The most uncertain and perhaps strangest offseason in NFL history is thankfully almost over. In just under a week at Arrowhead Stadium, the defending-champion Chiefs will host Deshaun Watson and the Texans in the first game of the 2020 season. There’s still time before that game gets underway, and before you lock in those Week 1 bets, to explore the futures market. It’s a very exciting time, especially for those states that have just approved legal sports betting. For example, there are now Online Sports Betting options in Michigan after a bill was passed last December, making them the 20th US state to have legalized and regulated sports betting. With more and more states opening up, you should see an increase in these types of articles at Gridiron Experts, as sports betting is a growing trend.
Not sure where to start? Not to worry. I’ve analyzed and chosen a dozen future bets, from team win totals to player yardage totals to league award winners, and am providing my picks, as well as some high-value longshot plays, right here. Let’s dive in:
1. Seattle Seahawks to win NFC West (+220)
Of the eight teams with the second-best odds to win their division, only three are +200 or higher. Seattle is one of the three, and I quite frankly don’t understand why. But, lucky for us, this creates a ton of value on the Seahawks.
For starters, they boast one of the premier coach/quarterback tandems in the NFL. Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll have been together for eight seasons, and have posted double-digit wins in seven of them. The lone outlier was a 9-7 season. Their track record all but guarantees they’ll be in the thick of the division race.
Seattle’s defense was uncharacteristically its weakest link last year, ranking 22nd in the NFL, but the team addressed many of those concerns in the draft and with the acquisition of Jamal Adams. Their offense was strong in 2019, top-10 in fact, and should be even stronger this season once D.K. Metcalf takes another step forward. Both he and Tyler Lockett eclipsed the 900-yard mark in 2019, and it’s not out of the question to expect more in 2020.
The division-favorite 49ers have some important trends working against them as well. They’ll face the 4th-toughest schedule in the NFL, while the Seahawks schedule is just the 13th-toughest. Also, the last five Super Bowl losers have averaged just 9.2 wins in the following season; two of the five went on to miss the playoffs. Nine wins won’t win the West.
Seattle is closing the gap on San Francisco a lot quicker than the market is giving them credit for.
2. Seattle Seahawks Over 9.5 Wins (+110)
This and the previous bet, Seattle to win the division, pretty much go hand-in-hand. If you think Seattle is going to win the division, they’re going to have to win 10 games. And as previously mentioned, that’s basically all they do under Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson.
Some may be worried that the lack of crowd noise in the Great Northwest is going to hurt the Seahawks, and while it’s a legitimate concern, I’m willing to trust one of the best quarterbacks and leaders in the NFL to keep his team hyped and focused. I won’t repeat the same points from above, but I will take the Seahawks to win ten games at plus-money odds.
3. New York Jets Under 6.5 Wins (-135)
The Jets had a great draft, but they’ve still got a black hole at one of the most important positions: head coach. Adam Gase is at the bottom-five head coach and just hasn’t generated much success at any of his previous stops.
Last year, despite back-dooring into a 7-9 record, Gase’s Jets ranked 31st in scoring offense. That was against the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL. The 2020 Jets will face the fifth-toughest schedule, and it’s particularly brutal early in the season. Here’s the first half of their year:
vs. San Francisco
@ LA Chargers
@ Kansas City
Brutal. There’s a legitimate chance the Jets are 2-6 at the midway point, which would really put pressure on the front office to try to unload Le’Veon Bell’s contract. Rumors swirled this offseason suggesting it. If New York trades its best offensive weapon, after trading its best defensive weapon in the offseason, we can all feel very confident about cashing the under here.
If history counts for anything, the Jets would have topped 6.5 wins just once in the last five seasons: last year when their expected win total was just 5.6. Lock in that under.
4. Las Vegas Raiders Under 7.5 Wins (-135)
This line opened at 7.5 across the majority of books, and some have already knocked it down to 7, so if your book still shows the higher number, jump on it. I actually bet the under back in May when the lines were released for two reasons.
Firstly, I think the line is inflated because the Raiders now call Las Vegas their home. The books obviously expect more action on the Raiders this year, and newly-minted fans will most likely lean towards betting on their new team, not betting against them. Casinos, of course, are trying to make money, and if the majority of public bets are on the over here, the sportsbooks make money on the under. I’ll gladly lean with the books.
Secondly, the Raiders finished 2019 with a 7-9 record, but an expected record of 5.3-10.7, so their win total was a bit of an aberration. They added some weapons on the offensive side of the ball in the draft, but how they addressed their biggest weakness, the defense, was underwhelming. On paper, the 2020 Las Vegas defense isn’t much better than the 2019 Oakland version that was 24th in points allowed, 26th in yards per play allowed, 27th in allowing point-scoring drives, and 31st in takeaways. Combine that with the third-toughest schedule and grueling division, and it’s tough to find eight wins.
