an issue but it is certainly not any worse than in 2018 and you can always trust a Mike Zimmer defense to be a unit of strength.
Meanwhile, the Packers will be better for having Rodgers back but we still not sure how comfortable the Packers offensive will be with the Matt LaFleur/Nathaniel Hackett scheme.
As for the Bears, as good as this defense is and will continue to be, a turnover differential of +12 will definitely regress somewhat to the mean. As a result, they will need more progression from Mitch Trubisky as well as seeing Jordan Howard’s production reproduced by third-round rookie, David Montgomery. I believe in Montgomery, I still don’t believe in Trubisky as a top-tier QB and that is why I can’t back them.
Vikings to win the NFC North @9/4 (SkyBet, William Hill, Boyle Sports)
This may be the division with, if you believe in Cam Newton’s recovery, the best top-to-bottom offensive output in the NFL. Even bottom dwellers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, finished as the top offense in the entire league for yardage last season. So therefore, it might be worth looking for who is the best defense in the division to win it.
That might well lead you to look at the Panthers, who probably do have the best unit on that side of the ball in the South. However, I don’t believe in Cam Newton’s recovery so I discount them immediately.
You can back one of last year’s top offenses at as big as 12/1 with BetFred but even though their defense will almost certainly improve under Todd Bowles, they are starting at almost historically bad levels. Plus, there are no guarantees that the offensive production continues with a new scheme under Bruce Arians that will expose the major offensive line issues in Tampa. Plus, the new PI challenge rule may have a massive impact on Mike Evans’ production, with the physical receiver possibly getting flags thrown on his receptions several times this season.
This leaves us with the big two in the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta were one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year and injuries played a part in that. However, in terms of top-to-bottom talent level, I don’t see the possibility of a top ten defense and it’s a coin flip as to whether they can ever be a top-half one.
On the other hand, the Saints have playmakers at all three levels. Cameron Jordan, Kiko Alonso, Marshon Lattimore. However, I’m not sure they are that much better than the Falcons that they are worthy of odds in the region on 5/9 or even 1/2. You can get 4/5 with Blacktype but if you can’t take that, I’d avoid the South entirely.
Saints to win the NFC South @4/5 (Blacktype) otherwise avoid.
Blacktype are in the same place on the LA Rams as they are on the Saints, 4/5 on a team that is around 1/2 everywhere else.
First, let’s discount the Cardinals. They may be fun to watch in 2019, but I don’t think even the 30/1 you can get with Betfair should give pause for thought.
Next comes the question of the San Francisco 49ers. They are a best price of 11/2 (bet365). Those questions? Are Jimmy G, Nick Bosa and Kwon Alexander worth eight more wins alone? Because with the Rams and Seahawks, it’ll take 12 wins to win the NFC West.
Answer? No, they are not worth that much.
These Rams strike me as very similar to the Super Bowl team from last year, there may be the Gurley issue and they may have lost a couple of productive pieces on defense but the roster on paper looks very similar on quality to 2018.
Seattle finished three games behind the Rams in 2018. That team has lost Doug Baldwin, Frank Clark and Earl Thomas. To replace them they have drafted DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings Jr. at wideout, added first-round pick LJ Collier and Jadeveon Clowney to the pass-rush and drafted Marquise Blair at the backend of the defense.
Are those enough of an upgrade to catch those three games up? Well, those two receivers will certainly not produce peak Baldwin numbers, but 2018 Baldwin numbers? Probably.
There is definitely a drop-off from Earl Thomas to Blair. However, I expect the defense to be better. While neither Collier or Clowney are as good as Clark individually, the idea of Pete Carroll and Ken Norton scheming pass-rush options for a combination of those two, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Ziggy Ansah should give anyone fits.
Will that alone be good enough to turnaround three games? Possibly not.
Is it enough to be offered 10/3 on the possibility that it is? Definitely.
Seahawks to win the NFC West @10/3 (William Hill)
Image credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports & Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports