At this time last year, most of the NFL offseason buzz was around the Browns after they acquired Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants.
After 11 consecutive losing seasons, Cleveland suddenly became the trendy pick to win the AFC North. But the only thing the Browns won was the offseason, as they were whipped by the Titans 43-13 in their season opener and went 6-10.
Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons expects a similar scenario to play out with this year’s team du jour: Tom Brady’s Buccaneers.
“I always look for under-the-radar stuff, and basically whoever wins the so-called offseason usually underachieves the next year,” he said. “Last year, Cleveland was champion of the offseason, and they just bottomed out. This year, I would have to say it’s Tampa.
“It just sets the expectations way too high. Everything gets inflated, and the value is opposite of what we saw last year. Whatever the number is going to be on Tampa’s wins, it’s too high.”
The Bucs went 7-9 last season and have finished with a losing record in eight of the past nine years. Tampa Bay’s 2020 season win total soared from 8½ to 9½ at Circa sportsbook after it signed Brady. The total is 9 at William Hill, where the Bucs have been one of the book’s most popular under bets.
Salmons said he doesn’t consider Brady, who turns 43 in August, much of an upgrade over former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.
“Years ago, yes. But not a 43-year-old Tom Brady,” Salmons said. “Now he’s in a completely different system with a coach who’s obsessed with throwing the ball deep all the time.
“Plus, he’s on a team with a terrible offensive line, which means he’s going to take a ton of hits. And they can’t run the ball. That doesn’t add up to Tom Brady. He’s going to want to get the ball out.”
The Packers, who have a win total of 10, are the most popular under bet at William Hill. Salmons also likes Green Bay to go under after it went 13-3 last season with a +63 point differential, winning eight games by eight points or fewer.
“Green Bay is not a 13-3 team. That record’s a joke,” Salmons said. “Green Bay under wins this year is just like an automatic bet.”
Salmons also considers Baltimore an automatic under bet after it went 14-2 last season. The Ravens are tied with the Chiefs for the NFL’s highest win total at 11½.
“Everything about the Ravens says they’re going to regress this year. That’s just how it works,” Salmons said. “Last year was their home run year. Everything that could go right went right.
“Now every defensive coordinator has a whole year of tape, and everything the Ravens have done, every team will expect now.”
On the flip side, everything went wrong for the Chargers last season, and Salmons expects them to flip the script.
“I’m always big on point differential,” he said. “The Texans were -7, went 10-6 and won their division. The Chargers were -8 and went 5-11. With that point differential, they should have easily been .500 or above. They were just an unlucky team.”
Two years after the Chargers went 12-4, their total is 7½ at William Hill, and Salmons loves the over.
“To me, that’s like a gift,” he said. “The Chargers have one of the best defenses in the NFL when they’re healthy. Last year, they obviously weren’t healthy.
“I think all five starters on the offensive line were hurt last year. They addressed that really quietly this offseason, and they have a good draft pick. There’s no reason the Chargers aren’t going to be a very good team this year.”
Seattle went 11-5 last season with a +7 point differential, and Salmons likes the Seahawks to go under 9½ wins.
“Seattle should regress,” he said. “Russell Wilson is a top-three quarterback in the league, but I don’t know how many miracle wins he can pull out every year like this. They were 7-1 on the road last year. They’re just a lucky team.”
Best of rest
Salmons likes the Jets (6½), Dolphins (6) and Steelers (9) to surpass their win totals and expects the Cardinals (6½), Lions (6½) and Browns (8) to be much improved.
“This year, there’s not a chirp about the Browns,” he said. “I look for the Browns to have a decent year in a loaded division.”
NFL season win totals
At Circa and William Hill sportsbooks
Team Circa William Hill
Chiefs 11½ 11½
Ravens 11½ 11½
49ers 10½ 10½
Saints 10 10½
Cowboys 9½ 9½
Buccaneers 9½ 9
Seahawks 9½ 9½
Eagles 9½ 9½
Steelers 9 9
Colts 9 8½
Packers 9 10
Patriots 9 9
Bills 9 9
Rams 8½ 9
Vikings 8½ 9
Bears 8½ 8½
Titans 8½ 8½
Texans 8 8
Browns 8 8½
Chargers 8 7½
Falcons 7½ 7½
Broncos 7½ 7½
Raiders 7½ 7½
Cardinals 7 6½
Lions 6½ 6½
Giants 6½ 6½
Jets 6½ 6½
Dolphins 6½ 6
Bengals 5½ 5
Redskins 5½ 5½
Panthers 5½ 5½
Jaguars 4½ 4½