5. Chicago Bears Under 8 Wins (-130)
Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job in Chicago, I don’t see the Bears having a winning record in 2020. And that’s what it would take for the over to hit on their season win total.
Mitchell Trubisky took a huge step backward in 2019, throwing just 17 touchdowns in 15 games and finishing dead last in the NFL in yards per attempt and yards per completion. And outside of his magical Super Bowl run with the Eagles, Nick Foles has been a pretty pedestrian NFL starter.
Matt Nagy will also be calling plays again in 2020, something he struggled mightily with last year. The Bears offense finished 29th overall and tied for 30th in both yards per carry and rushing touchdowns. David Montgomery has been slowed by a groin injury, and with him missing so much time, I don’t expect the run game issues to get sorted out anytime soon.
#Bears starting RB David Montgomery, who went down in practice yesterday with a groin injury, is expected to be out 2-4 weeks, source said. That gives him a chance of being out on the field for the opener vs. the #Lions.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 27, 2020
Even with a strong defense, I don’t trust the Bears offense to score consistently enough to string together more wins than they had last year.
NFL Player Futures
6. Brandin Cooks Over 850.5 Receiving Yards (-110)
Brandin Cooks is good. He’s a member of his fourth different team in just seven NFL seasons; fourth in the last five years as a matter of fact, so it’s understandable that he’s a bit of an afterthought heading into 2020. But, he’s landed in a high-volume situation in Houston, and if he stays healthy, he should surpass this total with a week or two to spare.
He’ll be catching passes from Deshaun Watson, who has always relied heavily on his top option. In their three years together, Watson targeted DeAndre Hopkins an average of 162.0 times per year, ranking him top-five each year. Is Brandin Cooks DeAndre Hopkins? No. But will the volume still be there for Cooks? Absolutely. Especially when you consider how often Will Fuller misses time with injury.
In the four seasons where Cooks has played in all 16 games, he’s averaged 1149.3 receiving yards, and just once saw more than 120 targets. With an expected target increase in the Houston offense, especially down the field, Cooks should flirt with the 1,000-yard plateau. Don’t forget, from 2015-2018 the only receivers to crack 1,000 yards in each of those four seasons: Cooks, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Julio Jones.
Watson attempted the fourth-most deep balls in 2019, and when Fuller is inevitably sidelined, I expect some of those home run looks to go Cooks’ way. He’s caught 65.0% of his career targets, and if he conservatively sees 100 looks from Watson in 2020, he’ll need to average just 13.1 yards per catch to surpass 850 yards. He hasn’t averaged fewer than 13.5 YPC since he was a rookie.
7. Chase Young Over 8.5 Sacks (-135)
Chase Young hasn’t recorded fewer than 8.5 sacks in a season since he was a freshman at Ohio State. Obviously, he’ll have a tougher time beating NFL-caliber offensive linemen than he did beating Big Ten linemen, but if he again follows in the footsteps of the Bosa brothers, Young should have no problem hitting the over here.
Joey Bosa recorded 10.5 sacks as a rookie in 2016 after being drafted third overall out of Ohio State, and Nick Bosa tallied 9.0 sacks last year, after being selected second overall in 2019 out of Ohio State. Chase Young comes into the league with just as much upside and raw talent, if not more, than Joey and Nick Bosa, so I expect him to crack double-digits in 2020.
Washington’s defensive line and pass rush group is loaded and is actually one of the best in the NFL, so it’ll be next-to-impossible to double-team Young. He’ll get a heavy dose of one-on-one matchups, and after a few weeks to get adjusted, I expect him to exploit those with regularity.
8. Davante Adams to Lead NFL in Receptions (+1400)
Adams is my WR1 in fantasy. I think he’s going to see an overwhelming amount of targets from Aaron Rodgers.
Speaking of his heavy usage, Adams saw 22.2% of Green Bay’s targets in 2019. The next closest player in terms of target share was Jimmy Graham, who is no longer on the team, at 10.5%. No other Packers wide receiver had a target share of better than 10%. Adams also finished 2019 with a 19.0% utilization rate, tied for the highest in the NFL, and was targeted on 19.0% of his snaps, also tied for tops in the league.
With Graham out of the picture and few offensive upgrades to speak of, expect Adams to see close to 25% of the targets in 2020. The lack of weapons surrounding Aaron Rodgers will result in increased usage for Adams.
If we extrapolate Davante’s 2019 numbers for a full 16-game season, he’d have compiled:
- 169 targets (2nd in NFL)
- 111 catches (3rd in NFL)
Why not best in the NFL? Only because Michael Thomas set the record for most catches in a season (149), and Christian McCaffrey set the record for most catches by a running back in a season (116). I’m happy to fade both this year, and some other contenders as well.
Adams provides the best value of any non-longshot on this prop, and I’d jump on it quickly before the market drops the odds closer to +1200.
9. Cooper Kupp to Lead NFL in Touchdown Receptions (+4000)
This is an interesting longshot bet, and keep in mind: it’s definitely a longshot. But I think it’s worth a small investment for a few reasons.
For starters, Kupp quietly was second in touchdown grabs last year and was one of just three players with ten or more of them. He also was on pace to finish near the top of the league in 2018; he had six touchdowns in just eight games before he got injured, so last year wasn’t just an aberration.
He also saw 134 targets in 2019, had a 21.2% target share, a 19.0% usage rate, and no longer has to compete for targets with Brandin Cooks. Los Angeles called the sixth-most pass plays in 2019, so the offense prefers to attack through the air. I expect this trend to continue in 2020 with the departure of Todd Gurley, which should also force the Rams to throw the ball a bit more close to the goal line; and that’s where Kupp excels. He averaged just 8.7 yards per target (38th in the NFL) and 12.4 yards per catch (58th) last year but had the third-most red zone receptions (16). So, Goff is looking for him with short, quick routes, which bodes well for his chances in goal-to-go situations.
10. Dak Prescott to Lead NFL in Touchdown Passes (+1400)
Patrick Mahomes is the obvious favorite, but there’s not a ton of value left at +400, especially when there are so many extra, COVID-related factors this year. Dak Prescott at 3.5x the odds is a much better value play.
For starters, Dak Prescott is on a good team, in a good offense, and is coming off a good year. He was one of only four quarterbacks to throw 30-plus touchdowns in 2019, and he welcomes back his key weapons and then some. Dallas drafted CeeDee Lamb to create an absolutely terrifying arsenal of weapons for Prescott, along with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Blake Jarwin, and of course, Ezekiel Elliott. Adding Lamb to the fold creates not just another option in the red zone for Prescott to throw to, but a player who is capable of breaking a long touchdown every time he touches the ball.
The threat of Elliott in the backfield could potentially take the ball out of Prescott’s hands close to the goal line, but he’s averaged 83.0 targets per year over the last two seasons after seeing just 38.5 targets per year in the two seasons prior. So, the Cowboys clearly aren’t opposed to throwing him the ball, which should also bode well for the over here.
11. Kyler Murray to Win MVP (+2500)
There are eight quarterbacks listed ahead of Kyler Murray on the MVP odds board, so we’re going to need a lot to break our way for this bet to cash, but it’s absolutely worth a small play.
The most important factor of this wager is that the MVP is a quarterback award. Nine of the last 10 MVPs have been QBs, Adrian Peterson being the lone exception in 2012. So, we can all but certainly eliminate any contender who isn’t a quarterback. Arizona also added a huge weapon in DeAndre Hopkins, who provides Murray with a legitimate number one target and someone who is a threat to post over 100 yards any given week.
Murray threw for 3,722 yards as a rookie, and in the last five years, second-year quarterbacks increased their passing yardage output by 13.7% from their rookie season. If Murray follows the pattern, his 2020 yardage total would be 4,232, which is just about the average output for the last five MVPs in their MVP season (4,316). He’s also entering his second season in an extremely quarterback-friendly offense under Kliff Kingsbury, so I expect him to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and take a leap forward in his second season.
The last two MVPs have been second-year quarterbacks, which Murray currently is, former first-round picks, which Murray also is, and mobile, which Murray absolutely is. This won’t be an easy one, but I think there are enough positive signs to place a small wager on Murray to capture the 2020 MVP.
12. T.J. Watt to win Defensive Player of the Year (+1400)
I was torn between Watt and Myles Garrett here. Both have nearly identical sack rates since entering the league in 2017, but after digging a little deeper, I’m willing to sacrifice some value (Garrett is +2000) for a stronger play.
Watt finished third in DPOY voting last year after recording 14.5 sacks, but still received 10 first-place votes, so he’s firmly on the radar of voters. He also contributes so much more than sacks. In 2019, he had 55 tackles, eight forced fumbles, four recovered fumbles, eight passes defended, and two interceptions, so he’s absolutely all over the field making an impact on multiple levels of the defense.
Watt’s also stayed extremely healthy during his NFL career, missing just one game in three seasons, so we can take comfort in knowing there’s a high probability he’ll rack up 16 games worth of stats.
Finally, we’ve got to factor in motivation. Watt is still on his rookie deal, so he’s playing for a big new contract. He’ll be extremely motivated to post the best numbers he possibly can, especially considering the amount of guaranteed money that pass rushers have been handed of late.
Mike is an avid sports bettor and fantasy football player, and has been writing since 2013. He previously worked for NBC Sports Philadelphia and Alliance Football Focus, and currently contributes to BettingPros as a featured writer. Mike is a resident of New Jersey, a graduate of Rider University, and currently works as a research analyst. When he isn’t searching for his next wager or watching the New Jersey Devils, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, his dog and his two cats.